By Kenneth J. Meyers
The culture generally addresses human dignity and justice issues before the church can get into gear. Such is the matter when in recent years Americans faced the LGBTQ life concerns with resolve. The cultural consideration recognized that gay family and friends are people who can love each other in the covenant of marriage.
Awakening to this cultural shift, the church question first centered on the appropriate process to think critically and act compassionately on this life concern.
There is a story of the church that received a request from the membership to engage the question of inclusivity of LGBTQ individuals into the life and work of the faith community. Can a gay person teach a class or become a deacon or be married in the church? Is homosexuality a sin? What is a covenant of love? And more.
Content considerations included personal stories, nature vs. nurture lecture, biblical study, and much more. Unexpectedly, the order of these offerings became a central question. Is the order important?
In the case of this church, the forces for cognitive acceptance prevailed and the erudite lectures and scholarly textual studies commenced. To be sure, these presentations were very commanding. But even with one or two brief stories included, the focus was on the head and not the heart.
Susan Shaw, author of Storytelling in Religious Education, helps us with the value and placement of personal stories for learning:
Because narrative is such a primary human activity, stories are powerful. Stories that are communicated well invite learners into a transformative realm in which old ways of living may be opened up to new possibilities.
The personal story captures the heart. Shaw continues, “When this happens in the religious education context, it can facilitate movement toward the goals of religious education.” (p122)
Does your congregation encourage the telling of life stories? Where can that happen? Is it a safe space? How does the one who tells and the one who hears benefit? Have you identified your present story? What is the cost of telling? What is the promise of telling?