HOme @ GoTell
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At the September meeting of CinDay (Guild of the Network of Biblical Storytellers which Tom and I attend) our fearless leader Joyce Orr proposed that our Guild come up with "Twelve Stories Every Biblical Storyteller Should Know." It led to lively discussion and reminded me of an intention I’ve had for years, which is having a biblical storytelling repertoire.
These would be stories so well internalized that I could tell them any time, any place, without review. I think I don’t act on that intention because I have the sense I need a lot of stories and it would be too hard to remember them all. So I’m going to start small, say, with three. Here’s my commitment: next month I’ll be able to name the three stories of my biblical story repertoire. Challenge accepted.
Emerging Ministries Project
Some years ago I was Director of Children’s Ministries at Grace United Methodist Church in Dayton, Ohio. One evening after Wednesday night Kids Club I was walking down the hallway with a nine-year old who regularly attended Grace. She was an alert and thoughtful child, a good student, and a positive presence in our community of children. She lived with her grandmother whom I had come to know and respect. As we walked along, she mentioned her mother and I asked her whereabouts. She told me her mother was in the army.
The next morning her grandmother called to tell me that the mother was actually in prison and that her granddaughter was ashamed to tell me the truth. She said it had happened while I was overseas on a mission trip. The mother had been taken from prison to the county jail. She wished a pastor would visit. I did not even know where the jail was or how to go about a visitation, but I heard that wish as a call from God and I began the journey that eventually led to the Seeds of Grace emerging ministries project funded in part by a grant from the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church.
The Seeds of Grace emerging ministries project was conceived as a grass roots intervention to heal the brokenness of the American criminal justice system and end mass incarceration. The envisioned scope of the project included discipleship with persons currently or recently incarcerated, and advocacy for restorative justice within the local church and community. Advocacy, education, networking, and re-entry have all been part of the Seeds of Grace project, but the core strategy is spiritual empowerment through engagement with biblical stories by local church members together with incarcerated individuals in a small group process which I call Circle of the Word…
…I have been surprised, though I shouldn’t have been, given the stories and statistics we regularly see in the daily paper, at the number of young women in jail, the number who are there because of drug and alcohol addictions, and the number who are mothers. Many of them are well aware of how their behavior has burdened their families and made victims of their children. I have been surprised at how many have little or no knowledge of even the most familiar stories. And yet there are those who articulate profound understanding of spiritual knowledge in beautiful statements of faith. I have been amazed at the general level of cooperation and participation in Circle activities and how much I grow in my understanding of and appreciation for God’s Word from engaging sacred stories with them.
The Seeds of Grace project helped me internalize what Jesus taught in his seeds parables. I have learned the value of small efforts to impact the behemoth of mass incarceration. In his recent book Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, Stevenson writes, “I have discovered, deep in the hearts of many condemned and incarcerated people, the scattered traces of hope and humanity—seeds of restoration that come to astonishing life when nurtured by very simple interventions.” These “seeds of restoration” are already within individuals, and even within social systems. Those of us on the Seeds of Grace project team have experienced God’s power to transcend bars of imprisonment—whether physical, psychological, social, or spiritual—through the “very simple intervention” of learning, exploring, connecting, and telling stories from the biblical tradition.
Items written by Rev. Amelia Boomershine, D.Min.
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