Tell Me a Story
by Susan Young Thornton
Yesterday I returned from a holiday trip to visit family in the Pacific Northwest. Snow, icy roads, and extended family travel delays prevented some of us from getting together. And apropos to the season, I was advised to return home by another route, which extended the journey by 300 miles and an additional day.
The Power of Story
These few words and pictures remind me of a not-what-we-planned holiday adventure and give you a glimpse of who I am and where I have been. Stories are like that; they share what we have been doing, with whom we have spent time, and what we value. They open conversations and deepen relationships. Stories encourage questions and lead to new insights. Stories can be quotidian or profound, timely or timeless. They can be quickly forgotten, contain cherished memories, and even be life-changing.
James Loder, the late Professor of the Philosophy of Christian Education at Princeton Theological Seminary, wrote in The Transforming Moment of the presence of an absence that we humans yearn to fill – usually with stories that make meaning. These stories can and often do lead convictional knowing. Marcel Proust describes the God-shaped hollow in the human heart, which can only be filled by the Creator…. The Bible is filled with stories that make meaning of human experience and point to a Truth beyond our ability to fully comprehend. These stories shape faith, fill our hearts with gratitude, and gather us into the community we call the Church.
“Church” – such a loaded word. We too often think of it as a place, a building rather than a motley crew of flawed individuals doing our best to walk in the way of Jesus. At our best we claim this identity of a people called to faithful living and to walking along side one another sharing our stories and the Story along the way.
Sharing our stories and the Story is essential to the task of Christian formation. The PCUSA’s Matthew 25 initiative reminds us that one of the marks of a Vital Congregation is “A commitment to forming disciples over every member’s lifetime. This leads first to personal transformation, as people put on the heart of Christ, and then to social transformation, as people joyfully go forth into the community and tackle the issues facing today’s culture.” Disciples are formed, lives are transformed, and faith is passed from generation to generation as we share the stories of God’s abiding love and live into the promise of abundant life for all creation. Faith is nurtured and grown in relationships with companion story-telling Jesus followers.
Grants to Help Tell Your Story
To help you tell faith-building and life-transforming stories every Los Ranchos congregation and worshipping community is being sent a $600.00 Christian Formation and Discipleship Grant. There are no strings attached; use these funds in the way that best fits your education and formation needs. Use them for children, for youth, for adults, or inter-generationally. Use them to augment an ongoing initiative or to launch something brand new.
We do ask that you share the stories of the ministries that these funds have supported. Nothing formal – simply a story told in whatever way you are inspired to share it. We’ll collect and share the stories this Spring in the hope that they will build up the body of Christ here in the Presbytery of Los Ranchos. To share your story, email Susan Young Thornton.