Starting last year, I suggested that Eliot move its summer worship out of the hot upstairs sanctuary and into the downstairs hall. It’s a little cooler, but the reason I love it is that it allows us to try out some innovative worship ideas. Mainly we experiment with more contemporary music and interactive “preaching.” We don’t have Sunday School for children in the summer, so services are more inter-generational, too. Some people love it. Those who don’t love it know it’s temporary. It’s a great place to experiment with new things, some of which might prove to be helpful even in our more traditional upstairs digs.
This summer, I did a five week series on storytelling. I’m no expert, but I do love StoryCorps! The goal of my series was to help people connect with Biblical stories (mostly from the Old Testament), to help people connect with one another by telling their own stories, and to help people see how their individual stories might be part of God’s big story. Each week I retold a Biblical story as a first-person narrative. Then I had the congregation break into groups of 3-4 people. I gave instructions, then a prompt, and set them off to tell their own stories. Here’s a quick overview:
Biblical Text/Story: Jacob’s New Name as told in Genesis 32:22-31
- Tell a story about the meaning or origin of your name or nickname.
- Tell a funny story about your name or nickname.
- Tell a difficult or painful story about your name or nickname.
Biblical Text/Story: Hagar’s Wilderness Journey as told in Genesis 21:14-21
- Look at the shoes on your feet. Where is the most interesting or important place these shoes have ever been?
- Tell as story about a time when you went on a journey and something extraordinary happened.
- Tell a story about a time you got lost.
Theme: Sacred Places
Biblical Text/Story: Jacob at Bethel as told in Genesis 28:10-19a
- What is your favorite place? Describe the way it looks, sounds, smells, and feels.
- Tell about a place where you have encountered God.
- Tell about a time when you had a dream that gave you wisdom or insight.
Biblical Text/Story: The story of Passover as told in Exodus 12:10-14 and Exodus 13:3-10
- Tell about a tradition in your family or culture. This could be a holiday tradition or something more personal.
- Tell about a time when you broke or changed a tradition, either by choice or because of circumstances beyond your control.
Theme: Meals + Gratitude
Biblical Text/Story: The story of the Last Supper as told in Matthew 26:17-19, 26-29
- What is the most memorable meal you have ever had?
- Tell a story about a challenge that you overcame or a struggle that you survived.
Overall, I think this was really effective for helping people hear Biblical stories with fresh ears. Younger and less-churched folks loved the interactive storytelling. It certainly helped us get to know one another better and facilitated inter-generational conversations. I am not sure if it helped us discern how God is at work in our lives through our stories, but it felt like a good start. I’ll try to get my first-person narratives posted soon. Meanwhile, I hope you can reuse some of these ideas in your own setting.