Save Your Masks, and Your Stories
Recently, the New York Times published an article about how museum curators are already collecting artifacts from this year that they will use to tell the stories of what happened: the pandemic, the struggle against racist violence, the cracks in the economy.
Museums are collecting masks, both the hospital quality and home-sewn masks, as a way to remember how the pandemic moved us into action.
They will be looking for all kinds of objects that will tell the story of this year and help future generations understand how people coped: what we ate, the memes we shared on social media, the signs we stuck in our front yards to express our activism.
This impulse to gather the stories of our time is something that emerges in every period of
When I preach from the Old Testament I am often moved to think of how the OT was collected and edited during the time of exile—that after seeing their temple destroyed, and their leaders hauled away, the exiles needed to reassert that they were once a great people, God’s very own.
Telling the story of Abraham’s election or David’s reign helped remind the people living on the margins that they mattered, their lives and stories were connected to the stories of their ancestors and the God who made an eternal covenant with them.
During this time of plague and outrage when our own feelings might be something like that of exile, there are stories to gather, stories of suffering and redemption, of hope and service.
These stories need to be shared and churches will be one place people will want to share these stories.
Many members have not seen each other in months, except by a Zoom screen.
The church as the body of Christ has struggled to express our connection remotely, through Facebook live services or conference call morning prayer.
When we emerge from this time of social distancing, we will be different as a result of our experience, and so the body will need to be knit together in a new way.
We will need to tell the stories, share how we have gotten through this time, how we have changed.
Who were you with, what did you do, how did you manage?
What were the little joys amid the terrible losses?
What does the new body of Christ look like?
In response to this need I have been thinking of story-telling and story-gathering exercises I have encountered in my experiences working with spiritual formation resources.
I have adapted some writing prompts and developed a form of lectio divina that can be used to create storytelling circles where the stories of our time can be told, honored, and used to glean the movement of the Spirit among us.
Participants in this course will practice together with the power of storytelling as a process to unite communities around our shared experiences of the pandemic and our shared experiences of the biblical story.
The course will examine the biblical story and contemporary stories through brief readings, examples of musical and visual stories, and weekly storytelling videos created by participants.
You can get more information and register for the class at the Lifelong Learning Center.
Rev. Melissa Tidwell is a pastor and writer and instructor for the Sharing Our Stories course. She has experience in the ministry of publishing, where she was the editor of Alive Now magazine and contributor to the Companions in Christ small group resource. She has experience in pastoral ministry to the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Xenia, Ohio and as a supply pastor in Georgia and Tennessee.