Living in Story: Narrative Communities and Identity Formation

March 15th, 2006Rev. Dr. Bailey Phelps M.Div., D.Min.Retired Presbyterian Pastor, Storyteller, tribal member of the Cherokee NationHost: Stan Adamson

About the Presentation

Storytelling–more specifically, oral narrative performance–is arguably the most ancient and effective method by which human beings transmit values, establish community, affirm identity, remember history, guide behavior, and entertain one another. I submit that communities and sub-communities are bound by shared narratives that are lived in by their members, and that individuals also live in (and thus live out) thematic story structures. Therapeutic narrative development can enhance healing of individual and communal traumas and self-inflicted suffering. As a pastor, Biblical narrative communities are of particular interest to me. I contend that effective communication of the Bible’s content (as opposed to merely drawing forth “the moral” or “the meaning” of selected passages) enables people to literally identify themselves within the Biblical stories. I draw from, particularly, Native American, Biblical, and western cultural narratives.

The presentation will include comparisons of stories from these sources; e.g., Darwinian, American Indian, and U.S. frontier narrative themes. It will cover the development of story forms from pre-literate cultures, the influence of the print medium, and the “post-literate” present age. We will consider Marshall McLuhan’s insight that “Sight isolates, sound incorporates” as it relates to destructive individualism and community connection. I will discuss the concept of “wounded narratives,” i.e., stories people tell themselves that are unresolved, leading to unresolved lifestyles. I will present techniques for performing Bible content, which can be adapted to narrative therapy in counseling/mental health development. My hope is that enhanced awareness of communal and individual identity formation rooted in specific story themes will be helpful and adaptive to many areas of counseling and therapy.

About the Presenter

Rev. Dr. Bailey Phelps M.Div., D.Min.
I served as an ordained Presbyterian pastor for 32 years before “retiring.” I am also a tribal member of the Cherokee Nation and a professional storyteller and Native American flute player. After extensive experience and study of storytelling and oral cultures, I brought the performance track and the pastoral track together in gaining a Doctor of Ministry degree focused on Biblical storytelling. I continue to do Native American programs for schools, libraries, museums, pow-wows, special events and Indian gatherings. Recently, these have included the 6th Annual Native American Student Association Banquet at CU Pueblo, and featured performances at Cheyenne Frontier Days. I also lead seminars and presentations of Biblical storytelling, most recently for the 2nd annual Bible Story Conference at Shepherd of the Hills Presbyterian Church in Denver. I am a member of and occasional presenter for the Network of Biblical Storytellers.

Additional Resources

I have two books: “Telling the Bible: Storytelling and Performance from the Scriptures” and “With Our Own Eyes: First-person Stories Based on the Gospels.” I also have a CD, “American Folk: Cowboys and Indians,” with songs, stories and music from American frontier and Native sources.

Bailey Phelps
1629 Parkside Circle
Lafayette CO 80026
[email protected]

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