Storytelling Ministry

Soulful storytelling heals hearts, builds community, and heals the world. Storytelling ministry is a good way for interfaith ministers to not only express their own creativity but also to encourage others to express and release their painful stories from the past, and live the story of their dreams in the present. Storytelling ministers can also guide storytellers and other performers in creating and performing their stories for the stage. Sharing and personal stories in an authentic and embody way inspires audiences to reflect on and share their own stories. 

 

Meet Rev. Mark Estes

rev_mark_estes.jpgReverend Mark Estes is a ChI-ordained, interfaith hospice chaplain, working at Gentiva Hospice in northern California.  He is also a volunteer educator/storyteller with Compassion and Choices (www.compassionandchoices.org) where he educates and ministers to patients and their families who are considering medical aid in dying as set forth in the new California End of Life Option Act that became law in California on June 9, 2016.  "Whether in the hospice setting or discussing end of life options, I am passionate about educating and being with people who are in this place of trying to decide how they want to live.”

Mark states: "We are all storytellers, whether we realize it or not. I believe that consciously choosing our perspective is a spiritual practice. And I recognize the power that lies in being mindful of how we all create meaning through the stories we choose to tell ourselves. Thus, as a chaplain, I step into the role of being a professional story-listener in the delivery of spiritual care, where my intention is to pull up alongside individuals and meet them where they are. Instead of leading with my agenda, I seek to be present by actively hearing their stories. Through compassionate curiosity and cultural competence, I might get a glimpse of what makes meaning and value in their lives and support that which is necessary for their own peace and ease of suffering. I have found Roshi Joan Halifax’s G.R.A.C.E. Training and John Savage’s model for listening to provide me with effective tools for better listening skills being applied in multiple patient visits daily.”

When it comes to the discussion of medical aid in dying, Mark points out that 74% of Americans want the option to choose their course of treatment at the end of their lives. He seized upon the unique opportunity to see medical aid in dying become possible in California by volunteering in the Compassion and Choices clergy group, as the law was in the process of being passed - a law that had failed a number of times previously. Mark sees medical aid in dying as compatible with hospice philosophy and as a way to compassionately assist his patients in receiving care and relief of suffering, in accordance with the individual’s perspective and needs. Mark's job as chaplain, for someone considering medical aid in dying, is to listen, determine what their story is, what their values are and explore with them for clarity. Frequently exploring a person’s values and perspective from a neutral point of view leads to the conclusion that medical aid in dying is not what is appropriate and that palliative care in the hospice setting is.

"Also, one of the things I educate people on is that medical aid in dying is not suicide or euthanasia, a common misconception. The difference is medical aid in dying is a decision made by a person who has very much thought this out with interdisciplinary support and while meeting very specific legal/medical qualifications:

  • person must have a medical prognosis of 6 months or less to live
  • consults with 2 physicians
  • two verbal requests with a 15-day waiting period in between
  • one written request
  • the person must demonstrate mental capacity
  • a coercion evaluation one-on-one with patient to assure not being coerced
  • a final attestation within 48 hrs. of self-administering the lethal medications
  • must be able to self-administer the medication without help from anyone.

"So there are numerous safeguards.”

  

Meet Rev. Elizabeth McCain

Elizabeth McCain.jpgAs an extroverted Scorpio, with a Leo moon, l love having depth and diversity in my career as an interfaith minister, storyteller, spiritual coach, and energy therapist. When I began my studies at CHI in 2007, I knew I wanted to integrate creativity into my ministry. I had performed a bit in community theatre when I was younger in Washington DC. Then I discovered storytelling as an art form when my partner, Marie and I lived in Asheville, North Carolina. As a Southerner, having grown up in Mississippi, storytelling is in my soul. I loved listening to my parents and aunts tell outrageous stories on the porch! I felt this powerful connection to the past which connected me to the present in understanding who I am and from where I come.

When we moved back to the DC area, I began taking storytelling and solo performance classes,
and discovered that I had enough passion and stories to write and perform my own one-woman show! So I hired a director, who specialized in solo performance. I performed my show, "A Lesbian Belle Tells" in the 2014 Capital Fringe Festival, where it won best solo show from Broadway World! It is an autobiographical show of my stories of growing up in my traditional Mississippi family, coming out in DC, and experiencing family estrangement, loss, love, and healing. My show has comedy, as well as triumph over tragedy, with universal themes of my quest for belonging, healing, and transformation. It is a contemporary heroine's story. I have recently performed an updated version of it in DC. From my shows, I attract new clients for spiritual coaching and energy therapy, and invitations to preach. I am now exploring getting the show booked at women's festivals, conferences, retreats, and diversity organizations. I also lead workshops on forgiveness, loss, and the use of story in interpersonal and spiritual healing and transformation.

Performing my show is my story healing ministry. I love hearing how it touches and empowers people when folks talk to me after the show. As writer Dorothy Allison says, "Stories are the one sure way I know to touch the heart and change the world." My vision for my ministry is to help people express and release loss, transform and deepen relationships, and live a new story of hope. I do this through storytelling performance, as well as spiritual coaching, and energy therapy in my private practice. So much of my CHI experience as a student and an alumna has been about sharing our stories with one another and deepening our relationships. As I write this I am about to go to Berkeley to the fourth retreat that my ordination class of 2009 is doing together. My favorite part is sharing our personal and professional stories with one another, with intimacy, vulnerability, and depth. I am most grateful for my CHI tribe.

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