by Pam Faro
You probably had to be there…
Raising a quizzical eyebrow, she speaks with feigned ignorance and asks the oh-so-pregnant-with-meaning question: “Now, Pam…What are you a Master of?”
I take my cue…spread open my hands, raise eyes upward, and with a voice exuding a beatific awareness of the numinous, I answer in a breathless, awestruck-yet-knowing tone…“Divinity!”
– Always, people chuckle! (Um… ah, well – likely it’s a case of “you had to be there” …oral language, you know…)
This silly-fun little scene is one my storyteller/author friend Cherie Karo Schwartz (Circle Spinning: Jewish Turning and Returning Tales) and I have played out from time to time in the 10 years since I got my MDiv. In the fall of 2000, having been storytelling professionally for 12 years by then, I took a gulp as well as the leap and went to grad school, and got a Master of Divinity degree. I did not seek ordination in my denomination (ELCA Lutheran), however, for I discern no “call” to congregational/pastoral ministry. Rather, my call is to storytelling.
“Where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
– That’s my favorite definition of “call” (from Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC).
I bet a lot of you reading this could actually, if inclined, say that storytelling is your call…
You know the deep gladness of
- researching / finding
- creating / developing / preparing
- working with / playing with / honing, and
- sharing and telling your stories.
And, you know the world has such deep hunger for
- the human-to-human connecting that the act of storytelling creates
- the stories that we tell – whether they entertain, delight, provoke, move, challenge, empower, comfort, guide, inspire…or all of the above.
I dare to say that storytelling itself is a spiritual endeavor – regardless of any-or-no connection to any faith tradition.
Sharing ghost stories ‘round a campfire? Telling funny trickster-and-other folktales to a gym-full of 500 PreK-5th graders? – Spiritual?!
Yes! Agree or disagree with me? Interested in exploring the notion? Come to my workshop at the National Storytelling Conference and let’s explore together!
My interest in specifically “interfaith storytelling” – intentionally sharing sacred stories from across different faith traditions – was deepened by a graduate class I took about the fascinating and rich combination of cultures and faiths in medieval Spain. I researched and put together a program of stories from that time and place (“Andalusian Trilogy” – for more on this project, you may wish to see this page on my website, and/or this blog post). I tell these stories to (yes, entertain, and) help create connections and heal brokenness, stories that underscore common lessons and values that different faiths profess – for too many people today only point out the stories that keep faiths disengaged from each other.
Over my years of giving interfaith storytelling programs, responses from people from various faith traditions have been overwhelmingly positive. Two of my favorites:
– After giving the “Interfaith Interplay” program (stories drawn from 4-5 different traditions) at Emory University in Atlanta, a young Muslim student shook my hand and said fervently, “Every single university needs to hear these stories!” (– Yikes, I’m not quite up for that!);
– After performing “Andalusian Trilogy” in Rome’s glorious basilica Sta. Maria del Popolo, a woman came up and, with an enthusiastic smile and wonderment in her eyes, said to me in Italian, “This was probably the first time Hebrew has been sung in this basilica!”
With a bit of trepidation (these aren’t my traditions, after all) I’ve gone ahead and sung in Hebrew (which I’ve studied some) and told Jewish-tradition stories; and I’ve gone ahead and recited Arabic poetry (in English translation) and told stories of the Prophet Muhammed – and have been given whole-hearted appreciation and encouragement by Jewish and Muslim listeners. I’ve told these stories in Christian churches and in public libraries, and similar expressions of “we need more of this!” are always shared with me.
We do need more of this –
We need to share our “sacred” stories with each other, and bridge the gaps between different faith and spiritual traditions. And we need to do our “secular” storytelling – for the storytelling experience itself vitalizes the imagination and feeds the human spirit in real and abiding ways.
Let’s explore together how our spirits are nourished by our deepest myths, our stories of personal challenge and transformation, the sharing of folklore and oral literature, and even by the silliest of Jack tales!
I hope that many of you will be at my workshop at this year’s NSN conference, “Interfaith Interplay: Sharing the Fire and Light of Sacred Stories.”
With a degree in music and a Masters in Divinity, Pam Faro has been storytelling professionally since 1988. A single mom, she supported her family through the 1990s with storytelling; in 2000 her nest emptied, she remarried, and started grad school (THAT was a year!). In recent years she has performed internationally (overseas in Italy, Wales, England, Germany and Australia; “overlakes” in Canada), and rejoices in how storytelling creates connections between people. Multicultural and/or musical folktales, bilingual cuentos, biblical storytelling, and the story of her great-uncle who survived the Titanic are among her specialties. She’s a new blogger at www.storycrossings.com.