Adapted from Constructing Your Congregation's Story by James Wind
From the Zeal Appeal: Small Congregations, Vital Stories workshop held in Santa Fe, NM, April 2008.
Why Do It?
- Critical to public relations and incorporation of new members
- To discover the unity in a diversity of experiences.
- Gain increased clarity around mission and purpose.
- Congregations and people are shaped by the stories they tell about themselves.
- Encourage all who experience it to see a larger purpose and meaning.
- Pass it on to a future generation of stewardship as keepers of a rich and living tradition.
Getting Started: Building a Community of Inquiry
- Recruit Storytelling Team (diversity, individual gifts, loyalty)
- Know your audience: Congregation and future generations
- Define the Final product — text document, slide show, multi-media, etc.
Gathering the Resources
- Church archives including meeting minutes, publications, Congregational Packets, scrapbooks, and photos. Oral histories and recorded interviews
- Community resources including local historical society, newspapers, and local and federal census data.
- UUA publications and UU Historical Society
Defining a Unitarian Universalist Congregation
- How is this congregation the same as any other local liberal religious community?
- In what ways is it different?
- What features of Unitarian Universalism, if you took them away, would leave us with something that is no longer UUism?
- What, if you added it, would make us no longer a UU congregation?
Tell the Whole Story
- Lifecycles — Congregations are organic living systems: birth, development, maturity, death, revitalization.
- Place historical development into national, regional, and local historical contexts.
- Western expansion of a New-England based religious movement
- Fellowship movement west of the Mississippi
- Local social, political, and economic context at founding
- Changing demographics and relationship to the surrounding community
- Focus on defining moments - the biggest concerns of the people at any point in time. How conflicts and disagreements are handled tell us who we really are, the values we hold most dear, and reveal opportunities for personal and institutional growth.
Making Up the Story
- Your congregation's story is much more than a collection of dates, events, and ministers
- One challenge is to identify the hidden or partially submerged stories that are embedded and still very much alive in every congregation.
- As the Storytelling Team moves through the process of collecting and reviewing data, a unifying plot will emerge.
Constructing a Skeleton for the Story
- Create a Congregational Timeline
- Add parallel timelines that relate your story to other important ones.
- National Timeline — major U.S. events; social movements, etc
- Association Timeline — what was happening in our larger UU movement?
- Local Timeline — significant events in your local community
- This is a great time to invite broadest participation in the creation of your story.
- When the timelines are completed, back up and collectively identify major turning points in the life of the congregation and its surroundings.
- How did you respond to these turning points?
- What impact did creation/collapse of major industries have?
- Changing demographics and lifestyles?
- What new insights emerged that could inform future direction?
Keeping the Story Going
- Schedule regular opportunities to report out to the congregation over the course of the project inviting greatest input.
- Display the project's artifacts including the timelines.
- Create one or two questions for shared focus and encourage intergenerational members to interview one another and record their responses during coffee hour or at a special dinner. For example: Since joining this congregation, reflect on a time in your life when you did something that seemed truly meaningful to you. What specific Unitarian Universalist values were lifted up by this action?
- Encourage the storytelling team to see themselves as public relations agents by reaching out to newer members and inviting their contributions to the project.
Constructing Your Congregation's Story by James Wind. Handout adapted from details published online at www.congregationalresources.org/ConstructingStory/about.asp.
The Premise and the Promise: The Story of the Unitarian Universalist Association by Warren Ross, Skinner House, 2001.
Prophetic Sisterhood: Liberal Women Ministers on the Frontier 1880-1930 by Cynthia Grant Tucker, Beacon Press, 1990.
U.S Census Data on the web at www.Factfinder.census.gov
Tuesday, 23 February 2010 15:54
Written by Jess Cullinan