Reimagining Church

Thriving Congregations Initiative: New Models for the 21st Century

Telling the Story

Leah Wise

After my working group met a few times, I decided to experiment with "self-narration." At the start of each meeting, I narrate, in one to two paragraphs, the conversation that transpired the previous week.

This process helps me see how the disparate pieces of a group conversation fit together. It also helps me continually look back to our shared mission and stated priorities, weaving this language into our continuing story. My working group has voiced appreciation for this process.

In group work, it can be very easy to lose sight of what we're actually saying, to get stuck in the weeds of diversions and wandering thoughts.

But through self-narration, we are coming to understand that diversions can often tell us more about the heart of things than staying on topic. Truth comes out in the things that have been weighing on us. The Holy Spirit interrupts the flow of "efficient" conversation. These loose ends are often where the most important story is being told.

Tying up these loose ends through self-narration reminds us that we are actually saying something: about who we are, what we need, and what is laid on our hearts.

Here is an example of self-narration, taken from our Agenda for October 14, 2021:

"Why church? Each one of us shows up in different ways to church, and our commitments and schedules ebb and flow with the cadences of life. Some show up because of their deep ties to this community, and coming here brings a sense of comfort and continuity. Some come out of a sense of spiritual discipline, or an ingrained sense of fear or obligation. In the case of this working group, church - the universal body, the local community, and the physical space itself - represents a different narrative and a different perspective.

It is a place where the deep yearnings of our spirits are voiced and legitimized. It is an environment where we can search out the good in the world, and be refreshed and nourished through the Spirit of God working through liturgy and through people. Here, we recommit ourselves to the work of God and to one another. Here, we hear good news. We become a family committed to hard and holy things: listening to one another, responding to the pain of the world, asking for help in our need, and paying attention to what God in Christ is saying to us."