To put it simply, a narrative is a story that is told or written. For the purpose of my work, a faith narrative is the framework in which an individual – and in many cases a community – understands herself in time and place, in relation to the belief system and the community to which she belongs. I set out with the notion that faith is narrative, narrative gives life meaning, and understanding what gives meaning to the lives of others creates a more emotionally connected world.
You may have noticed I’ve used the words “faith,” “belief system,” and “religion” interchangeably. These are insufficient and limiting terms, but they are nonetheless helpful. Not everyone sees themselves as having a faith or a religion, and many people prefer to identify as “spiritual, not religious.” I use all of these terms in an effort to be as clear and inclusive as possible.
But back to faith narratives… It may sound a bit lofty, but really all it is is sharing personal stories. The bulk of my time over the course of this project will be spent listening to individual stories from as wide a range of perspectives and experiences as possible. I’ve already been doing this informally for some time, and chances are you have done it, too. But for the next six months, I have been given the gift of time and resources to talk to people, listen to their stories and learn about the things that matter most to them.
Of course, there is a little bit more to it than that (isn’t there always?). As I listen to and gather these stories, I’m also looking for common themes, for differences and similarities. How do these worldviews affirm and inspire so many? How do ancient traditions remain relevant today and how are new traditions finding their foothold as more people choose their faith rather than inherit it? How can a genuine curiosity about other belief systems foster greater acceptance and understanding?
That is, in a nutshell, what I mean when I talk about faith narratives…stories. And I’d love to hear yours.