Elizabeth Adkisson draws you into the story with her very presence. She is grounded. She sees her audience and you know you are seen. She sees the story and its characters, and through her eyes, and the movement of her body, you see clearly the places and the people.
Elizabeth told several stories that I heard last week; the one I remember most right now is the story of the walk to Emmaus (in Luke) after the crucifixion of Jesus. I have told this story, even crafted a dramatic and poetic telling of it for worship, and I have heard it countless times over lifetime in Christian community. This was the first time I felt their sadness, as Elizabeth expressed sorrow in the voices and characters of these two walking and talking with the stranger. How bland are our depictions of this moment, too often when reading it aloud; or how quickly we jump to the wonder of recognising the resurrected Jesus, because we know where the story is going. In this encounter, I appreciated the wonder so much more, because I had first properly felt the sadness, disappointment, misunderstanding of those two trudging home from Jerusalem.
|night on the verandah of the 4H Conference Centre|
|The arena, our games hosts and resident DJ|
Because we also wrestle together with challenging biblical compositions, and conflicting ideas about how to go about our mission; and we cry together, because the stories stir us deep within.
Speaking of doing things together, we do a bit of singing and praying together over those three and a half days, too. In our praying I saw another gift, profound in its generosity, welcome, and love. For many years, Rabbi Rachmiel (Rock) Tobesman has participated in the festival gathering, a Jewish storyteller entering the stories and praying with this bunch of Christian storytellers. Twice Rabbi Rock led our praying, calling us to prayer with a haunting horn as we remembered those who had died and were on our hearts, and in our closing worship with Aramaic and English words of prayer. Rabbi Rock also tells stories and leads workshops, and his presence is for me a witness to hope of better relationships between Christians and Jews, between people of different traditions more generally. Story is something all humans share, and when we give space to each other's stories, to each other in the story, we make possible healing and wholeness for each other.
I haven't even mentioned our featured performer, this year a singer-songwriter, telling stories through music. Andrew Landers told those stories that made us laugh and made us cry, made us wonder at God's love, lament at human lack of it, and revel in the miracle of life. Check him out for yourselves: Andrew Landers