Churches coming out of this past year’s sequestering should consider creating opportunities for members to share their COVID-19 stories with one another.
It’s been 14 months now since many churches went into social isolation.
While there have been abundant virtual opportunities for church members to meet and greet one another, there has been something of great importance missing from the tangible community that can only be experienced with one another in the flesh.
It’s that chance to shake hands or hug one another that makes a difference. It’s in the contact we make with one another with our eyes. It’s the subtle body cues of welcome and endearment we give to one another.
It’s also that moment when deeply loved friends can talk about things that are both important and also those meaningless things that decorate our friendships with one another.
Our brains take experience and turn them into memories, which are formulated in story form. We create the wide-ranging realm of lived experience and hold them in memory in the form of a story.
Aristotle was one who understood that most stories in our memory were constructed on a three-part movement consisting of a beginning, a middle and an end.
Not all lived experience fits nicely into this Aristotelian dramatic structure, but it’s amazing how effectively we do our part to make sure our memories can be shared with one another stretched over these three basic elements.
Most importantly, we are persons who desperately want to talk to one another and share these stories that are dramatic and mundane.
We are storytelling persons with a built-in need to talk to one another. There is something universal about this need, and our stories are archetypal stories that are understood deeply in our bones.
When I tell my story to you, you in turn will want to tell me your story. There’s a high likelihood you will interrupt me in the telling of my story so you can tell me yours.
Healthy congregations are built on this phenomenon.
We regularly worship and preach. We study our Bibles so extensively we miss the point. We organize compelling and exhaustive mission endeavors.
But if we miss the chance to tell our stories to one another, we will miss something crucial to our community.
We are a storytelling people; when something as pervasive as a pandemic comes along, we should give an opportunity for the voices of our resident storytellers to share something that’s so natural it’s like breathing.
Narrative processes can be employed for congregations to use in tipping over the first domino.
The invitation to tell your story is grounded in pure energy that only God can create. It’s cleansing to the soul; the power of stories can bring people together to deepen the congregation and to endear its members to one another and to the whole community.
After serving as bridge pastor at First Congregational Church of St. Louis, Missouri, during the past year, Herron moved recently to Lawrence, Kansas, where he will continue to minister in interim settings. He is author of Living a Narrative Life, Exploring the Power of Stories (Smyth & Helwys, 2019).