On Saturday 19 January at 7pm, we will hold our first yarn: an evening for people to gather and tell stories. The theme is epiphany: a moment when you realised something deep and true about yourself or the world. More about the event is here; guidelines for storytellers are here. But what’s the big idea behind it? Well, we are story people. The stories we tell and the stories we inhabit create deep patterns in our minds, shaping how we see the world, each other and ourselves. Yet we are surrounded by untrue stories: the story that there is never enough to go round (dismantled here); the story that suffering is a cosmic or divine punishment (dismissed here); the story that some groups of people threaten the smooth workings of our society (deconstructed here); the story that wealth is a sign of God’s favour (demolished here); and many others.
And so we gather each week to wrestle with God’s stories, and to immerse ourselves in them and write them on our bones. For God’s stories equip us to recognise and reject the untrue stories which surround us, and pattern our lives in healthy, liberating, life-giving ways.
But we also seek something else. For at the heart of God’s stories lies neighbour-love. This love of neighbour is embedded in the idea of shalom, or the common good, which shapes the Hebrew Bible and sets the prophets on fire. It’s the focus of the stories and teachings of Jesus, and it’s the practical challenge for the early church. Neighbour-love is not about having vague and amorphous feelings of goodwill. Instead, it’s local and particular: about this person or that group.
As a new growing commuter church, many of us don’t actually know each other that well, nor do we necessarily know our neighbours. So on Saturday 19 January we are gathering together, and inviting others in, to have a good yarn: to share true stories about our very real lives. For the stories we tell reveal much about ourselves (remember Lucy’s story? Tanya’s? Dave’s?), and when we listen well to one another, we make possible the trust, intimacy and vulnerability which are the foundation of love.
Parker J. Palmer once wrote, “the bond of listening holds the cosmic community together.” Offering our stories, and listening well to other people’s, is a powerful social glue. And so I hope you can come to the event, and listen well, and perhaps tell a story of your own, as we make this opportunity to build up the cosmic community and its local expression in the great south west region of Victoria.
PS – If you have a story to tell, please let me know so I get an idea of how many stories may run – and how many I need to urgently scrounge up!
PPS – Don’t forget to invite your friends! It’s a great chance for people to experience and share in our love of stories without the baggage of church.
Whenever a text is spoken, whether prepared or improvised, and listened to, we become a community of present contemporaries, people breathing together. (Ursula le Guin, Always Coming Home)