By Rev. Dr. Donna Mann
Is a story important? Why is a story significant? Whose story is central?
My dad was a great storyteller. He could tell a story about any of his cattle, why they liked pulped turnips before their oats. Why did they enter the milking area in the same order every night? I can remember climbing onto his knee after supper and begging for a story.
I’ve heard many adults speak about how central their bedtime story was after being tucked into bed. And of course, if someone read a fiction story about aliens and clouds that talked, they would say, “Is that real? Is that true?”
Jesus told lots of stories. We call them parables. Every time he wanted to clarify a point, he would talk about sand or salt and light.
It is often said that a minister who tells a story or two in their sermon catches the congregation’s attention. So, is it any surprise that members of a congregation would also enjoy hearing stories about their church or church property? Stories stay in your memory because they touch the heart. Stories link us emotionally to something we understand.
The church I was raised in was wise when they inserted many stories into the book written by members, “Glory to God in the Highest, 1876-1976.” Whenever I look at the cover, my mind goes to the wall above the choir loft. Yes, that’s what was painted there in large print when I attended.
In this booklet, there is an entry from my mother: “I have some delightful memories of Bethany, but I remember with a sad feeling after all these years, the way I was introduced into the Sunday School.” And she went on to say how blessed she was to have taught for the next nine years. I connect with her and the church every time I read this account. Why? Because it was close to her heart and, therefore, it drew me close in memory.
Another few lines drew chuckles written by a local farmer, “A programme followed the tea meeting and ____,____ would entertain with the violin and piano. It was very lively music. The minister would say, ‘there’ll be no thumping of feet in the church.” The odd time you would hear it. “(Yes, it was once a Methodist church.)
Stories can be told in lyrics, poetry, and prose. This poem remembering the 1923 windstorm, shown below, was read at an outdoor church picnic during Centennial year.
Are there stories in the life of your church that you could tell to bring joy to your church life and others? You are invited to share such stories on these pages in the coming months.
The Clock by Donna Mann
The wind swept across the countryside
in 1923 on June twenty-five.
On a little white church, a moment it found
to lift the roof down to the ground.
The clouds were dark, the sky was grey.
The wind would not let still things stay.
The rain lashed out in angry sheets.
It swelled the ponds and nearby creeks.
The clock didn’t stop that was on the wall.
It kept ticking through it all.
This is the heritage we stand for.
It’ll take more than a hurricane to close these doors.
An act of the devil it had been called.
A cyclone, a hurricane, or a windstorm.
Whatever it was, the community arose.
A mighty group of labourers formed.
People held their services on the lawn.
For many days the men worked on.
They wanted it ready some Sunday morn.
They wanted to forget that wicked storm.
For more than a hundred years, this church has stood,
and gave to the community all that it could.
With God’s blessing and guiding hand
it’ll stand forever to mark this land.
Now the clock still hangs on that wall.
It keeps ticking through changes all.
This is the heritage we stand for.
Open forever will be these doors.
(Written for the Centennial year celebration, 1967)