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Soul Stories

Posted by Mark Lau Branson on March 28, 2011

Anne Streaty Wimberly teaches church music and Christian education at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta.  Soul Stories: African American Christian Education is one of my favorite books on churches and discipleship (Abingdon, rev. 2005). While she writes about how stories are essential for Christian discipleship in African American churches, her insights and method (“story-linking”) are powerful and appropriate in any church. Our every-day stories about work and school, about relationships and events, need to be linked with biblical narratives and with the stories of our culture’s exemplars and other historic accounts. We gain insight into God’s grace in our lives, our true vocation, and the power of the Spirit’s  creative engagement as we join together in the telling, listening,  reflection and imagination of this approach to discipleship.

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26 Responses to “Soul Stories”

  1. Justin Beck said

    In Soul Stories: African American Christian Education, Anne Streaty Wimberly teaches us about story-linking and how the process of story-linking can be used in Christian educational settings. The story-linking process deeply resonated with me. Each activity in the story-linking process helps to engage the individual and the group. There is set time for personal reflection and group reflection, which allows for individuals to think about how the personal stories and biblical stories resonated with them. Also, story-linking engages the audience by asking a variety of open-ended questions. The asking of questions and probing of the audience allows for interaction and feedback. Often times in our Christian educational settings, we get caught up in the deposit system of education. We, the teacher, try to deposit all of our knowledge into the student without engaging the student in dialogue. However, the story-linking process helps to engage students in dialogue and allows students the space to reflect upon their learning experience.
    Another aspect of Wimberly’s book that spoke to me was the idea of reflecting upon how our current stories relate to the stories of those who have gone before us. Wimberly shared stories of African American brothers and sisters that have overcome persecution and fought for freedom. These stories of redemption and reconciliation give hope to those who are currently facing trials and tribulations. The Church can glean a lot from those who have gone before us. Therefore, we as the Body of Christ can follow in the footsteps of those who have overcome adversity and learn from their experiences. As we look to the past for guidance and direction, may we be pointed towards Christ.

    • Hyukwoo Shin said

      I strongly agree with what you said about the deposit system of education. I grew up in such a education system like many others in my home country. In asian culture, people sometimes are reluctant to open up at a personal level and it can be equally hard to get a response in a christian education or church setting. I found out by using story-linking on our church blog website, that others would respond much better when I used media stories and connected them with my reflections on a QT bible verse. However, I would like to use faith heritage stories instead of media stories now and see what happens. I hope that if the connection is still strong between the story and bible verse it should be still stimulating and engaging.

  2. T Hopkins said

    Wimberly’s entire work is framed from an African American liberationist perspective. Much of Soul Stories is thus unique to a specific people group, but only when presented in this fashion. In this, Anne Wimberly introduces the reader, albeit seemingly unintentionally, to a way of approaching God and theology such that various groups can all share in the same truths, embracing them with the same passion while holding onto them with different motives, and articulating them with different nuances. White, middle-class Americans may embrace the love of neighbor from the perspective of a highly materialistic culture, from an economic class where ease and comfort of living is desired as a way to alleviate suffering. Loving one’s neighbor may thus be expressed in providing money to the poor to provide for their comfort. Speaking from a liberationist perspective, this same action, and the same principle of loving one’s neighbor, are presented in terms of freeing one’s neighbor to pursue life without the burden of unmet needs. Pastors, church leaders, and indeed all Christians, may find reflection on this book useful as they encounter diversity in their journey of Christian service. A white congregation does not need to embrace new values in order to edify African Americans, only it may be useful to articulate its long-held Biblical values in a language that is more relevant to the stories of the African Americans it interacts with.

    While Wimberly offers some infightful content, he reader should be careful to sift through the various strategies described in this book. The historical cultural approach to working with Scripture, for instance, is described as if the preacher is to read Scripture with the intent of making connections to the shared story of African Americans. This is dangerously close to eisegesis, and at least downplays true exegesis almost to the point of dismissing it entirely. If Christian leaders begin the education process by assuming what truth they are to teach, then they skip the step of first determining what truth is. While Scripture contains many truths that are significant in many ways to many people, those truths are first and foremost God’s truths, common to all people, and their multi-faceted nature is not properly acknowledged when one begins with “What can African Americans say using Paul” rather than “What did Paul mean to say, and where might this have bite in the lives of African Americans?”

    • Mark Lau Branson said

      Do you believe you can come to a biblical text without the influence of all the theology and experiences and conceptual frameworks that you have already developed? I agree (and I think Wimberly models) that we need to let the text have its own integrity and authoritative standing (which is what you care about). I also believe God gave scripture in very concrete, particular settings concerning how he wanted to impact lives, and that those texts overflow into our lives by the power of the Spirit. That is different that an interpretive mode that seeks to extract universal truths, devoid of narrative. (That is a particularly Enlightenment approach.)

      • Ciprian Boitor said

        T Hopkins- In response to what you said regarding the different ways in which a White, middle class American would interpreting love of neighbor vs. someone from a less priviledged position interpreting the same passage with a different focus- That comment was helpful in helping me reflect on the comfort that I take for granted. Hearing the stories of others helps me realize a different way to love my neighbor. I think it also helps me reflect on the aspects of my narrative that need to be changed.
        In response to the conversation regarding using a historical cultural lense to understand scripture- I think this mode of interpreting and understanding the Bible has its place. Many passages in the Bible as stories of people in particular contexts and how God worked in that context. There are other passages of direct teaching, but even those teachings are in response to particular circumstances, such as Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. From my personal experience I connect better with concrete stories rather than abstract principles because that is a reflection of my lived experience.

  3. Hyukwoo Claus Shin said

    Ann Wimberly’s book, Soul stories: African American Christian education explains how story-linking process of personal life, biblical and heritage stories about faith can be used to address seven different dimensions of liberation of the African Americans and respond with affirmative actions using God’s call. The ultimate goal is to develop a self-positive identity using what she calls liberation wisdom and hope-filled vocation. We usually struggle on a personal level about deprivation of our hopes and future and the idea to engage the story-linking process in a group format strongly advocates a communal Christian relationship to which I enthusiastically agree to. Living as an individual Christian with a positive self-identity becomes increasingly more difficult in this postmodern society and using her method in Christian education seems to be applicable to African Americans and other ethnic groups too.
    I am myself a member of a minority group for which I present my opinion here. As a foreign student in the past and as an immigrant, I sometimes struggle with my identity as much as my second generation children will increasingly struggle with their positive self-identity. Because of our shorter immigration history and other traditional issues, Korean Americans continue to struggle with their identity but maybe Korean Christian education does not engage as much individual identity crises in regard to faith heritage and communal relationships as mentioned in this book. It is quite exciting that Ann Wimberly’s book implicates that story-linking can help to seek, improve and discern the God’s call in our immigrant’s life and lead to concrete actions. I will experiment with story-linking in group discussions at weekly house church meetings at my local church and occasionally on church blogs to see how they respond to different phase activities in a group format of sharing together and growing together in faith.

  4. Renee Rector said

    Soul Stories by Anne Streaty Wimberly presents readers with a bible study method that is rooted in African American stories and heritage. The focus is for learners to engage with scripture in a way that encourages forms of liberation and discovering vocation. The book is very clearly organized and presents the method in a detailed fashion. The author gives many examples of how students may respond to given questions presented in light of the stories used. There are also many opportunities for guided reflection as the reader engages with the text so they may discover how they themselves may feel about the process and absorb the effect it may have. The method encourages learners to engage with stories of liberation and vocation from three separate arenas: present day personal stories, biblical texts, and stories from personal heritage.

    While this book is intended to show how African American Christian Education may work, this is a method that I believe may work well for any culture. I personally tend to be a sucker for a good story and love to be able to absorb myself in characters lives. The advantage to this method is that it invites the learner to have a deeper level of personal application. This isn’t just about gaining head knowledge, but about understanding how you fit into and relate to the stories. It also requires that the learner engage with their imagination which I think is a wonderful idea. There is a richness and a power that can be gained by developing this skill. This is also a method that I think might work best in cross generational settings. This way younger generations can see first hand how older generations have paved the way and have the opportunity to learn and appreciate how others have overcome obstacles they themselves may be facing. I also think this method may remind us of what unifies and differentiates us. As stories are shared, learners may relate to how people of a different background have dealt with difficult situations. However, they may also have the opportunity to learn things about those backgrounds that are different than theirs and may be able to absorb those things into their own lives in the future.

    There are a few weaknesses with this method. First, I suspect that many learners may not have a firm enough grasp of their own heritage that would allow them to apply this method to past stories. However, this allows for the leader/teacher to introduce stories of past heroes of the faith which is something I find quite lacking in many Protestant churches today. I also am of the opinion that while this is a great method, it should not completely replace standard bible study. I personally would be more comfortable using it in tandem to general investigation of the text. I suspect that there may be many learners who would still appreciate discovering what the words themselves mean and what the author intended when he wrote them. I also believe this method would be strengthened for cross cultural purposes if the spiritual aspect of liberation was discussed. In other words, there could be a focus on the demonic oppression that is ultimately behind all types of physical and emotional oppression.

    • Mark Lau Branson said

      I agree that there are important similarities among various groups that face culture-related oppression. Wimberly indicates that story-linking can work in various cultures, but she is writing out of her own experience, which gives the book a depth and authenticity. On your last point, while I agree that there are powers (‘demonic’) that are larger than individual persons, I also believe that the prophets and Jesus and other biblical writers show us how the church can be an agent of reconciliation, redemption, and life as we seek justice, correct oppression, feed the poor, heal the broken, etc.

  5. Ciprian Boitor said

    Anne Wimberly in “Soul Stories” provides a rich tool through which we as a church can understand ourselves. I loved her emphasis on narrative because I have been thinking about the importance of stories in our lives. As a psychologist in training I listen to peoples stories and one of the things that I love about it is that as they tell their story I feel that I am a part of it. As they share it with me, it is something living, with the power to draw both the story teller and the story listener into the same shared experience. I really liked what Wimberly added to my understanding of the process of story. She focused upon the communal traditions of story telling and as well as their link to experiences in scripture. These two forms of communcation are at the root of what it means for us to be human; We are social beings and need to be socialized through stories to understand ourselves and where we come from. Our societies stories are movies; Movies which shape us according to the particular agenda of the scriptwriter and the director. We need the stories of our parents, our community and more importantly combined with the narrative of scripture to truly understand and connect with one another as humans.- Ciprian Boitor

    • Renee Rector said

      I would be curious to know if there is evidence to show that storytelling is a useful tool for psychological evaluation and healing? Is this a tool that might be used in therapy? It seems that in this work she is presenting a case that the stories remind people that others have encountered struggles and have overcome oppression and aid in bringing about a renewed hope in self image. Do you think that historical stories would be the best approach as she describes might be a good way to go about this. What about writing your own stories? Might there be value in creating a story where a character, perhaps representing yourself, is able to surmount difficult odds?

    • I agree. I love narratives. I truly believe that narratives are one of the most powerful tools anyone can use. Jesus knew this, and used narratives. There is something special with narratives. It changes lives, because it brings an idea/concept/principle down to a personal level. It allows someone to be “real.” Everywhere you look in society, you can see the impact of stories. Whether it be books, movies, television shows… the list simply goes on and on. Narratives are powerful; a tool that can be used to change lives.

  6. Ian Bergland said

    Wimberly demonstrates in Soul Stories that “story-linking” is essential to effective models of Christian education in the African American context. In offering this framework for Christian education that centers on the activity of story-linking and demonstrating its practice, Wimberly reveals the power of this model for African American communities. As with many of the commenters above me, I was struck by how this model may be universally applied in the North American Christian context. Christians of many different ethnic backgrounds have made Christian education into an exercise in foundationalism. For many educated leaders, the Bible is purely propositional and proclaims truths and rules that are divorced from personal experience in the reality of daily life. In an American postmodern context, the story-linking method frees the Scripture to speak to individuals and their unique experiences. Since contemporary American society values individual experience and narrative or dialogue over universal propositions, story-linking might help any of us better interact with Scripture and understand its claims on our lives.

    On the other hand, certain aspects of the story-linking model are explicitly rooted in a uniquely African American context. While most African Americans may be deeply aware of their cultural heritage and can recall “faith stories” from this heritage in connection with their own experiences, many Americans with typical Anglo-Saxon and western European heritage will have fewer vital memories of their spiritual and cultural heritage. This phase in the story-linking process may need to be reworked if it were used in a white American context. Also, the concept of liberation as an outcome of Christian education may work better in the African American church than elsewhere. While Wimberly helpfully identifies the universal need for spiritual and ethical liberation (dimensions one and two of liberation), sociopolitical liberation makes little sense in the context of a people who have no vivid and recent memory of collective oppression or bondage. Christian education should focus on identifying vocation for all of us, but the concept of liberation might be exchanged outside the context of the African American community.

    • T Hopkins said

      One of the things that struck me in Takaki is the wide range of experiences even from within the African American culture. I often wonder how beneficial ideas such as sociopolitical liberation to many within the black community. Bill Cosby has acted has a modern voice, rebuking certain subsets of the culture for claiming to have certain experiences that strongly affect their lives today (especially regarding slavery and oppression) when in reality they are plenty free already. For those who identify strongly with the need for liberation, I wonder if speaking to African Americans using such language only furthers a destructive sense of identity built on ideas of oppression that are untrue, distorted, or scapegoats. Could contextualizing in this way be more destructive than helpful? And for those African Americans who do not identify themselves strongly with a heritage of oppression and slavery, does liberationist rhetoric actually divorce them further from others in the black community? Does it isolate them? Does it make them feel as if they *should* identify themselves with a heritage that they do not truly feel is their own? So I very much agree that Wimberly’s specific ideas have perhaps very little significance for non-blacks, and I also wonder how relevant/beneficial it actually is for the black community.

      • Ian Bergland said

        To Wimberly’s credit, I think she often speaks of liberation as the possibility for personal growth. In identifying with stories from the Bible and characters from a common cultural heritage, she suggests that learners can overcome obstacles to liberation. This conception of liberation is therefore largely positive. I do not think the story-linking method, when properly applied, would allow a group to identify instances of oppression without suggesting the opportunity for personal liberation that promotes healing and Christian vocational discernment. Rather than becoming a community that complains about oppression and uses cultural experience to excuse the community’s present state, the story-linking process would enable a group to seek ways of overcoming sociopolitical forms of liberation.
        I agree that many African-Americans currently do not identify with a heritage of oppression and slavery. I think the Christian educator’s job is to identify the dimensions of oppression experienced in a group and make decisions based specifically on the context of the community.

  7. Pisey Sok said

    I found Anne Wimberly’s concept of story-link a great pedagogical tool for taking cultural experience seriously. Speaking from an African American context, she demonstrates that connectedness through the exploration of one’s faith journey shaped by the Biblical narrative and cultural experiences offers a deeper and more meaningful understanding of one’s vocation and purpose. The method of story-linking takes the personal aspect of faith and weaves it together with local the local faith community by drawing on the inspiration of narratives in the African American faith tradition.

    The theme of liberation and vocation is the essence of story-linking. Wimberly’s model takes seriously the personal, social, and ethical barriers that hinder us from being the people that God intended. The theme of liberation highlights the social realities that oppressed and marginalized the African American community. I appreciate that Wimberly’s model of Christian education affirms the social and contextual nature of spiritual formation. Christian education according to her model affirms the value of the past. She understands that our spiritual formation is not simply a present reality, but an intricate story that is shaped by various aspects of history. The story-linking model is not “docetic,” merely focusing on the “spiritual” aspect of our faith, but takes the incarnational aspect of culture and ethnicity seriously. The reality is that faith is not divorced from the context of history and the social experience we encounter.

    Wimberly’s model forced me to reexamine my need for liberation that was shaped by cultural narrative and experiences. Raised in an refugee experience I realize that at times in my faith journey I have tried to overlook and dismiss my past because it was not something to be social proud of. Even though it was outside of my control I realize that it was only after I began to look back at my family’s history that I discovered more about my vocation. At times I realize that the American Dream was the cultural narrative that motived my vocation, and not the Biblical narrative (i.e. the Kingdom of God). I found my values shaped by my desire to get ahead, rather than God’s call upon my life.

    However, I wonder how Wimberly’s model of story-linking is contextualized in a Southeast Asian experience, where most of the cultural narrative is not shaped by the Biblical narrative by a Buddhist worldview. Story-linking shaped by the Biblical narrative is an important aspect, but where does my non-Christian narrative from my family’s history fit it? Or does it?

    • Carl Amouzou said

      In my opinion I think your non-Christian narrative does fit. It fits in the same way that Wimberly showed how narratives from the history of African American’s struggle for liberation. I think we always want to look and find where God is already operating within any given narrative. It is within those identifications that you can begin to link your non-Christian Narrative to the biblical narrative.

      • Pisey Sok said

        Thanks Carl for your thoughts. The challenge comes with contextualizing the non-Christian narrative. I agree with you that it is possible, the challenge comes with trying to establish a voice that speaks from the particular experiences of my ethnic heritage. The themes of liberation and vocation is trans-cultural experience, but the question for me is to discern what aspects of your cultural stories will speak to those themes. Unlike the African American legacy, the Cambodian Christian narrative is not that extensive and the voices speaking from that experience is limited. My hope is that through continuing dialogue with others from minority voices, that theological contextualization and story-linking maybe a rich and transformative. My hope is that the Cambodian story can be added to the theological voices of the Body of Christ.

  8. Carl Amouzou said

    Anne E. Streaty Wimberly in her offering, Soul Stories gives the reader an interesting exposition about the power of shared stories. In a method that Wimberly calls “story-linking” she shows how the linking of multiple narratives together can create an intense and highly impacting pedagogy that benefits the conversationalist by steering their own story towards liberation. Wimberly highlights the interconnectedness of people’s stories, thus showing the need for story-linking, by utilizing an African proverb that says, “I am because we are, and since we are, therefore I am.” (61) Wimberly’s intended audience is the African American community, although it must be noted that the principles and pedagogy taught in this book are applicable beyond the boundaries of race or ethnicity.
    Wimberly’s story-linking process is broken down into four phases. Wimberly engages and teaches how to go through each phase by using two case studies. Engaging the four phases of the story-linking process seemed very intriguing, but ultimately forced in some areas of Wimberly’s process, such as her chapter on how to choose scripture for the story-linking process. But there were moments when the stories of African American heroes and biblical heroes seemed to merge effortlessly. A great example of this was the story that Wimberly told about Harriet Tubman. Wimberly told a story about Harriet Tubman leading a group of escaping slaves. The group ran out of rations and out of pure exhaustion members of the group just collapsed and sat on the ground. Harriet urged them to get up and keep moving, but after not being heeded a few times she pulls a pistol on them and tells them to get up or die. Wimberly naturally linked this story with the Exodus and Moses, who like Harriet constantly had to deal with the protests of a scared group of people that he was charged with leading to freedom.

    Ultimately, Wimberly manages to convey and teach her methodological process of story-linking with smooth narratives and brilliant examples. Although the Soul Stories is aimed at the African American community it comes off more like a shotgun at range hitting a broader than intended target than a precision sniper shot. Allowing for the acknowledgment that “story is a powerful part of the human existence.” (3)

    • I am finally able to get my post up. Sorry eveyone for the delay. I would like to make several comments. First of all I would like to mention how pleased I am that many of you are accepting and empathetic of the issues and situational context from which this book is presented. I myself growing up as one of the few blacks students in classes that were ultimately comprised of students of other ethnicities and cultures; I found it difficult for others to identify with some of the issues I was dealing with as far as racism, possible neglect, or overlooking of me as a student and the quality of work I produced. Either students didn’t identify with the experience of oppression and mistreatment I was dealing with or simply saw ignoring or agreement of the situation as a more suitable way to deal with the oppression that was apparent at school, and society in general. Jesus said if you are not for the Kingdom you are against it. Thus if one simply ignores the issues of oppression and racism that were and still are so apparent in the world today, act like you don’t hear those snide comments or racial remarks and sometimes even add to it, you are contributing to the separation of people, classes and ultimarely the Kingdom of God.

      It is easier to believe that one class or race of people bear the burden or weight of oppression. With the same group of people (blacks)often recognized as leading the forefront of change for all other peoples that experience that same oppression but in different facets. It is easier to believe that blacks are the darkest of the races and thus bear the most oppression, while other races take advantage of the changes initiated by people like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Barack Obama and Harriet Tubman.

      However, it is great to see that many of you have made comments that show that either you have experienced those same oppressions as us blacks and accept the change that we try to initiate within our own communities and the world, and are willing to participate and assist with the change for better communities within our own cultures as well as the greater American culture as a whole even using Christian Education models derived from Black Liberation Theology and Wimberly’s story linking processes of African American struggles throughout history and our relying on the Bible as the only example of true freedom available to us in the midst of an oppressive society. I truly appreciate all of your comments and commend you for your recognition of the problems of society and that change is definitely in need. GodBless you all and more power to you! Amen!

  9. Jason Sisk said

    Anne Streaty Wimberly wrote this book in to shed light on her strategy of “story-linking” that has helped make the Bible more relevant and powerful to African American Christians. Early on in the book, she confesses that the impetus for the development of a new approach to Christian Education was a pragmatic one: the state of Christian Education in the African American church was at a crossroads, with it often being eclipsed by an emphasis on worship instead. She discovered that one of the reasons that African American Christians were involved in Christian Education was to gain a deeper understanding of what God might be saying to them here and now, and how this could help address the problems in their actual existence.

    The hermeneutic that Wimberly uses is one of liberation. I think that it is a good hermeneutic, too because the story of God’s early covenant with Israel, God’s presence in Jesus Christ, God’s covenant with the Gentiles and God’s presence in the Church today through the Spirit can all be seen as ways that God has liberated, redeemed and fulfilled God’s creation. Too often I think our idea of liberation is hollow and one-dimensional; in reality (and Wimberly gives us eight distinct dimensions to liberation) liberation gets at the very heart of why God created. God created in order to give us and the rest of the universe a chance to know what love, life and communion were. Liberation is the process of us discovering God’s deepest desires for creation. This book is focused on the liberation of one particular community–African American Christians–and how they could use people and events recorded in the Bible as a mirror for their own liberation. The Bible has the power to help make sense of our world today, our struggles today and our vocation as Christians, but only if you read it in a way in which you identify with its narrative, its people and God’s mighty acts in history.

    In our post-modern context in which we are drawn more and more to narratives and find “timeless truths” irrelevant, this is a good move. It is a move that mimics God’s own move to encounter us exactly where we were in Jesus Christ. My only criticism is that Wimberly didn’t suggest enough choices that we have in Scripture. Stories of the liberation of the Israelites is of course powerful and one of the most memorable stories in the Bible and I’m glad she chose it. My own ministry is to grieving and suffering families. There is a sense in which they need to be liberated from their loss, but I wish that she had included texts that would be more relevant to this and to a variety of other contexts.

    • Justin Beck said

      Jason
      Thanks for your thoughtful reflection on Wimberly’s book. I like how you pointed out the strong emphasis placed upon liberation in Wimberly’s book and how you suggested all of us are in need of liberation. I think I get caught up in the idea that liberation theology is only for those who are on the margins of society, but in reality we are all in need of liberation. We all have things in our life that need to be liberated. Therefore, liberation is not just for the poor and outcast, but for all of humanity. I think it is important for each of us to recognize the things in our lives that need to be liberated. God deeply desires for each of us to be liberated from the things that keep us from seeing him more clearly. The liberation process can be difficult and painful, but the process is crucial to our continuing journey with God. I believe God has called us to be agents of liberation and at the same time seek liberation in our own lives. Jason thanks again for pointing out how important liberation is in each of our lives.

  10. Matt Wilson said

    Wimberly’s pedagogical approach to liberation through “story linking” nicely places the Bible in conversation with our sitz im leban. With the added element of linking our stories with those of the “saints of faith,” the story linking process offers an historical depth that retains the traditional qualities of the Christian faith in accordance with a specific cultural milieu. Wimberly exemplifies a biblically informed postmodern approach to Christian education; taking seriously our inherited cultural-linguistic paradigm while transforming our lives through the liberating news of Jesus Christ.

    It is not too often that a book asks the reader to take the time to reflect on their own experience and intentionally bring them to the reading. I was very impressed with the intentionality Wimberly provided in her use of the reflective exercises. In addition, I am very thankful for her expanded look at liberation. Previously, the violent undertones implicit in some liberation theologies was concern for me. Wimberly does an excellent job of expanding the paradigm of liberation for those who know little of the theology.

    My main question with Wimberly has to do with the intergenerational piece. My church is going through a transition in which they are trying to be much more intergenerational. I am fully behind an intergenerational conversation and hope for its continuation. At the same, it is hard to be intergenerational, at least in the context of my own church, when the pedagogical decisions are made by one cultural and generation. For Wimberly, how are pedagogical decisions made intergenerationally? How do we create a space in which teenagers are free to speak without fear or apprehension with those who are retired? How might the space and time in which these story linking groups meet directly or indirectly affect an intergenerational conversation? These are just a few of the questions pertinent to constructing an intergenerational curriculum.

    Overall, Wimberly offers a multitude of exercises in which we can begin to practice story linking in our own congregations.

    • T Hopkins said

      I didn’t mention it in my post, but I had similar thoughts to yours regarding intergenerational issues. I’m glad you mentioned it, reminding me of it and confirming that I am not the only one with concerns in this area. The generational issue can be amplified in certain ethnic settings, due to different levels of identification with the past between those who are younger and those who are older, different values, different (or lacking) traditions, etc. I have not had enough experience in black churches to see this there, but in other minority churches I have seen great divides between the younger and the older generations, with the older generation dismissing the differences between them as simple immaturity on the part of the younger crowd. I have seen churches become divided and relationships destroyed over the older generation with authority in the church insisting on tradition and what they see as their due “respect” to the point that Scripture is subordinated to one generation’s desire to maintain its own culture within the congregation.

    • Justin Beck said

      Matt
      Thanks for pointing out the intergenerational tension in your post. There are no easy answers to your questions. I was involved in a church in Michigan before moving to California and we were having similar conversations about intergenerational ministry. We did not come to any profound conclusions, but we did discover that when different generations serve together, they create a common bond through their shared experience. Therefore, our church implemented ministries where teens and elderly people would have chances to serve together. These shared experiences allowed for intergenerational ministry to happen naturally instead of trying to force them upon people. I am not saying this model will work for all churches, but it worked in our specific church context. Thanks again for pointing out this difficult challenge we are facing in our churches today.

  11. I have been in full time ministry for a little over 7 years. I am currently the Student Ministries Lead Pastor at Christ’s Church of the Valley in San Dimas, CA. This particular ministry that I get the honor and privilege to lead has a few hundred students from 7th-12th grade that actively attend every Wednesday night. With the amount of students that currently attend our Wednesday night program, this will naturally bring along many different students of different ages, schools, and ethic backgrounds. With the years that I have either been in ministry or around ministry I have never seen what actually took place this last week.

    This past week, two students, one white 14 year old male, and one African American 15 year old male literally got in a fistfight due to some racial slurs that ended up being said. I just happen to be roughly 10 feet away when this event took place. I broke up the fight and forcefully removed the students from the room.

    I spoke with both of them that night in detail about the situation, but Julius, the 15-year-old African American boy, I have spent a lot of time with since. He is a young man that I have invested the last two years of my life in. He is a young man that is a natural born leader. Everywhere he goes, people follow. I love this young man and passionately want him to be the Man of God; God is calling him to be.

    But what saddens me about this story is something that Anne E. Streaty Wimberly mentioned in her book, “Soul Stories.” She mentioned this concept about “African Americans struggling to maintain positive self-identities in self negating social contexts.” What Wimberly wrote is sad, but true, especially in the present day context of Southern California.

    But how do we go about teaching young men and women, of all nationalities that the liberation and vocation mentioned in the Bible can become relevant to their current social context?

    I believe that in Wimberly’s book, she gives practical tools and resources with her concept of “story-linking.” This is a process where we connect our stories of everyday life with what Scripture teaches, which leads us towards the freedom and liberation that the Bible teaches.

    It is by this type of teaching and challenge that we may teach students like Julius the real freedom that Jesus offers.

  12. Wimberly’s book Soul Stories, is a collection of great methods of Christian Education that seem to work within the African American community as well as without. She gives examples of African Americans, their struggles of oppression, doubts of success for the people because of their skin tone from outside and within the community, situations of unfair treatment at work, unequal education, glass ceilings, imprisonment, and just bad circumstances that lead to a poor life of many blacks in America simply due to racism. These situational circumstances which is the context of most African Americans is what hinders people from being able to meet the necessary standards of freedom exemplary of spiritual, ethical, material, socio-political, psychosocial, educational, and communal liberation. Liberation in these different aspects of life is what allows a person to be free and enjoy life in the true meaning of liberation as freedom as presented in the Bible. Jesus is portrayed in the Bible as that figure that will provide all provision to all peoples that are oppressed. Story-linking and the models of Christian Education that Wimberly presents are great methods of identification for the African American community because many of the situations Jews and the oppressed people of the Bible encountered were and are experienced by Blacks in this country even today. From the dawn of slavery, through times of segregation to even now having a Black president we are still recognized as the oppressed people creating change in the community in the midst of an oppressive society. The models of education presented are great tools for change within our own community which allow for witness to the youth of our communities who will be the change of our nation tomorrow and even self growth and get on track/survival methods for those who live through the unfair treatment and contextual woes of the black experience today in hopes for better days tomorrow.

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