Church #20. Meet Vanessa Bradby. She is the Children, Youth and Family Director at Olivet Congregation Church UCC in St. Paul, MN. The fun thing about this post is that I was invited to join in their R&R retreat as a guest storyteller.
What is a R&R retreat? It’s a combination of a staycation that meets cross+generational VBS. The schedule is chocked with meals, sing-a-longs, storytelling, art and service projects and worship. Check out this timeline:
My role was the the Thursday night storyteller or as I called it a “story facilitator.” The objective of the storytelling bonfire was to get people talking about where their stories and God’s story intersect. So I broke the facilitation down into three parts:
Stories have the power to connect us. Learning our stories and being able to tell them is the first task. We played a game of Two Truths and Lie to crack open the stories we tell about ourselves. One person said, “It’s funny how you start telling one story and that leads to another story and then to another story!”
We then jumped into God’s Story. Sometimes I pick one Bible story for a storytelling event. But since the theme was something like “God’s story is our story,” it seemed appropriate that each person picked their own. In groups of two, people retold either a Bible story or a verse, practicing it in their own words. The point was to get comfortable in telling the story. There was no need for questions or comments at this point. Once everyone had a chance to tell and retell their Bible story, I invited to pick through some images (the visual faith project). They were to select an image that would help explain why that Bible story or verse was important to them. Using images helps people dig deeper into faith. People are more comfortable when they have something to hold on to (like wine glass or coffee cup) but images spark conversation and questions. Someone said, “I can’t just pick one image!”
To close our time together, we intertwined our stories with God’s story using yarn. Sifting through about 40 colors, people chose pieces of yarn to represent their life story in the midst of their faith story. The goal was to be able to tell their story through a series of colors, knots or braids. One little girl picked 5 colors to represent her family. It was held together by knots on the ends that represented God’s love. One mom identified her call story through a series of handpicked colors and assorted knots.
On Saturday afternoon a handful came together to weave our stories together into the cross of Christ. Putting it all together reminds us that our stories are connected to the heart of God. It’s the story we are called to tell others.
Why does this staycation matter? It matters what is written in John 20:
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
John wrote down the stories of Jesus so that we may have faith. But not all the stories are written down. Some of the stories exist in us. Sacred stories that shine the light of cross within us. Our job is to be encouraged to tell this story of light and life with others.
For more information, please contact Vanessa Bradby at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-646-1478.