Today has been one of those full, rich days. Arriving at Camp Woody, we were a little worried at the weather forecasts, predicting wet weather for the weekend. There was some rain last night, but today has been pretty fine, with the sky gradually clearing throughout the day.
A few keen people went for a walk before breakfast, others have taken the opportunity through the afternoon. The fire has been going inside all day, and with the stories and good food, we've been plenty warm enough.
In our first session, we heard Andrew McDonough's version of the story of Jesus with the children, pausing to wonder about how the different characters were feeling at various points in the story: the disciples sending the children away, the children (and mums) being sent away, the disciples being told off by Jesus, the children being welcomed by Jesus. We felt the disciple's desire to protect Jesus as an important man who may not have been acknowledged by the Jewish leaders; the sadness and confusion of the children (and mothers) at being sent away from a man who was teaching an inclusive message; the confusion of the disciples having been corrected by Jesus when they thought they had done the right thing; the joy and acceptance of the children, welcomed by Jesus. I then invited people to continue to engage with the story through conversation and creativity, which took us deeper into the story, and helped us to make connections between the story and our own stories.
The second session saw us divide, as older folk heard a portion of Paul's letter to the Corinthian church and explored how and why we read the sacred stories aloud in our gathered communities of faith. It's a community experience; hearing the story invites us to consider it from different perspectives - because no two people read it aloud the same way; it began as an oral tradition, so it is fullest when read aloud. The younger folk explored the story of Noah through song, using actions and instruments to augment the telling through singing.
One conversation following this session pondered the balance we strive for in communities of faith, wanting to invite all to participate and offer their gifts, helping each other to discern what our gifts are, and that encouraging people to be involved not only means issuing an invitation and saying 'well done, thank you', but also equipping each other to do their very best. In particular, with reading the Bible aloud, we often offer this as an 'easy' way for folk to be involved - but is it the particular gifting of every one to bring life to the stories off the page? Should it be? How do we balance our responsibility to individuals to encourage their discerning of and using of gifts with our need for the moment of reading the Bible aloud to be a worshipful, engaging, inviting, meaningful moment for the listeners?
After lunch I told 'Of Willows and Whispers', a story from my growing up, before we spent time thinking about our own stories - and practiced telling stories and listening to stories. There was a great buzz in the room as I invited people to engage with various exercises to help us find our voice, discover how we all have stories to tell, and explored the different elements of stories to help us tell our stories well.
Free time this afternoon has involved walks, conversation, and a marathon game of volleyball that, as the sun begins to set, is still going ...
And day nine is not over yet.