by Dr Sarah Mortimer

Improvising – that word’s captured my attention these past few weeks. Responding to the twists and turns of this year’s A level saga, figuring out how to work from the kitchen table, or just finding new ways to socialize in unhelpful weather - like everyone I’ve found myself needing to do things differently and adapt as circumstances change. Improvising can certainly be wearing, but at times it can also be exhilarating as we find new, unexpected solutions, even if we know they are provisional and that tomorrow will bring new challenges.

Actors improvise well if they know their part thoroughly, if they understand how the play unfolds and if they trust each other to adapt with them as they go along. Sam Wells, Vicar of St Martin in the Fields, has suggested improvisation as a way of thinking about Christian life, too. If the Biblical story is a drama then each of us has a part to play, but not one in which our lines are pre-scripted or the stage directions are set out step by step. What we have instead are the resources God gives us, in the Bible, in history, in each other, to work out how to live faithfully and imaginatively in that drama. To adapt afresh, but following the patterns we find already given to us, patterns of love and kindness and service to others.

For Wells, the theme of improvisation can help us reflect on how what we do in our daily lives fits with the drama of the Christian story – and how we, like the cast of a play, must do this together. It’s challenging but also exciting, a call to responsibility and creativity in an ever-changing world.