Saturday, July 25, 2009

Story and Public Narrative

One of the things we were asked to do at General Convention this year was telling our stories through the use of Public Narrative. The focus of our conversations was mission. The idea is for each person in the group to tell a one to two minute piece of their story that tells how they began doing mission work. The next step, after hearing each of those stories, is to create the story of the group and then to move the combined story into a story of now - what our combined story is telling us we need to be doing together now.

Public Narrative wasn't my favorite part of the Convention. In fact, we were arranged in table groups with our dioceses and most all of us had done this same exercise - in diocesan groups - at our synod meetings. So, after the first day, we opted out. Frankly, it was time we used to rest and our daily lunches together were, in a less structured way, our time of sharing story and hearing how we need to move forward now that we are home.

But there was one example of Public Narrative - me, us, now - that I realize I didn't share with you all and that I didn't think of in those terms at the time. One day, we had many ecumenical visitors. They were from all kinds of Christian, Jewish and Muslim congregations. One of them spoke to us and then asked a cantor, a muezzin and a priest to chant the Abrahamic Prayer that we share in common (The Lord bless you and keep you....). The cantor began and his chant transported us all. As he ended, the muezzin took up the prayer with equal power. He was followed by the priest whose chant was Anglican in form. And then all three of them chanted together. Rather, they chanted in their own style at the same time, sometimes creating blissful harmony and at other times dissonance that should have been jarring but seemed to be right.

When the last note faded away, our combined story woven together in incomparable manner, the need to love, honor and respect our brothers and sisters of all faiths was made clear. We don't have to sing the same tune. There doesn't have to be perfect harmony. But we must recognize our common bond and work together for the peace we cannot achieve separately.

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