“I just want more stories to tell.” The words surprised me when they escaped from my lips. There, in the midst of a probing conversation with my dear friend and fellow pastor, as she peppered me with questions, and challenged me with possibilities about where my upcoming sabbatical time could lead, a spark was ignited.
I just didn’t realize it.
Nearly a year later, a Massachusetts Conference retreat for clergy surreptitiously landed in my in-box. Clergy event notices do that all the time, but in the drone of messages that call for attention, this invitation sang out for my response. “I Love to Tell the Story,” was a retreat led by a local clergy woman and storyteller. I registered right away. I never do that.
The retreat was snowed out. My money was refunded. I was disappointed. But the spark of the Holy Spirit doesn’t get buried in snow forever; though you might have thought it could last winter.
Long ago, I filed the business card that the child of a friend of my mother handed me with “Storyteller” among her career descriptions. I rummaged around for it when I decidedly could not ignore the flame of the storytelling Spirit spark in my soul. My tentative e-mail elicited her emphatic response. I was, she affirmed, already a storyteller, which is why she visits our church whenever she treks north to visit her family. The small flame of wonder was fanned with the wind of encouragement. Isn’t God great?
We are a people whose Christian canon comes from generations upon generations of storytellers. As a pastor, I have strengthened my talent for the written word. Leading worship weekly for six years, I have improved my gifts for the spoken word. Now, I anticipate a season, a sabbatical season, devoted to exploring the creative and expressive work of storytelling. But what does that mean?
It turns out that there is a League for the Advancement of New England Storytelling. Who knew? Their annual conference, with workshops and performances and story-slams (what?), takes place on the very first weekend of my sabbatical. I registered months ago. Hopefully it isn’t snowed out!
Turns out, these people are serious about storytelling. My in-box is peppered once again, this time with LISTSERV e-mails from a tight community of passionate storytellers. Reading their e-mails, I feel like a snoop, eavesdropping into a world that I really know nothing about. I mean, we all have heard a good story, but these people are really zealous about their art. I’ll be honest. It’s a little terrifying.
But I already registered. And I already received a grant to attend this conference. And my sabbatical is about to begin. And I already said that I thought the Spirit was leading me to do this. (Why do I say these things?) So, I guess I shouldn’t back out now.
Maybe it will snow after all. Otherwise, I guess I will have to trust that the Holy Spirit isn’t backing out now either, and that maybe God is in the midst of this after all. Maybe that sounds crazy. But God has done crazier things. I mean, have you heard the story of Easter?