About four years ago, I ran a storytelling program called Terry Tales. Before it began, I imagined a “Moth-style” event where from the very first event, people would enthusiastically tell stories about their lives to a group of strangers.
What I discovered instead is that it takes time and confidence to realize that you have a story and experience to share. Instead of providing a space for performances, our events were about a circle of chairs, an open room, and tea and cookies to break the ice. The conversation was intimate, unexpected and dynamic, and participants ranged from first year students, to PhD candidates to recent alumni/young professionals in the wider community. Every event was different because the participants grew each time, we blogged about the conversation afterwards, and many participants shared with us how important these bi-monthly gatherings became to them.
I stopped holding these events when I moved to Toronto for grad school, but Terry Tales taught me about the importance of spaces of community and the power of stories. Whenever I’ve moved in the past, whether it was to Toronto four years, or to Vancouver two years ago, or most recently, back to Toronto this March, it’s been important to me to find non-alcoholic centric spaces for discussion, and to find others who were striving to grow spiritually, develop strong family relations, make deep community contributions, create/appreciate heart-nourishing art, live healthily, and protect the planet. So much of the time, the conversations I have about faith are from the standpoint of explaining oneself, and so its always been important to also find people with whom to have proactive, positive conversations that widen and deepen my understanding of what it means to live faithfully in the world. The further I get from my undergraduate experience, the more questions I have, and the richer these conversations become.
Now that I’m back in Toronto, I’d like to create a space for conversation on a regular basis. In many ways coming back to Toronto has been like moving to a new city altogether, and over the past couple of weeks I’ve been spending a lot of time listening and learning through one on one chats and large group settings. In large groups it’s been beautiful (for example) to witness the passionate debate at Canada Reads about how we understand difference, belonging, colonialism and marginalization in Canada today, to learn about the NFB documentary Highrise about the experience of living vertically in Toronto today, to participate in a Muslim Chaplaincy discussion about how people with disabilities experience inaccessible mosques, and to hear beautiful expressions from students of how faith and art connect, among other experiences. In small settings, it’s been wonderful to exchange stories and perspectives over long chats and multiple cups of coffee.
Both encounters have been a reminder that that this is a city of countless stories, and telling and hearing our stories matter. Sharing one’s experience with others can be an act of discovery and identity formation, and for listeners, stories can act as both an entryway to unfamiliar perspectives and experiences and a bridge to discovering others with experiences similar to your own. In this spirit, Seriously Planning will, God-willing, offer programs on a regular basis on storytelling, books, dialogue and reflection.
For March, here are our upcoming events:
March 24th: Seriously Planning Stories
For either these events, please email seriously (dot) planning (at) gmail.com (or RSVP on the FB event page) to confirm your attendance. Hope to meet you soon!