22 May 2013

Easter followup (part 2)

This continues my followup post about retelling the Easter story straight from the Gospel of Luke, illustrated with a slide show, and then asking Wondering questions of the congregation. I did this in two churches (one earlier in the morning and one later). The second congregation in particular tends to be wary of discussion, often complaining about being put on the spot if the priest asks them any questions.

For this reason, I started my sermons from the pulpit. I explained that one characteristic of family celebrations was to gather together and listen to stories, and talk together. Therefore the way I wanted to celebrate Easter was to re-tell the Easter story the way Luke told it, and to give people a chance to talk and listen to each other. Nobody HAS to say anything! I clarified straightaway, almost interrupting my previous sentence to assure people that nobody was going to be "put on the spot". All they had to do, I said, was to listen to one another. Not laugh, not argue, but listen.

licensed photo by Andreas Praefcke
I told the story, with the slides, and then asked the Sacred Story wondering questions. With hindsight, those questions weren't ideal for this situation. It's too hard, especially for people not used to Godly Play Wondering, to break out of the expectation that the empty tomb should be everyone's favorite part, as well as the most important part. And that there's nothing that should left out from Holy Scripture!

But even so, more people made comments than I had feared. And on the whole I got very good feedback afterwards. Two things surprised me. One was that some people were unwilling to speak into the microphone but not unwilling to speak. I asked if I could repeat their comments to the whole congregation and they said yes. They just were unwilling to have their own voice amplified. The other was that one woman thanked me and said how much she had enjoyed this twice, despite the fact that she hadn't chosen to say anything.

In fact, she apologized for being unwilling or unable to speak in front of others. I could easily have believed that such a person would dislike this style of "sermon". But she told me twice, once right at the end of the service and then again at coffee time, that she had really appreciated it.

It's good to remember that someone who is unwilling to participate in the way we expect isn't necessarily irritated, bored, or disappointed. They might even be appreciating our work.

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