This year’s Festival Gathering of the Network of Biblical Storytellers is going to be at the beginning of August in Dayton, Ohio. There will be about 200 people, maybe more, and nearly all of them definitely extroverts. It is wonderful friendly warm welcoming bunch of people; a Venn diagram of pastors/church professionals + biblical scholars + professional storytellers/actors + a handful of “civilians” like me. It is 3-1/2 wonderful days of worship, keynote speaker diving deep into a topic and texts, and wonderful and varied breakout groups. It is place where you can say something like, “You know I’ve been thinking about the motif of fire in scripture and how it runs all through it, alternating between purifying and destructive.” And people will nod and discuss and add thoughts to your thought. It is pretty much my idea of heaven.
It is an excellent place to be a beginner and learn how to tell the story.
It is an excellent place to be not a beginner and keep on learning!
There is worship everyday and it is wonderful and out of the ordinary. The Keynote speaker speaks the first three days and has never ever been even slightly dull. The Keynote speaker is given the three themes of that year’s conference and they get to suss it all out and weave it together. There are workshops. There is story theater where you listen to folks tell longer-than-usual stories and just are amazed. There are breaks and exhibits and games and …. the very best thing is the Epic Tell. That is when a book or a large part of a book of the Bible is split up into sections and a bunch of storytellers who volunteer each have a piece and they go on one after another, maybe 30 people or so. It is hard to describe. For about 2 hours a section of scripture is performed. This year is 1 Kings 1-11. Hearing scripture out loud and hearing a huge continuous bit of it is an unique experience. You hear rhythms and themes and images repeat or stand out or interweave that you just would not hear reading in silence.
Every evening, sometimes going on quite late, is “Lighting the Fire” and that is when anyone can sign up for a “slot” that is no more than 8 minutes and tell a story. Any story. There are “jack” stories about impossible adventures and misadventures, there are sad/happy/wise stories, there are fables and folklore, there are scripture stories, there are true stories — anything at all. It is very special.
Besides the Epic Tell, this year’s “theme stories” are all about our hearts — God has or wants to write on hearts, turn our hearts of stone to hearts of love.
I think over the weeks before the Festival I’ll see if I get one or more by heart my ownself and blog about them.