By Pam Faro, Sharing the Fire 2016 Workshop Presenter
His lectures were like a magic carpet ride!
He taught two of the required classes for my MDiv degree: “History of Early Christianity,” and “History of Medieval Christianity” – Fascinating topics, eh? (Insert measure of sarcasm. …Could be fascinating… Could be real not…)
But did I mention that his lectures were like a magic carpet ride?-!
Dr. Hernandez wove together philosophy and medicine, geography and music, politics and language and literature and mathematics and stories, sweeping us back and forth across centuries and continents and cultures and, yes, religions.
My final quarter at theological school in 2004 (I’d taken a 4-year break from fulltime storytelling), I jumped on the opportunity to take one more class from him and signed up for a once-weekly evening seminar called “Jews, Christians, and Muslims of Medieval Spain.” My final project was the most engaging and exciting research I’ve ever done: researching primary documents* (in translation) that contained written versions of stories that had circulated orally among, within, and between the side-by-side Jewish and Christian and Muslim cultures of Al-Andalus (Medieval Andalusia, in southern Spain).
Knowing that I had barely scratched the surface (but hey, the end of term was drawing near and there was a project due date – take what you’ve got and run with it, right?!), I created a performance program of stories and music selected from the three Abrahamic faith traditions of Al-Andalus and called it “Andalusian Trilogy.”
…My first day of seminary classes 3 years earlier had been on September 12, 2001 (…think about it…) – You may imagine how interest could be high then in such an interfaith program. I started giving it in many contexts: at interfaith gatherings, in churches, and in secular settings such as libraries; of course adapting it to the specific audiences, as we storytellers do.
And then this happened:
I gave the program at Emory University in Atlanta, and afterward a young Muslim man came up to me, shook my hand heartily, looked me earnestly in the eyes and said, “Every university needs to hear these stories!!”
Yikes! – Now, as every storyteller can relate to I’m as eager as the next, and more than some, to go and do storytelling anywhere! Anytime! And the more opportunities the better! But every university?? – As exciting as that sounds, one storyteller just isn’t going to be able to do that.
So that got me thinking about ways of spreading the message and sharing the wealth…of the power, and fun, and meaningfulness – and I daresay necessity – of storytellers sharing stories intentionally across faith traditions: the three Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), and beyond!
So what does that even mean? And, isn’t it actually a spiritual endeavor to simply engage in the act of storytelling? Even when the stories have nothing to do with any specific religion? I would argue “Yes, it is.” …But then what does that mean?
Well, I have some ideas, and so do you! So I created a workshop to begin exploring these ideas and questions together, the interplay of storytelling and spirituality and faith traditions, and have given it coast-to-coast to enthusiastic groups.
If your interest is at all piqued by this notion of interfaith storytelling – What is it, Why do it, Where and When and How and Who? – I invite you to the workshop “Interfaith Interplay: Sharing Sacred or Spiritual Stories” at this year’s Sharing the Fire storytelling conference. We’ll have stories and reflection and rich discussion together.
It’s listed in the “Storytelling in a Changing World” category of workshops. Now more than ever we need the power of storytelling to engage and foster communication across faith traditions – for we know that storytelling connects people, forms community, builds bridges, and gives hope.
Plus we’ll have some fun!
*Including-but-not-limited-to: varied midrash, Arabic poetry, The Book of the Gentile and the Three Wise Men (Ramon Llull), Gesta Romanorum, and Disciplina Clericalis.
Learn more about the whats, wheres, hows and whys of intentionally sharing stories from across spiritual traditions in Pam’s workshop, Interfaith Interplay: Sharing Sacred or Spiritual Stories, to be presented Saturday, April 2.
Learn more about Pam at www.storycrossings.com