From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Judy Corey tells RCC 2000 Stories Can Transcend Prejudices

From Worldwide Faith News <>
Date 01 Apr 2000 14:19:15

Religious Communication Congress 2000
Dan Gangler, coordinator of news and information
Newsroom telephone during Congress 312-595-3151

Storysharing is built on life experiences

By Polly House

	CHICAGO -- By sharing our stories, we can transcend our prejudices and 
differences, according to storyteller Judy Corey.

	Corey, story specialist, chaplain and licensed minister with the United 
Churches of Christ from White Cloud, Mich., lead a workshop at RCC 2000 in 
Chicago March 31 on storysharing. She told the group that all people share 
common experiences. "Everyone laughs, cries and loves," adding emotions are 
basic to everyone.

	"Think about the pivotal people in your life," she told the crowd, 
defining pivotal people as "the ones who have taught us, been valuable to 
us and have showed us who God really is." Corey said that in telling your 
stories, think of the lessons these pivotal people have taught you.

	Demonstrating this, she asked the members of the group to close their eyes 
and think about people who have been very important in their lives. She 
then asked the group to remember a specific point in time when they had had 
a meaningful experience with them. She said, "Remember the sights, the 
smells, the feelings, the sounds. Use these sensory triggers to make the 
experience real again."

	Storytellers have to search themselves for stories, since the stories are 
personal. Corey suggested that in telling stories, "Do a timeline. You can 
do this based on a good event, a bad event, a two week period, or a five 
year period. Then, intentionally search your memory for specifics, for 

	In order to be a great storyteller, Corey suggested:

	Search your memory for interesting stories, especially from early years. 
She said looking at old photos can be triggers for memories. Corey related 
a personal experience of seeing a photo of her mother as a child with her 
trombone. "My mother was a marvelous musician. This photo triggered a 
memory of the time when she sold her trombone to get money to buy a winter 
coat for me when I was a child."

	Shape your story so that it has an interesting beginning, middle and end. 
"You need a ‘hook' ­ a question, a surprise to gain someone's interest and 
attention. Use some characterization with drama and dialogue. In closing 
your story, use an ending that brings the story to a close. It can be a way 
to bring a natural ending to the experience, or even a shocking ending. But 
let there be closure."

	Include the sights, smells and, especially, the feelings you remember. She 
said a scent can trigger a memory almost instantly. "The smell of bread, of 
lilacs in bloom, of a crisp fall morning, all these things can bring it all 
back," Corey said.

	Tell your own "brand" of stories, in your own language and style. The 
stories are special because, "They are yours. Not everyone will tell the 
stories in the same way, and they shouldn't. Make them true to who you are."

	Develop flexibility, spontaneity and a sense of timing. "With each group 
you share with, you will make changes in how you tell the story. This comes 
from experience. The more you tell your stories, the better you will get."

	Learn to build rapport quickly, through eye contact and body language. 
"The best way to do this is to practice in front of a mirror. Practice 
making faces that say ‘surprise, fear, curiosity, everything.'"

	Be self-confident! Practice, practice, practice! "Practice your stories in 
front of your family, your friends. You'll get more comfortable and confident."

	Show that you really enjoy sharing your stories with others. "They are 
your stories. No one else has them. They are a gift you can give to others."

	Talk from the heart, to the heart ­ honestly, openly and effortlessly.
	Corey told of an experience with "Ruby," an elderly woman in a nursing 
home where Corey is a chaplain. "Ruby was in the advanced stages of 
dementia. She wasn't able to communicate. She didn't talk." Ruby, given to 
spells of violence, often had to be restrained in a padded wheelchair to 
protect her from herself, as well as to protect others from her.

Corey said as she was leaving the nursing home one day, she stopped to 
speak to Ruby, not expecting any response from her. "But Ruby, thrashing 
her head around, gained a little control, looked over at me and said, 
‘Sing!'" Corey said it was the first time she had heard Ruby speak.

"I asked her what she wanted me to sing. She thrashed a little more, then 
said, ‘Jesus Loves Me.' So right there in the hall Ruby and I sang ‘Jesus 
Loves Me'." Ruby then asked for Corey to sing "The Old Rugged Cross." So, 
she did. "As Ruby and I sang, she began to calm down and find some peace. 
As far away as her mind was, Ruby was able to find that place in her heart 
that spoke to her of her faith, a place of peace and comfort.

	"When we share our stories of faith, we open ourselves to other levels of 
understanding," she said. "When we share our stories, especially our faith 
stories, we will develop a bond with the person we are sharing with," Corey 
said. "That emotional bond is very common to all of us."

	"Our faith journey is very important to all of us. It's about important 
people in our lives," she said in closing. "These stories are waiting to be 
called forth by someone who wants to listen."


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