It starts when we are really young. Stories. And our fascination with them. Maybe bedtime stories read to us as we are snuggled up to a parent or grandparent when all we can “read” is the pictures. I even remember the “Story Book Lady” at Miller & Rhoads in Richmond. As we grow, we are “little pitchers with big ears” listening to stories around the supper table or when the whole extended family gathers at a holiday time like Thanksgiving dinner or a 4th of July picnic. We had summer reading lists for school even in the lowest grades and had to write the story of “What I did on my Summer Vacation” when we got back. Sunday school was geared around the stories in the Bible. Church still is. TV programming and the movies are just more story times. All of us are story listeners and story watchers. Some are story tellers. This has gone on since ancient indigenous people sat around campfires listening to each other and trying to figure out why life is the way it is as they huddled under the stars in the heavens.
During this sheltering in place time did you, like me find yourself reading more books, watching more TV, surfing story lines on the Internet and exploring You Tube videos? Did you, like me, get a bit hoarse on some days after talking too long on the telephone, swapping stories of what was going on and how you felt about it? Did you, too, zoom often with a group of friends or weekly with family members where the topic “So what went on in your life this week?” began the “story” hour? Did you, too, sit around some evenings reminiscing over some of the stories of your life and wonder what was going to emerge in the on-going story line of your life and life around you after this crazy, unsettling, time?
As a child and then growing up I was much more a story listener than a storyteller. Somehow it felt safer to simply listen. As for storytelling, I wavered between feeling that my stories were either not that interesting or too crazy (I thought my family was the only crazy one around) or that even if someone would like to hear my stories I couldn’t tell them very well and they would be bored. But I never stopped being fascinated by stories because they seemed to help me think through, work out the story lines of my own life. Of course, the real crazy thing is I became a lawyer and then clergy – both of which required not just listening to things but then reframing all the stories I had heard into some way that might help everyone move forward in life, the future of which either usually seemed uncertain or perhaps even untrustworthy at the time.
Within the continuum of story listening, storytelling, story living (living the stories of our life) I have come to love and embrace the art of “reflection.” Like a type of meditation on what is going on. Not just hearing or telling the facts of an event or a time in someone’s life, but when reflection is threaded through or wrapped around the story. Like offering up the facts in front of a mirror and considering what is reflected and then hopefully seeing the way forward from that point in a new light with new understanding.
One of the things I have enjoyed doing during this sheltering in place time is having/taking the time to read other clergy sermons, reflections, and meditations. They are not only writing them, but “publishing them” - talking about their own stories and offering their reflections “in writing” on blogs or Facebook or their church websites or offering them verbally on Facebook/YouTube videos. They have been doing this before, but I just haven’t taken the time to explore this like I have during this “sheltering” time.
, a meditation from our new Assisting Bishop in the Diocese of Virginia, Bishop Porter Taylor who comes to us from North Carolina. He offers a “Meditation” which is really a reflection about some of his life story within the context of our current “race relations” endemic. Please, please take the time to read it.
I have quietly been struggling with all the current surfacing of what I know to have been such a viral unhealthy condition in our society within our race “relationships” not just among individuals in some cases, but specially in our systemic ways of operating. I have not spoken about it during this relations pandemic the last few months, but it is time to try to work together to address some really unhealthy ways we have been living in communities and our nation. A start might be to begin to share our stories, hold a mirror in front of some things, examine the reflection and try to fashion a healthier life for all as we live forward from this time. In the shelter of us all . . . together with the God who created us to love one another and with the Christ who confronts us through our baptismal covenant with the following:
• Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
• Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
How shall we answer? I believe we need to address our way forward in the context of the Christ Way, helping one another to do so. Please let me know your ideas.