Who doesn’t love a good story? We surround our lives with them. From the ones we get from books, television, social media, at social gatherings, a coffee catch-up with a friend, time with a grandparent or a small child full of wonder. It is through story that we can connect with others and share something of ourselves. And it is through listening to others that we learn more about them. This sharing of stories and, without question, the sharing of your time is a valuable commodity in our modern society. Being present for, and with, others is one of the most precious gifts that we can give.
Jesus is the ultimate storyteller. His stories are told and retold every day and everywhere. It was an effective way of evangelizing and communicating the message of the Kingdom of God. It can be ours too. Such words like ‘prodigal’, for example, have become very much a part of everyday language. 1 Peter 3:15-16a (NRSVCE) sums it up when he says:
…but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.
So, who might these people be who want to know the hope that is within you? They are the seekers who come looking to discover more about what it is to be Catholic, the members of the faithful who have been disconnected from the Church for some time, the people who are struggling and need reassurance.
The document "Come and See" , albeit designed as “an invitation to the whole Catholic community to engage in pastoral re-imagining of the ministry of Christian Initiation of adults and children”, has key principles that are at the forefront of the mission heart of all people. Two of these key principles are:
- The parish exists for mission. Mission is an essential dimension in the life of individual disciples AND the parish community as a whole.
The Ministry of Christian Initiation stands on the effectiveness of the mission to evangelise by proclaiming the love of God where we are…
- The ministry of hospitality and welcome is vital to every gathering of an initiating community, especially when it gathers for liturgy” (p. 9)
Many of Jesus’ stories were told whilst sharing a meal. Times such as these help create community, connection and a shared experience. Just as Jesus shared his message at these times so too can we use these opportunities to share the good news of Jesus and mission with others.
The whole parish, not just a specified team, is charged with the missionary responsibility of evangelisation and initiation. This responsibility is to proclaim Christ’s message of love in word and deed in the everyday circumstances of life. [cf RCIA a. 9.1, 75].
A companion document to ‘Come and See, Ministry Descriptions has suggestions that individuals and parishes can do to ‘tell the story’. What does it look like to be a storyteller? To begin with we need to grow communities that are welcoming, invitational, non-judgmental, hospitable, interested, and willing to share. Willing to share personal experiences of living as disciples and members of the church community.
The following is from the ‘Storyteller’ section found in the Ministry Descriptions document (link above).
As the precatechumen shares their story and the call they are hearing to live in relationship with God and seek baptism in the Catholic church, so too is the community of faith called to share their stories with them.
Storytelling focuses on reflecting on our experiences of God with us, builds up the community of faith at a personal and meaningful level.
Some parishioners will be gifted storytellers who feel comfortable talking about their relationship with God. You will know who they are. All members of the community can grow their capacity for storytelling and faith sharing by:
- thinking about the people who have been significant in your faith journey.
- reflecting on how God, Jesus or the Catholic faith have impacted on you.
- reflecting on moments of joy, recognising God in those times.
- identifying moments of grace when you were aware of the God’s presence.
- identifying significant events or milestones that they are grateful to God for.
Storytelling can focus on and include:
- keeping the faith life of the community part of everyday conversations. It might open the door to further conversations.
- inviting seekers to come along to parish events and sharing the story of why these events are an important part of church/parish life.
- Christian sign and symbols
Storytelling focused on faith sharing helps catechumens discover the many ways God is present with us. By hearing these stories seekers, catechumens and candidates can build on their understanding of what it means to be a member of the Church and begin to reimagine their lives with God at the centre, with them always and everywhere.
Parishes may have many gifted people who use other means of storytelling. These people could include:
- photographers(who can capture those moments where the Spirit is at work within the community)
- videographers(capturing the People of God being people of action)
- writers (that share written stories of faith of the community)
- designers and graphic artists/illustratorswho review and update the parish bulletin, and all means of communication by ensuring it is:
- attractive, easy to read and inviting.
- references all the groups, activities, and ministries in the parish and
- mission focussed.
- reaching as many people as possible.
Jesus’s last instructions to his followers were to ‘go’ and ‘tell’ people.
What are you being invited to learn – unlearn – relearn?
To what change are you/we being invited, for all people?
What is your story to tell?
Diocesan Liturgy Council Update
To keep abreast of the work of the Diocesan Liturgy Council you can review the Report published on the website after each meeting. (Click on Council News). The November report will be available soon. The October meeting was cancelled due to the National Liturgy Conference.
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