Narrative ideas and I first became acquainted almost 20 years ago whilst working in a pastoral setting in Northfield Methodist Church, South Africa. Slowly, over the next 10 years, it became for me more than a pastoral therapeutic technique to be used for those struggling with life’s problems and soon become a way of life. This way of life was informed by the inclusive, respectful and non-blaming values of Narrative ideas.
Not only did this help others but it helped me and our team too. Working alongside people who also knew Narrative, built a strong community of like-minded followers. This gave Narrative strength and a positive influence in the pastoral setting and amongst the community in which we were serving.
In 2010 after 16 years of living and working in South Africa I returned to the UK (the place of my birth). Looking back now it seemed that, like all good relationships Narrative needed nurture, community and communication, which I struggled to find in the land of my birth. I remember unpacking my books and files and placing them carefully in the bottom drawer of my filing cabinet – uncertain if they would ever see the light of day again or indeed be needed for anything.
It wasn’t until the world-wide pandemic of 2020 that Narrative and I became re-acquainted. Through the wonder of Zoom technology, I was once more in touch with that important community I left behind more than 10 years ago – a community I hadn’t been able to find in the UK. Listening to discussions and taking part in the training of i4cc (a community which was birthed after my departure) ignited my acquaintance with Narrative once more.
They say a friend is a friend if you can pick up where you left off and so it was with Narrative. Although our relationship was a little rusty at times, we soon began to collaborate together and to discover aspects of practice and ideas not previously explored.
As I had previously discovered Narrative, grows and flourishes best in Community and that was something I didn’t physically have in England. My puzzle was how to go about building such Community? Fortunately, I was supported and encouraged from both sides of the world – from the South African Community (my Zoom buddies!), a small mustard seed of South Africans now living in the UK and the newly appointed minister of our church.
As Narrative and I became more acquainted it also brought with it a longing for others to know Narrative too. It was then I remembered the early adventures with Narrative in South Africa. A wise person who had been around in those early days and was now also living in the UK said, “Sue we are in the nursery department in the UK. We need to take baby steps” Wise words indeed!
Training has always been my backstop – something I really enjoy. We were soon able to invite UK people onto a South African course and later, as my creative juices started to flow once more, I planned and led a Pastoral Storytelling course for members of my church supported by UK South Africans and Zoom of course!
Narrative, in our early days, taught me about the importance of langauge. The word narrative is unfamiliar in my part of the world so I began to introduce my Narrative friend as a Storyteller – something that many of us know from childhood bedtime reading. Since the beginning of 2021 Storytelling (aka Narrative) has made appearances in Church services. One person told their story about serving in the Breakfast Club. Curiosity also put in an appearance in this conversation helping the story to grow from “I just make the toast” to “I think I am a much better listener now”
Storytelling and Covid, an unlikely friendship you may think, have worked together to gather stories of lockdown with outsider witnesses supporting the storytelling time and from which has come a pamphlet of poems generated from the stories told.
Within the next year conversational storytelling will invite a group of young community workers to get acquainted with the ideas and the wider Stockport community will also be invited to tell their stories of the pandemic in a Yurt in the town centre.
Needless to say, my books and files are now out of the filing cabinet and proudly displayed on my bookshelves
Welcome back Narrative I’ve missed you!