As I continue to reflect on experiencing the cosmic Christ generally and particularly lessons my experience at Wild Goose taught me about experiencing Christ this year, one element that stands out to me is the importance of hearing our own and other’s stories.
Perhaps the most moving event I went to this year at Wild Goose was the story circle led by Joshua Hearne of Grace and Main Ministries in Danville, VA. Hearne drew on the Appalachian tradition of story circles in which community members would sit down in a circle, perhaps on a porch, by fireside, at a break in work in the fields, or even over a Mason Jar of some locally brewed liquor, to each tell stories of their life. (I did in fact over Goose do just that final exercise twice over Goose – sit in a circle with some folks over some form of locally brewed liquor, one time drinking together from a Mason Jar we all passed around). After a time of corporate singing and prayer, Hearne invited the group to sit in a circle and do a chain story. In this exercise, Hearne began with a story, then invited people in the story to each share a story without given an interpretation or lesson, and then each person in turn share a story from their lives which the previously told story inspired.
This was an amazing experience. Each story I heard, with no explanation, reminded me of events and experiences in my own life which had shaped me in positive ways, even ones which in the moment were quite challenging.
Two other sessions, once led by Hugh Hollowell of Love Wins Ministries in Raleigh, and another led by Rev. Chris Davies from the United Church of Christ General Synod, both added more dimensions to the theme of story. Hollowell talked about stories that kill and stories that give life, pointing out the way in which the way we tell our stories of church and ministry shape the way in which we relate. Too often our way of telling stories privileges us, marginalizing others. He challenged the group to think of and change ways in which our telling of our faith stories, at least among those of us who are people of wealth or privilege (be that white privilege, male privilege, straight privilege) casts us as hero or Savior. “I always try to talk about my work with Love Wins, recognizing my friends who are experiencing homelessness are the heroes of this story, never me”.
Rev. Davies, in a talk on queering the church, challenged those gathered to have a wide enough welcome in their life together to allow other’s stories that are often silenced or marginalized to take the center-place of the story the community of faith is telling together. Jesus is always moving to the margins, and embracing the voices and stories of the people on the margins as the center of who we are as people of faith is key to being where Jesus is.
Though the language of cosmic Christ was not a part of the conversation in these groups, a rich understanding of the cosmic Christ can see the presence of Christ within the lives we seek to know through listening to, paying attention to, and sharing our own and other’s stories.
In later posts, I want to explore what it means to see Christ as present in our own and others’ stories, as well as some ways we can begin to look for Christ in our own and other’s lives. In the meantime, let me share a clip of an old hymn which celebrates the importance of story in our faith.
Blessed Assurance, by Fanny Crosby
1. Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.
2. Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels, descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.
3. Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.
Your progressive redneck preacher,