BY NOEL E K TAN Amongst God’s creations, only Man is “storied”. We share stories of past and present - how we come to be, who we are as individuals and communities; and stories of possible futures - hopes and dreams that God has placed in us. The “What?”: Stories and Narratives
Stories and Narratives are not quite the same. “Stories” are usually a chronological account of events, while “narratives” present key perspectives around those events. Narratives, therefore, can be used to shape thinking and lead to action-taking at community and organisational levels. For example, the Nativity story could be read simply as an account of Jesus’ birth, yet what the four gospels chose to highlight about the events surrounding it, reveal different aspects of who Christ is.
The “So What?”: Our 40th Anniversary Congregational Dialogue
Biblically, 40 years mark a generational shift and a milestone for reflection, and as “storied” people, a series of dialogue to harvest stories of God’s impact on COR members, both individually and collectively, is apt. We begin our Congregational Dialogue series in June at our Church Camp, where our shared stories will:
• allow newer COR members to discover the considerations and decisions behind how COR started and grew;
• provide decades-serving COR members the opportunity to hear the stories of newer COR members; and
• help us as an whole church to discover the intangible resources that God has placed in his people in COR, and discern His will for COR’s future work.
When we come together in Dialogue and Story, we connect the individual to the collective narrative. During the traditional Passover meal, Jewish families all over the world tell and discuss the Passover story, eat and drink symbolic foods, and in doing so, transmit both cultural knowledge and the individual’s connectedness to God’s monumental rescue of His people, to even to this day.
Beyond reflection, Dialogue and Story helps communities and their leaders collectively identify core actions that can be undertaken together, as God continues to reveal His purpose for the church. In Acts 6-11, we see how dialogue helped the early church overcome the challenges of growing together in community, embracing the cultural differences of Jewish and Greek/Gentile believers, and responding to God’s leading in individual and collective ways. Through dialogue, the minds of leaders and people were renewed and expanded, and they emerged more integrated than before the events in Chapter 6.
I have puzzled over how in the early sections in Acts, that the apostles and Jewish believers were still struggling with the idea of Jesus saving the world and not just the Jews. Not only had Jesus clearly indicated his mission to them, they had even witnessed Jesus’ Great Commission statement and his dramatic ascension! Perhaps it is the dominant Jewish narrative from the time of the Diaspora that had them collectively focus on a search for an earthly Messiah, rather than what God Himself had in mind for His people and the world. Perhaps this traditional narrative could account for their initial difficulty in accommodating the different cultural aspects of being a gentile Christ follower and a Jew.
Sadly, while narratives can allow us to expand our experience when we allow ourselves to access new perspectives from other people, not doing so can also limit our vision and perspectives. Like looking only for an earthly Messiah of the Jews, we can overlook God’s larger purpose when we create a shallow narrative of who we are, how we relate to others, and how “we” might reach God’s purpose; or when we just keep echoing a narrative with those who share a history with us, rather than listen to and include those whose different narratives might provide another perspective that would stretch our understanding and experience of Him.
The “So What?”: How You Can Participate
At our first Congregational Dialogue in June, we will focus on our stories of
• how we came to faith,
• how we came to COR,
• our personal high points and turning points, and
• COR’s high points and turning points leading up to the present.
On 24 August 2019, our Dialogue’s focus will shift to our sensing of where God is leading us as individuals and as a church, which will allow us to make choices and own the shared future God has purposed for us. This will lay the foundation for a post-40th Anniversary COR Narrative for our next generational milestone.
Finally, we will have a smaller dialogue session for clergy and ministry leaders, to review the collected stories and data emerging from the 2 prior dialogue sessions, and piece together the collective strengths and aspirations of COR members. This group will draft an action plan based on the data, and bring it back to the people for input, before leading us in the next concrete steps into our shared future.
The details for the dialogues will be made available as the dates near. You are invited to join the dialogues however you are able to and bring your stories of your past, present and future to share with us, that we may grow together in God’s purpose for us.
在神的创造中，人类可能是唯一能被称为是“有故事”的创造。我们可以讲述、分享以及体会过去和现在的故事 – 我们有什么经历，以及我们分别作为个体与在信仰群体中的身份。我们也有能力想象以后我们是怎么样的，甚至将其想象向他人讲述。
对话会的详情会在接近的日子让大家知道。我们欢迎您出席今年的对话会，把您的过去、现在和未来的故事同大家来分享，使我们可以一起在神的旨意中成长。 Noel Tan joined Chapel of the Resurrection in 2011, after serving a total of 29 years in the other 2 parishes in St Andrew’s Village. A consultant with his own practice, Noel helps leaders design stakeholder and citizen engagement for their organisations, and conducts process facilitator workshops. Noel is the immediate past Chair of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) Global Board (2016-2017), the first Singaporean/Asian to lead the North American-based association since its inception in 1994. He is married to Brenda and is father to Ethan, Edna and Ezra.
This article first appeared in Issue 19, April 2019 CHORUS Magazine.