Are you sitting comfortably?
When we think of which parts of the Bible are most familiar to us, I am sure, for many, the stories Jesus told will feature strongly. There is something very special about the art of storytelling. Well before most people had access to the written word, it was the art of storytelling that ensured that facts, wisdom and learning passed from one generation to the next. Those very same stories of Jesus which are so familiar to us, would have been shared orally before they were eventually written down.
Storytelling still plays such an important part in our lives today. Story gives us opportunity to reflect on our society, our hopes and dreams and our personal situations. As we become engaged with the tales of fictional characters, we can use their experiences to help us make sense of our own. We access story, through books, through radio, through television and through film. We are surrounded by the art of storytelling. And take the time to listen in on children with their toys and you will hear them weaving their own stories and making sense of their world using their imaginations.
As I write this, I look back at the last week or so and I am able to see a variety of ways in which storytelling has impacted on our congregations at various gatherings.
At this month’s All Age Service at All Hallows, we explored what we could give to the Church as a gift at Pentecost – the Birthday of the Church. We did this using a child’s toy and our imaginations. With the help of Mrs Potato Head we explored what her hands, feet, ears, eyes and mouth could symbolise and the thoughtful and imaginative responses included looking out for each other; listening to the needs of the world; walking out into the world to do God’s work; singing God’s praises and holding out our hands to receive communion.
At the Parade Service at All Saints we used the popular childhood Mr Men characters to give thanks for all that the Father figures in our lives do for us. We compared Dads to Mr Tickle, Mr Greedy, Mr Strong, Mr Messy, Mr Clever, Mr Grumpy, Mr Funny and Mr Happy. The Beavers’ beautiful illustrations vividly brought to life all those important characteristics of our beloved Dads.
Of course the Reading Café is an obvious place to look for the influence of Storytelling and this month was a striking example. Our book for the month had been “Sensible Shoes” by Sharon Garlough Brown. This was universally liked by all of us who had read it. There was much discussion about how we had been able to relate to the characters and their spiritual dilemmas. We had all been able to take lessons from the spiritual practices the ladies in the story had practised during a course they all participated in. The story led to some quite deep discussions about our relationships with God, our acceptance of ourselves and deliberations about who we pray to. All this from a novel.
So my challenge to you? Well pull up a chair, pick up a good book and see what you can learn about yourself, about the world and about God.