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Congregation: Stories and Structures by James F. Hopewell


At the time of his death in 1984, James F. Hopewell was Professor of Religion and the Church and Director of the Rollins Center for Church Ministries at the Candler School of theology, Emory University. Published by Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1987. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock.


Chapter 3: Parish Story


Most of us can probably remember participating, as student or teacher, in a course that died prematurely. I taught such a course, and I recall it here because from its ashes sprang the basic idea explored in this book. In the fall of 1977, Sammy Clark and I began work on a course designed to pursue an aspect of ministry in Sammy’s congregation, the gifted Trinity Church in downtown Atlanta. Although congregation-based courses of this sort can be capricious, we felt we had this one under fair control. I had taught similar courses elsewhere; Sammy’s experience in contextual training stretched back to his staff days in New York City’s East Harlem Protestant Parish. We took on the present assignment with the easy confidence of veteran guides provisioning a familiar tour.

The course was to address the relative absence of racial diversity in many of the age groups at Trinity. Though substantial numbers of blacks and whites were active in this church, one or the other race tended to dominate each particular level of Trinity’s youth and adult programs. Concerned about this layer-cake alternation, Clark as pastor and other church leaders decided to work with the seminary in which I was teaching to examine the problem and attempt some remedies.

My seminary accepted this responsibility because it believes that preparation for ministry requires participation in critical social situations. Therefore its faculty approved Clark’s and my syllabus. The outline bristled with good readings. It projected the course’s movement through phases of inquiry to those of theory making and experiment. We were careful to develop ways by which its twenty-four students -- twelve seminarians and twelve Trinity laypersons -- could themselves "own" the course and be supported in its stressful moments. Sammy and I felt that we had prepared for a worthy, sturdy undertaking.

The course began to disintegrate, however, in its first week. Several of the laypersons who had volunteered to participate never appeared; others soon dropped out; only four of the twelve persisted to the end. Their resistance paralyzed the course and puzzled the rest of us. Many of the same persons had collaborated fully in other courses that had dealt with difficult topics at Trinity. Why had this present course, then, provoked such massive truancy?

Those of us who remained in the course probed the resistance of our absent colleagues. As time passed, we became less convinced of the adequacy of the psychological explanations we had first offered. Instead, we began to discern in the words and actions of the truants a subtle and intricate pattern of values that seemed to transcend the motives of any single person. It began to appear that this course had violated a hidden code of worth and meaning that underlay the corporate life of this particular congregation. While each truant was a liberal Christian who gave private assent to the course plan, each was also a member of a body guided by a contravening set of norms and outlooks. As members, these persons guarded this corporate code by their absence, silence, and argument.

This code was embedded in what we came to call the "Trinity Story," the narrative that church members used to describe the recent history of their congregation. Founded before the Civil War and finally located across the street from Georgia’s state capitol building, Trinity grew, as one of its ministers wrote, in "prestige, power, and people, and [became] one of the most influential Methodist churches in the South."1 Nevertheless it lost both power and prominence after the Second World War. Its prestigious members died or transferred to other churches closer to their homes in the new suburbs of Atlanta. As a recent pastor put it, Trinity became a tomb. Some members and leaders of the Methodist conference advocated its relocation in an affluent suburb to reestablish its preeminent position.

Instead, Trinity chose a more adventurous path. In 1967, the year that segregationists put Lester Maddox into the capitol building as governor, the church next door decided to stay where it was and to recruit black and poor persons in the neighborhood as members. That costly decision alienated still more of Trinity’s longtime members and aroused the anger of many outsiders. Fortunately, an exceptionally strong pastor was appointed to the church in time to guide it through its time of attrition and mistreatment. He remembers the bitterness of members when black teenagers began to worship at Trinity:

Some of the previously saintly members took me to task verbally and to hell emotionally. Such terms as "niggerlover" and worse spewed out of the same mouths that sang, ``In Christ There Is No East or West." Hate letters arrived. The journey from Sunday School to pulpit was lined by vicious comments.2

Trinity persevered through the corrosive attack, only then to be put to further tests of its will and capacity to help by the poor community itself. In response and at great cost, Trinity developed, in cooperation with some of its poorer neighbors, new modes of urban ministry: an employment project, a summer camp, an integrated high school group, a new parish house located next to the public housing project, visitation and food services for the elderly, a literacy program, parole referral, and overnight housing for the homeless. The high school group started a steel band which, to the group’s delight, further irritated conservatives in the neighborhood.

Eventually Trinity gained new supporters. Some strong black leaders joined, and a number of suburban liberals, happy to find a church that really acted on the denomination’s social principles, drove into town to work in Trinity’s new ministries. By the mid-1970s Trinity had become an unusual but substantial community of diverse people. It had gathered into common worship "college professor and prison releasee, maid and manufacturer, young and old, black and white, male and female."3 In late 1976 the church published its plan for a future ministry that would convey its experience to the wider church and society:

Be a witness -- Trinity has a responsibility to our community and our city to reflect the New South, the New America, the New Church.4

Older student and young adult members of Trinity who have since moved to other regions of the nation report that they carry on the church’s vision in their new location.

During our course at Trinity, I heard its story told by its members with all the urgency of fresh news. Anecdotes that reflected the sharp pain and triumph of the early years were often repeated. The Trinity Story reached its climax, as I heard it told, in tales of the union of the two races, worshipping next door to a state capitol whose own policies bent toward integration in the same period. Out of this union was born Trinity’s mission to witness human solidarity in a racist society and church.

The Trinity Story, however, contains not only a narrative of events but also a code that signals the identity and behavior of that congregation. The clue to that code, I believe, is the striking similarity of this story to a form of myth that has powered tales of many peoples, giving form to their self-concepts and strength to their standards. The myth is a very ancient story, one evident in the mythic patterns of many cultures and analyzed by Carl Jung5 and Joseph Campbell6 as the journey of the hero. Like the church that grew up around me, Trinity was an instance of a congregation working its way through a spontaneous and uncertain period of its life; yet it, like my own congregation, used structures of behavior and interpretation derived from the world’s treasury of religious symbols.

In Trinity’s case, the congregation’s adventure implicates what Campbell argues are the most pervasive and fundamental of human mythic patterns.

Campbell displays the sequence of the hero journey in a diagram shown in Figure A.7 The hero encounters a series of events that, though not all present in any single story, and though distinctive in their detail in each specific telling, nevertheless usually follow the sequence that Campbell outlines and function according to the purposes he describes. The pattern that Campbell found typifying hero myths thousands of years old is resonant in Trinity’s recent experience. Trinity seems to replicate Hero’s adventure. Trinity is Hero Trinity, following the sequence of episodes common to its own experience and, as an example, a sixth century B.C. religious figure.

a. The call to adventure. Before the journey, the once powerful hero is in a repugnant situation. In Trinity’s case, the congregation had fallen from prewar prominence into a neglected tomb and was searching for a way out. Drawing on the Jataka Tales, Campbell describes the similar situation of Gotama Buddha, who, once a protected prince, was shocked by signs of illness, decrepitude, death, and austerity. The Buddha fled his palace and all its prerogatives to learn what existence shaped by these terrors meant. Some potential heroes refuse such a call to adventure and live out dull lives. Trinity itself could have built another palace elsewhere. Instead, the congregation answered the call that plunged it into its city’s turmoil and suffering.

b. A protective figure. The hero is joined by a protective figure who sometimes appears as a guide or teacher. Representing the power of destiny, the figure brings amulets to the hero and accompanies the hero as protection against the difficulties about to be encountered. Trinity’s new pastor -- a big, hearty, pious fellow who did not frighten easily -- emerged as its protective figure. Though critical to developments in Trinity’s story, the pastor was not the hero. He appeared when needed and later left. The hero was the congregation.

c. The threshold of adventure. The hero enters a zone of great uncertainty and personal peril. Enemies attack; the hero comes close to annihilation, in battle, by execution or during journeys through water. (After Hero Trinity had passed beyond its own dangerous threshold, its pastor wrote, using marine imagery, "The troubled waters receded, the dry land of urban mission appeared, and the people walked out upon it in faith.") The threshold crossing may entail the pain of dismemberment, and many members of Trinity literally severed themselves when the church welcomed black and poor people. Antagonists ferociously beset the hero. The Evil One unleashed "nine storms of wind, rain, rocks, weapons, live coals, hot ashes, sand, mud and darkness"8 against the Buddha in his Great Struggle. Hero Trinity suffered strangely similar abuse from antagonists in both church and neighborhood.

d. Tests. Next the hero "must survive a succession of trials, . . . a favorite phase of the myth-adventure."9 The hero must agree to perform seemingly impossible tasks and must succeed in their execution. The suspicious, poor neighborhood that Trinity wished to serve offered such challenges. Hero Trinity had to prove that its faith involved not only routine domestic actions such as worship and fellowship but also unfamiliar, venturesome tests, the devising of programs to assuage hunger, despair, homelessness, and unemployment.

e. Helpers. Additional helpers come to aid the hero. After Buddha’s triumph, a seven-day storm is unleashed on him, but the king of serpents protects Buddha with his expanded hood. As Hero Trinity undertook its tests it began to attract different sorts of church participants: persons from both the poor neighborhood and farther afield who strove for the same goals as Trinity. Mothers in the housing project, university teachers and students, city singles, and liberal families allied with Trinity in a now more popular cause.

f. Sacred marriage. At the bottom of Campbell’s heroic circle is the goal of the quest, expressed in such images as atonement, deification, or the capture of a desired object. In his journey the Buddha here obtained supreme enlightenment. For Hero Trinity, the sacred achievement was a Christian union of normally polarized persons and classes, a coincidence of opposites. One pastor referred to Trinity’s worship as a common table around which God gathered a marvelously diverse collection of human beings: rich and poor, black and white, privileged and outcast.

g. Flight and h. Return. The hero generally ends the adventure by returning to normal life. Sometimes the return passage requires escape or rescue. In other cases the hero emerges with divine blessing. Throughout the 1970s a number of younger people -- college and seminary students, persons in their first adult jobs --were members of Hero Trinity. Now they have moved on to other places and tasks. Other persons blessed by the adventure have also departed. In fact, a standard rhythm of Trinity’s present ministry is to accept persons attracted to its sacred banquet and then to help them on their way to their own ministries elsewhere.

i. Elixir. The hero returns to the world with a life-giving boon. What the hero has gained in the quest is not a private possession but to be shared with all. Although the Buddha experienced the bliss of enlightenment, by its nature not transferable, he nevertheless spent the rest of his long life not in withdrawn contemplation but in teaching. He acceded to visitors who pled:

Now that you, O sage, have yourself crossed the ocean of the world of becoming, please rescue also the other living beings who have sunk so deep into suffering! As a generous lord shares his wealth, so may also you bestow your virtues on others! Most of those who know what for them is good in this world and the next act only for their own advantage. 10

Hero Trinity likewise undertakes today a special mission "to our community and our city" to share its vision of God’s kingdom. Had the congregation refused to embark on its journey, remaining set in its former ways, no special boon to humanity would have resulted. But because it launched out on its heroic adventure, it now helps a wider community understand how society might be healed.

If our preparations for the course at Trinity had been more sensitive to the Trinity Story, we might have avoided some of the consequences. As the course was constructed, however, it constituted a point-by-point repudiation of the story and its code. Instead of Hero Trinity bringing its boon to the world, we, the outside world, were bringing the boon to Trinity. Instead of celebrating Hero Trinity’s sacred marriage of blacks and whites, we focused on their disunion. Rather than recall the congregation’s heroic tales of trial and success, we focused on their antonyms, avoidance and failure. Our course plan implied that the heroic adventure of Trinity Church was only beginning, that it did not already exist as a story and a code that generated value and outlook. From a rational standpoint, the course seemed necessary and appropriate, but deeper matters were at stake in this venture than the purposes stated in the syllabus. The lessons this course taught were primarily the unintended ones that I, the professor, learned.

The Functions of Narrative

Through these introductory chapters I have stressed the idiomatic nature of parish culture, its thick networking of construable signs to form a dialect of signals and symbols. The most important lesson I learned from the Trinity course is that most parish idiom conveys and implies narrative. Story expresses the intricacy of congregational life. Though widely regarded as merely a form of entertainment or illustration, stories are an essential account of social experience. From the Hero Trinity story can be elicited three features of the fundamental relationship between congregational life and narrative:

1. The congregation’s self-perception is primarily narrative in form.

2. The congregation’s communication among its members is primarily by story.

3. By its own congregating, the congregation participates in narrative structures of the world’s societies.

1. The congregation’s self-perception is primarily narrative in form. Trinity used story to provide an account of itself, to itself and to others. Though our course was intended as a technical probe into certain issues, Trinity members, when pressed to account for their remarkable interracial identity, responded primarily by stories that described their past history, or by anecdotes that depicted the present state of affairs, or occasionally by scenarios that projected various futures for their fellowship. In each instance they apprehended their corporate existence by means of narrative. They found no other adequate ways to communicate the richness and variety of Trinity’s life. Only in storied form did explanations seem sufficiently comprehensive. Stories were required, to adapt terms used by Stanley Hauerwas, in order to give connection to contingent events.11 The elaborate wholeness of Trinity’s corporate existence, its passage through a thick diversity of events from past to future, required a narrative vehicle for its transmission.

A narrative can gather happenings that are not already substantively linked to each other. While formulas convey the regular sequences and synchronisms of actions, stories knit events that have a plausible but so far undetermined relation. The Trinity story is thickened by events that at first appear unrelated or are unforeseen. That is why, in listening to the story, we want to know what happens next: we cannot be sure what will next unfold. By building suspense through the incorporation of unpredictable actions -- what Northrop Frye calls story’s capacity to say "and then" -- narrative enables its tellers to claim the association of separate happenings with a single life, personal or corporate. How does Trinity embrace in its own identity events as diverse as insults, steel bands, and a mission to racist institutions? It connects them by story. Other writers have attempted to explain the capacity of narrative to summarize the complexities of self-understanding: "Narrative history of a certain kind," says Alasdair MacIntyre, "turns out to be the basic and essential genre for the characterization of human actions."12 Story is a device by which perceptions of corporate life are arranged in a telling way, but that is not its first or only function. Story is also the form by which corporate experience is in the first instance perceived.

In an intriguing if controversial article, Stephen Crites argues that experience itself is basically narrative in form, providing the essential order for human understanding.13 The storied unity found in life is not, for Crites, a secondary result of human culture. Story is in a much more rudimentary way implicated in experience itself. Crites’s argument is an attempt to account for human beings’ innate sense of continuity among past, present, and future times. Earlier and forthcoming times at the moment do not exist, yet they are essential dimensions of the experienced present. Crites proposes that experience of the lived present must have a narrative character, because it necessarily ties the perception of the moment to the memory of past events and to the anticipation of the future. Thus, through its narrative character, experience contains the sense of both before and after as well as the distinctions among past, present, and future, enabling us to comprehend our persistence through time. Why do we warm to stories? In Crites’s view, narrative does not merely order a chaotic world, it also provides the basic model that experience makes of life. Crites does not claim that reality itself is or has a story, but he places the presence of narrative at the very boundary of human knowing.

Story, then, may be more than a cultural response to prior perceptions. The awareness of personal and corporate existence is perhaps itself a nascent story. If so, to seek the story of the congregation, in its twists of plot and evolutions of character and circuits of setting, is to enter into the basic experience of corporate life. Story may be more than the mere play of children or the protoscience of primitives; it may relate the essential negotiation of the local church in realizing its own identity.

2. The congregation’s communication among its members is primarily by story. Not only does narrative convey the experience of corporate existence, it also characterizes the continuing form of symbolic interchange among members.14 The rich discourse that constitutes congregational life occurs almost entirely in story form. Members primarily tell, or allude to, stories. Congregational communication is seldom propositional. Members are less likely to speak in abstractions than in tales about their collective life. Think of the jokes, confessions, arguments, descriptions, explanations, memorials, objections, and intentions that compose parish discourse. Most are presented narratively. "We dream in narrative, daydream in narrative, remember, anticipate, hope, despair, believe, doubt, plan, revise, criticize, construct, gossip, learn, hate and love by narrative," says Barbara Hardy.15

Her point about the narrative nature of gossip is especially appropriate to an analysis of parish discourse. Gossip, the informal expression of stories about other people, constitutes a prevalent form of parish communication. Though conventionally viewed as destructive of community, gossip, Samuel Heilman demonstrates, is essential for corporate cohesion.16 Telling tales about other members, even maliciously, is an important way of identifying and characterizing the congregation. Heilman demonstrates the presence of four layers of gossip in the congregation. One layer is parish news shared with even the most casual participant. The others, each increasingly private and more potent, provide more privileged information. The most secret layer harbors the confidences of a few central figures whose circle often does not include the ordained minister. All layers of gossip function to fortify activities and relationships within the congregation.

Narrative gives structure to other kinds of parish communication. In Trinity Church, the history of a congregation is taught and learned in story form. Narrative also appears to influence sequences of group behavior, such as fights, campaigns, and projects. The congregation’s worship has a storied character. It comprises liturgical drama, formal metaphors, Scripture narratives, and sermons. In virtually every aspect of congregational expression, the discourse of members is in some manner narrative.

3. By its own congregating, the congregation participates in narrative structures of the world’s societies. The individual actions caught up in the Trinity story were each irregular or apparently spontaneous, but the overall narrative form of the story is a pattern of meaning so regular that we term the pattern a myth. Myths are the primal and still powerful schemata by which a society comprehends and signifies its corporate existence. They mark the essential structures of meaning and value in which that group participates. As Alasdair MacIntyre reports, "There is no way to give us an understanding of any society, including our own, except through the stock of stories which constitute its original dramatic resources. Mythology, in its original sense, is at the heart of things."17 Myths provide the basic forms of signification by which a group perceives and expresses its identity.

The correspondence between the Trinity story and the hero journey does not necessarily argue for some deep archetypal reality upon which behavior and its signification is patterned. A more supportable claim is that the narrative behavior of a local church draws upon the treasury of symbolic forms that human groups have developed in all zones and eras to constitute themselves. In my view, the story that any particular church tells of itself necessarily participates in the imagination by which other societies have wrought their awareness of their own community.

The "house" (oikos) implied in the term "parish" ( paroikia) is a way of envisioning that symbolic construction. The same oikos also characterizes the whole inhabited world (oikoumené), suggesting the participation of the parish household as well in the structures that form all societies’ dwelling. Although "parochial" today usually connotes an ingrown narrowness, paroikia, when understood as a narrative construction, participates in the oikoumené of all groups’ stories.

The reason for this is that stories are structurally interrelated. Literature in the vision of Northrop Frye constitutes a "big, interlocking family" of all themes, genres, and characters."18 Any individual work, in Frye’s view, is to be understood as a disclosure of particular images that reflect the whole world of literature:

Thus the center of the literary universe is whatever poem we happen to be reading. One step further, and the poem appears a microcosm for all literature, an individual manifestation of the total order of words.19

As, for Frye, the symbolic construction of a literary work is a microcosm of all literature, so a congregation reflects the imaginative struggle of societies everywhere to congregate. Thus the paroikia, the local manifestation of the structures of the oikoumené, emphasizes its participation in the frame of all social communication.

The congregation Trinity is also Hero because Trinity is a disclosure here and now of a narrative negotiation by which other societies have cohered. Human imagination as a whole provides the particular idiomatic construction of a local church story. The storied oikoumené substantiates, apportions, and links the full multitude of parochial stories. Parish mission in this light springs from a solidarity with the world of struggling communities. The story each tells of its own mission is as well the world’s story.

The Need for Narrative

Stories and their mythic structures are the primary means employed in a symbolic approach to understanding the congregation. The other approaches, those outlined in chapter 2, also make use of narrative description, but they rely less upon story than upon other ways to characterize the parish. Contextual portrayals of a local church concentrate upon demographic features ("urban, middle class, white, elderly membership"); mechanist definitions frequently provide numerical and functional facts ("250 members, with a $100,000 annual budget and a darn good Sunday school"); organicist interpretations feature interpersonal and emotional attributes ("a big, usually happy family that enjoys its occasional fights"). Only within the symbolic approach does narrative serve an essential role, and this book, rooted in that approach, will depend upon narrative both to examine and to explain the life of a local church.

An emphasis upon narrative is overdue. Despite the narrative character of almost all congregational perceptions and talk, the temptation is to employ other, more solemnly theoretical modes of expression to explain the local church. Like doctors over a patient, congregational analysts reduce the object of their investigation to technical terms and procedures. Phrases derived from the contextual ("urban, middle class"), mechanist ("$100,000 annual budget"), and organicist ("enjoy occasional fights") approaches seem more analytical and precise. These empirical observations abstracted from corporate experience often become more persuasive than the experience itself. My survey in the preceding chapter documents how scant has been the attention paid in the last quarter century to the congregation’s culture, idiom, or identity -- its storied dimensions. In a catalog I recently edited of devices and instruments for congregational research, only a small minority of the hundred or so entries is designed to explore a congregation’s narrative identity.20 Most doctor of ministry programs continue the tradition: perusal of the theses and essays these programs produce strongly suggests that projects that employ contextual, mechanist, or organicist methods are more likely to be accepted than those that delve into congregational culture and story.

Crites speaks of our capacity to abstract ourselves from the ongoing press of corporate experience:

Mind and imagination are capable of recollecting the narrative materials of experience into non-narrative forms. Indeed there seems to be a powerful drive of thought and imagination to overcome the relentless temporality of experience. One needs more clarity than stories give us, also a little rest.21

Essential as abstractions are to the analysis of the congregation, however, a greater use of story is today required to round out an understanding of the local church. Only narrative is sufficiently sensitive to amplify the unique accents of a congregation’s idiom, sufficiently intricate to explain the congregation’s constitutive power, and sufficiently comprehensive to link congregational events and meanings. As succeeding chapters of this book will demonstrate in detail, narrative underlies each congregation’s view of the world, its assumptions about the setting or backdrop against which its actions are sequenced, and its unique ethos thrown into visible relief. Narrative also sharpens and illumines that ethos -- the style, behavior, and values that constitute a congregation’s character. And narrative provides temporal form for its plot, the sequence of events it selects and retells to confirm its identity. Finally, narrative knits together all these elements -- setting, character, and plot -- into a storied whole. In so doing, it defies the capacity of other approaches in their extreme forms to reduce the congregation to a series of abstractions. Narrative further reminds the researcher or observer of the limits of outside expertise: no matter how disciplined or detached, everyone is formed by corporate experience and dependent upon storied discourse for the sharing of meaning. Learning the parts and presentations of parish story, then, is a way of reasserting the lived nature of social experience.

In these introductory chapters, I have examined the remarkable nature of the congregation, notable today less for its accomplishment than for its communal discourse that at once particularizes a corporate genius and links it to the symbolic structure of all societies everywhere. I have noted several different ways of understanding congregations -- as textures, machines, organisms, and idioms, all necessary approaches, and none diminished by the emphasis this book places upon the last image, that of the local church as a dialect. In the present chapter, I have argued that idiom is primarily conveyed in story form, as the parish apprehends its corporate experience and as its members communicate their common life and draw resources from the narrative structures of the world. I believe that telling such a story enables a congregation to comprehend its nature and mission and therefore I now set out to examine the major aspects of parish story: its setting, characterization, and plot.

Notes

1. Kenneth R. Jones, "An Inner-City Experiment in Family Ministry" (S.T.D. thesis, Candler School of Theology, Emory University, 1975), 117.

2. Ibid., iii.

3. Ibid., ii.

4. Report on the Desired Leadership Qualities for Pastor and Laity (Trinity United Methodist Church, Atlanta, Georgia, 14 December 1976).

5. C. G. Jung, Symbols of Transformation: An Analysis of the Prelude to a Case of Schizophrenia (New York: Bollingen Foundation, 1956), 121-462.

6. Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Cleveland: World Pub. Co., 1956).

7. Ibid., 245.

8. The Buddha-Karita, translated in Lucien Stryk, ed., The World of the Buddha: A Reader (Garden City: Doubleday & Co., 1968), 39.

9. Campbell, The Hero, 97.

10. The Buddha-Karita, trans. Edward Conze, Buddhist Scriptures (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1959), 52.

11. Stanley Hauerwas, Truthfulness and Tragedy: Further Investigations Into Christian Ethics (Notre Dame: Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 1977), 75.

12. Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue, 194. Note Northrop Frye’s similar estimation of the constructive function of narrative in Robert D. Denham, ed., Northrop Frye on Culture and Literature: A Collection of Review Essays (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1978), 74-75: "Mathematics appears to be a kind of informing or constructive principle in the natural sciences; it continually gives shape and coherence to them without being itself involved in any kind of external proof or evidence. One wonders whether, in the future, when we shall know so much more about what literature says and how it hangs together than we now do, we shall come to see literary myth as a similarly constructive principle in the social or qualitative sciences, giving shape and coherence to psychology, anthropology, theology, history and political theory without losing in any one of them its own autonomy of hypothesis."

13. Stephen C. Crites, "The Narrative Quality of Experience," Journal of the American Academy of Religion 39 (1971): 291 - 311.

14. "Persons communicate and relate to each other by stories they tell.... There can be no community life, no consensus, and thus no common action without participation in a common understanding of the meaning of a common story, and without a common commitment to that story’s nature" (John Navone and Thomas Cooper, Tellers of the Word [New York: Le Jacq Pub., 1981], xxiv).

15. Barbara Hardy, "Towards a Poetics of Fiction: An Approach Through Narrative," Novel 2 (1968): 5.

16. Samuel Heilman, Synagogue Life, 141-92. The function of joking, also often in narrative form, is described on pp. 193-209.

17. MacIntyre, After Virtue, 205.

18. Northrop Frye, The Educated Imagination (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press. 1966), 48f.

19. Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism, 121. Frye depicts four levels of literary criticism, of which the most identifiably religious, the analogical level, conceives poetry in the manner described. Frye goes on: "Analogically, then, the symbol is a monad, all symbols being united in a single infinite and eternal verbal symbol which is as dianoia, the Logos, and, as mythos, total creative act. It is this conception which Joyce expresses, in terms of subject matter, as ‘epiphany,’ and Hopkins, in terms of form as ‘inscape."’

20. James F. Hopewell, ed., The Whole Church Catalog: Where to Get Tools for Congregational Study and Intervention (Washington, D.C.: Alban Institute, 1984), iv.

21. Crites, "Narrative Quality," 308.

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