I’ve been thinking about stories. In part because I’ve been reading stories and essays about stories. (Thank you John Barth and Wendell Berry.) But also because I’m part of the team of Tahoma UU Congregation members who will be sharing from the pulpit during our (fairly) annual “What I Read This Summer” worship service on Sunday, September 4. Among other things, I’m thinking about:
- How do we come to share a particular story with one another?
- What makes a story meaningful? (Enough to be shared as part of a Sunday worship service?)
- What do our stories say about us?
It seems to me that when we share stories we are creating community. Haven’t we seen this in our families and in circles of friends? The links among generations are established and strengthened as we tell and hear stories. We reveal ourselves in the stories we tell; we learn about one another as we hear each others’ stories.
At the Tahoma UU Congregation we have organized ourselves so we can share stories in small group settings, as part of religious exploration classes, during social time together, and in various elements of a worship service. Much of this sharing is informal, occurring in the flow of a conversation or a group discussion. Some of this sharing is more thoughtfully designed, selected from a number of possibilities to introduce or explore a topic or theme. All of this builds the connections among us that establish who we are as a community and as members of this community.
Because we voluntarily gather as the Tahoma UU Congregation to create and sustain spiritual community, the story sharing we do here carries to a depth we don’t experience everywhere else. The stories we tell and hear as members of this congregation help us express individual and collective answers to religious questions such as:
- Who am I? And how do I know?
- What has value and meaning for me and for us?
- What is my place and role in the universe?
A coffee-time conversation about experiences in a different place and at a different time can help me think about how I live my life in and around Tacoma today. (Thank you Pat.) “Check in” offerings at the start of a meeting can help me understand the particular human experiences that we carry into discussions from the diversity of lives we’re all living. (Thank you fellow board members.)
As an occasional return speaker at our worship services, I’ll plan my remarks for September 4 with an occasional concern about returning to a story that I’ve shared before. I find comfort in something I’ve heard (over and over) from my dad, who has delivered a sermon almost every Sunday for 44 years: each minister has only one sermon, the particulars offered on any one Sunday are just variations on a theme. Maybe we each really have one story that is brought to life — for us and for those to whom we are connected — through its numerous and various tellings. Let’s share our stories. Let’s listen to, and really hear, our own and each others’ stories.
President, Board of Trustees