Stories are Powerful Things
“I was driving on a very, very, snowy, icy, visibility-zero highway.” This is how Carol Wehrheim started an article about what her church is doing in worship. No, she was not driving, nor was she the person telling the story. It was the story of someone who had told their faith story and it was being used in that week’s worship service.
Here’s the way she said it worked. An Artist in Residence working for a limited time at the church, Adam Immerwahr, said that he could help church members tell their faith stories so the members could know more about each other. He asked the congregation to sign up to be interviewers, interviewees and storytellers. He trained the interviewers and supplied them with a set of questions to ask. The questions focused on transformation in their lives and the interviewers were encouraged to ask follow up questions to flesh out the people and the event. The interviewers recorded the story to maintain the integrity of the story. They were anonymous to everyone except the interviewer.
Some interviewees signed up but the interviewers were encouraged, as Carol wrote, to “search out people whose story they wanted to hear, and not just people who were well-known in the congregation.” The length of the stories were varied but they were edited into two minutes scripts for worship in their final form. Adam transcribed the recordings and used them to prepare a script for the storyteller. The scripts were only the original words of the interviewees so the story was true to the person’s telling.
A storyteller was chosen to tell the story in church not knowing whose story it was. They memorized the story and rehearsed it with Immerwahr or another church member who acted as the assistant director. The interviewee was told what Sunday their story was to be told so they could decide wither to be present or not.
This story telling was so powerful and created many emotions—laughter and tears and sometimes both. The process also gave church members a chance to share their stories with others whether they were happy or sad, humorous or serious, but all faith-filled.
Stories are powerful things. If they were not, there would not be so many of them in the Bible. Stories invite the listener to see themselves in the story or to experience something that might be totally foreign to them. The great thing about a story is that you don’t need any but a good storyteller to share it. This makes it a great worship tool for all our churches no matter the size or make up. I would encourage all of our churches to think about storytelling as another way to both share our faith and reach out to people who are hurting and want to connect with their neighbor. I would also encourage you to go to Youtube and look up the video entitled “Remember: A Stage Reading.” It will give you a little more information about the program.
Since I will open as Carol did, I will close as she did too: “Oh yes, the last line of the testimony that began this article is: ‘I’ve got you. You’re okay. I’m right here with you.’ I’ll leave you to imagine what happened in between.”
Carol’s article in full “Telling Our Stories in Worship” was published in the Advocate, the newsletter for the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators, Inc., on July 23, 2017.