Long stories not short readings

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A Christmas Community Storytelling of Two Baby Boys

two baby boys

The Bible is full of long stories that jump the section headings, and that don’t parcel up neatly into the short lengths that you hear read in a typical service. A box set rather than a poem, a feature film rather than a tweet. Stories that were whispered, gossiped and giggled from person to person long before they were more formally told in places of worship, let alone written down.

At St Mary’s we are experimenting with biblical storytelling, giving time and space to a sweep of a story. Our first storytelling took place on Maundy Thursday, when we told the story of Holy Week, from Palm Sunday to Easter morning, all from the gospel of Luke. The ‘telling’ is important, direct speech using un-edited words from the bible, learnt by heart and told to the listeners without the props of book or lectern. It has an urgency, an ‘I was there’ quality. We share the telling, so the story passes between different people, quieter and louder voices, the flamboyant and the reflective, old, young, women, men. In the month or two before the storytelling event, each storyteller ‘lives’ with their bit of the story, not just learning the words but working through decisions of meaning, emphasis and emotion. And then it comes together and we are all both listeners and tellers, taking turns on the floor, hearing the story emerge from our individual efforts. It’s good to finally have an audience too – fresh ears – catching different echoes and themes, as the story shifts between the famous passages and those often passed over.

This December we are telling the Christmas stories from Luke and Matthew, but with a twist from the usual selection – not one but two baby boys. They were cousins of sorts, born six months apart. Both had angels announce their birth and gave them their names, but one was a longed for child of older parents, while the other came at an awkward time. The son of a priest, when John grew up he lived in extreme poverty in the desert, gathering followers as he challenged people to turn away from their sins and baptising them in the river. After an unconventional birth story (more angels, shepherds, wise men), surviving a death warrant and spending a few years as a refugee in Egypt, Jesus grew up quietly as the son and apprentice of the village carpenter. Until, thirty years later, when he met up with John at the River Jordan.

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We look forward to sharing our Christmas Community Storytelling with you. Fifteen voices, re-telling one story. No singing. No sermon. Words straight from the bible.

4-5pm Sunday 4th December. St Marys’ Church, Bramall Lane, Sheffield.