Sacred Texts and Stories
Things to Do in Advance
Allow time to view the video and review this section of the leader’s guide
before meeting with your class. Determine what you will cover in the available
class time. Plan for any of the Optional Activities you would like to use and
how you will integrate the work with the class. Acquaint yourself with any
terms that are unfamiliar (see glassary). Consult with members of your clergy
when appropriate. Finally, duplicate any materials you plan to distribute
to the group.
PURPOSE OF THIS SESSION (5 minutes)
Prepare your group to watch the video. (Read or paraphrase)
In this episode, you will focus on the way in which important aspects
of a faith tradition are preserved and passed down through stories and texts.
Certainly there are examples from your own lives or your family histories that
have been preserved in story.
All religions have sacred memories that bring the importance of the great events
of the past into perspective. Frequently these memories are incorporated into
sacred texts that become guides for living.
Most religions have stories that help explain the mysteries of life. How did
the universe begin? What happens to you when you die? These stories provide
the context in which religious people understand the world as it is now. Balance
and perspective are derived from sacred memory.
The stories and sacred texts of a religious community perpetuate the faith.
In the stories resides the historical soul of a people. They are the sacred
event’s first voice.
During this session you will have an opportunity to take a glimpse into the
stories of other faiths as well as your own. This will enable you to think
comparatively about their meanings.
SHOW EPISODE V (21 minutes)
Allow time for members of the group to discuss what they
have seen before proceeding with the rest of the discussion.
STORIES OF PERSONAL FAITH FORMATION (10 minutes)
After viewing the video, ask participants to reflect on their induction
into their faith.
Group members will have their own stories of the faith tradition
that formed them, and of the sacred texts or scriptures that have
affected their lives. Some of them will be willing to tell their stories to
the group. Ask the following questions and allow a few minutes for people to
write their thoughts out or to share them with a partner. Then two or three
members may be willing to share their responses with the group.
·Do you remember when you first
realized the nature of your faith and what it meant to be a part of your religious
community of faith?
·When and how did you realize
you belonged to or had accepted a faith tradition?
·What were some of the questions
of faith that you had at this time?
Perhaps you were born into the tradition but can still recognize a particular
time when you became fully aware of the tradition’s meaning for you. Can you
think of a time when the religious tradition and faith you inherited became
SCRIPTURES AND STORIES (10 minutes)
· In your religion, who decides
what writing is sacred?
·How are writings determined
to be sacred?
·Must everyone belonging to the
faith agree about the meaning and significance of its scriptures?
Describe the roles that sacred texts play
in your faith tradition.
·What is the role of scripture
in the daily lives of members of your congregation?
·What is the role of scripture
STORIES OF THE ORIGIN AND MEANING OF YOUR FAITH TRADITION (10 minutes)
·If you were asked by a member
of another faith to tell about the origin of your own religious tradition,
what would you tell them?
·What stories are most important
to understanding the origin and meaning of your faith?
·How can you tell your stories
of faith in a way that respects the stories and faith of other traditions?
Why is this important?
How do you, your family and friends use story in daily life? Think
about purposefully beginning or revising a storytelling tradition in your home.
Incorporate old and new stories alike. Consider the ways in which sacred stories
apply to everyday situations.
Note: In the video, Martin Marty refers to the
637 laws and practices of Judaism. The correct number is 613.
Session V—Optional Activities
Distribute the pages you have duplicated from Appendix D—Comparative Creation
Stories. Consider your own faith tradition’s story of the world’s creation.
Select parallel sacred stories from two or more religions, review
them, and compare them with your own.
· What are some similarities and
differences contained in these stories?
·What might be reasons for these
similarities and differences?
·What were they meant to tell
us about our world or ourselves?
Have the group look into the history of your congregation. Work with members
of your clergy or congregation’s staff either to begin compiling a history or
to update or otherwise supplement that history. Encourage members to use a
variety of resources including congregation archives, newspapers, newsletters, and
oral histories. The personal stories of members of your faith organization
would be valuable to collect and add to the history. Consider collecting and
recording multi-generational histories.
Session V—Additional Discussion
Share your Personal Stories
·Do you have any stories of memorable characters in your family? How did
you hear about these persons? How did your children hear about them?
·What are some of your most memorable family stories? Who tells the stories
and who is the audience? When are these stories told?
Examples of stories might include how a family came to America, how one’s
parents or grandparents met one another, or events surrounding an individual’s
· What is your responsibility
for story telling in your family? What is your responsibility for story telling
in your faith? What will be your responsibility ten years from now?
THE ADAPTABLE NATURE OF STORIES
·How does your congregation teach religious principles to children and young
people? Does this differ from the way adults are taught? If so, how?
·Have your stories changed or adapted in response to changes in society?
Should they? Why or why not?
·Can we recognize ourselves in ancient stories? How does scripture still
speak to us?
·Are there ways to use your sacred texts that you are not currently doing?
Give some examples.
·Do we have a right to interpret and reinterpret sacred texts?
Reenactments of Scripture’s Important Religious Stories
· What is the primary purpose
·How effective is the reenactment
in communicating the stories of your faith tradition?