Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Yesterday, I said I was terrified to be spending three days on retreat with ten 20-somethings called the Newark ACTS Interns.

Today, I am no longer terrified.

I am in awe.

These are some really incredible young people. Bright. Passionate. Funny. Filled, simultaneously, with revolutionary ideas as well as aspirations for a successful life that pretty much mirrors the look of the affluence they would revolt against.

You know: normal young 20-somethings.

The focus of our work is on Narrative Leadership, which is to say that we are looking at our own stories and the stories of the people we live and work with to discover how it is we are - or, are not - living out the Gospel story. 

And, how we can change that narrative.

I've decided to call this "iStory" - sort of in the way we have an iPhone, and an iPad, and an iPod - but, in googling the term, found that, of course, there already is such a thing.

According to Wiki, "iStories is now a program especially created to allow multimedia story telling. Images, text, music and sounds can all be combined to create excellent online resources iStories come in many genres, such as adventure, horror, combat, quiz games, or just simple fun. Anyone can make an iStory about anything, as long as they have a program like iWriter, iStory Creator or are familiar with the use of basic HTML coding."

Well, I don't have the program iWriter and I have no idea about the use of basic HTML coding, but I think iStory is a good way to talk about Narrative Leadership as a post-modern concept that is as ancient as Holy Writ.

Narrative Leadership is a term used by such places as the Alban Institute as a tool of congregational renewal by seeking to "develop a conversation between narrative theorists and congregational leaders that focuses on the practices of Pastor as Storyteller and Congregation as Storyteller, and how these practices interact to provide resources for congregational transformation".

I'm using some Larry Goleman's stuff on Tragic, Romantic, Comic, and Ironic stories, and how those iStories attract us to certain communities of faith whose liturgy and mission live out that sense of our iStories. 

I'm also using a lot of Diana Butler Bass' stuff on Narrative Leadership, especially her story Titanic or Mayflower? in her book "Christianity for the Rest of Us" in which she writes:
"The Titanic storyline dominates how we talk about mainline Protestantism. But what if the Titanic is not the story? A better story may be that of the Mayflower. In this story, a boat of pilgrims finds itself in uncharted seas, blown off course by a storm and heading for an unnamed country. Like the Titanic story there is a sense of urgency, confusion and fear, but the ship is still intact. The leaders are not loading lifeboats, they are looking for land while they navigate the choppy and unfamiliar seas. In the Titanic story, leaders lead while the ship is sinking. In the Mayflower story, leaders stabilize a pilgrim community as they head into an unknown world. Is the story a crisis or an adventure? Titanic or Mayflower?"
I think the way to develop Narrative Leadership is to develop iStory - to learn how it is to listen deeply to our own stories in order that we might be better able to listen to the stories of others and discern our common story in light of the Gospel story.

I say that because I have come to believe that the best characteristic of a leader in community is the ability to listen. And, if we can't hear our own stories, how can we hear the stories of others?

So, as I've told some of my own stories and listened deeply to the stories of the 20-somethings in this group, what I'm hearing is a passion for transformation and justice that plays on the strings of my heart and causes my spirit to sing.

It is both humbling and exhilarating. I feel as if I've got an exclusive look into the window of the future, and the view is pretty amazing.

Indeed, I am in awe.

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