Multiple research studies done in Episcopal churches in the past decade demonstrate two truths. The first is that large majorities of people in every kind of parish report that hearing other people share stories of how God has and is moving in their lives is one of the most impactful and encouraging experiences a person can have in religious community. The second truth is that many or most parishes do not have programs or practices that create intentional space for people to share their personal faith stories.
Folks long to hear testimonies of how God is working in the world and yet it can be difficult to find time and training for faith sharing.
At St. Columba’s Church, they have found a way to knit personal testimonies of God’s love, healing and grace into their Sunday Eucharist and the practice is bearing fruit and faith formation in the congregation. According to the Rector, Rev. Ledlie Laughlin, “it’s a game changer.”
Once every three or four weeks, in place of a reading from the Epistles or Hebrew Scripture, a member of the congregation shares a part of his or her faith story.
Rev. Laughlin reports, “Every person has a story to tell about their own journey of faith. We’ve heard harrowing ordeals and direction-changing epiphanies, stories of wrestling with church or God, of desolation and consolation. Our congregation has been blessed by receiving these remarkable and otherwise often hidden tales of personal sacred journey.”
Rev. Laughlin believes that a regular parish practice of listening to lay people share their experiences of being disciples not only glorifies God and inspires people, but also deconstructs some of the patterns of clericalism or disempowerment of baptized lay people. “People expect the paid professionals among us to speak of God; they find it inspiring and far more powerful to hear from one of their own. Preachers beware; your thoughtfully nuanced homiletics may sound trite after someone gives personal witness to the power of God in their own lives. Over time, we become a congregation regularly engaged in the practice of evangelism – bearing witness to the love of God in our lives, feeding one another with trust, weaving our own narrative and God’s salvation narrative into one cloth.”
Visit St. Columba’s website to share in parishioners’ faith stories.