Telling Our Story: A Few Questions to Get Us Thinking
By Derek Penwell
As I write, I'm headed to Denver on the final leg of this sabbatical journey. It's been a wonderful summer, and I'm grateful to have been given the opportunity, both by the Lilly Foundation and the good folks at DBCC. Thank you.
As you know, I've been thinking a lot about story and plot this summer. In particular, I've wondered about how we can tell DBCC's story over the past eight years. I know you all have also been doing work on the kinds of changes that have occurred, and how those changes fit into a coherent narrative. Done well, storytelling is a difficult but extraordinarily gratifying task. I want to thank you for the time you've invested in this process.
Earlier this summer I wrote about the heart of narrative–conflict. Conflict not in the sense of fighting other people (although that too is a part of narrative conflict), but in the sense of two sometimes opposing forces: desire and obstacle. All good stories have some version of conflict. The protagonist wants something (e.g., to find love, to get back home, to survive tragedy, to discover something new, to find meaning, etc.) but is prevented from realizing the yearning by some external or internal obstacle (e.g., a competitor for the beloved's affections emerges, a mugging results in a lost wallet and passport, food and water supplies threaten to run out, the mathematical calculations fall short, a troubled past gets in the way of carving out a new future, etc.).
I challenged you to think about DBCC's desire (i.e., what has driven us?), and what kind of obstacles have arisen to make the journey more difficult. I'd like for us to have a discussion about that when I return, because (at least in my own thinking) this is a promising way of thinking about our story–both what has already happened, and what kind of things we might think of doing moving forward.
Perhaps a way to “prime the pump” as you reflect is for me to offer a few questions:
- What kinds of things have we been most afraid of as a congregation?
- Have we dealt with the root causes of those fears? If so, how? If not, why not?
- What kinds of things do we consider victories?
- What kinds of things have proved the most challenging?
- Which of the speakers this summer helped you think about your faith or the life of the church differently? Why?
- What kinds of ideas did the speakers evoke in you that might be worth thinking more about as we think about the future?
- If your thinking about DBCC has changed over the course of the summer, how has it changed?
You may think of more questions. What I hope this does is help us to consider the path our journey has taken, and where we think we're poised to go next.
I find this to be such an exciting opportunity, and I hope you've been stimulated by the broad range of speakers, the loving attention provided by Candasu, and the steady administration of the staff. I can't wait to see you next week!