By Pastor Paul Stumme-Diers
“Storytellers” is how I would describe those who have been remembered in our last three funerals at Bethany. Mentioning the names of Raymond Keeney, Peter Beckman and Franklin Chu brings to mind their storytelling prowess:
Ray told wonderful stories about Bainbridge Island history and the stuff of everyday life, and was always seeking out new stories through books and his travels with Mabel. The gleam in his eye and the smile on his face always punctuated these stories in an energizing way.
Franklin had a rich history of stories, from his family’s history in China, to childhood stories from Ohio, to the stories of his medical practice and his adventures in family, life and golf. I can picture him telling these stories around the dinner table where he and Linnea were such wonderful hosts.
Peter taught through stories, including three particular stories he wanted his grandchildren to know as life lessons. Often his stories were tinged with a theological motif, and they arose from his time in the service, from his time in the classroom, from his occupation with orchids and interaction with nature, and from his life with Lydia.
Each of these storytellers in their own way made connections with the stories of God’s grace and goodness, and shared them in the context of the community of faith here at Bethany. We can all recognize these stories in the fabric of the Bethany community story, part of a larger volume to which we all contribute.
But another attribute of each of these storytellers is that they were good listeners. (I only recall one of them ever falling asleep during one of my sermons…) I think this is an important attribute of a good storyteller, that they can listen to and honor the stories of others.
We are people of the story, gathering each week to hear the sacred stories of Scripture, surrounded by people with their own faith stories, and with people who know and honor our own, even as we open ourselves to those whose stories we have yet to hear. And in this mix we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit, who calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies us, enfolding us in the eternal story of love.