By Marge Starkey
Every Woman’s Story developed in 1997 when a group of women in Phoenix, Arizona, organized a steering committee to plan ways of honoring the many significant contributions women have made to their families, to their communities, and to civilization. Several community education projects were launched out of this steering committee. One such project was Every Woman’s Story, a writer’s class led by Laura Sulzby and Diane Nelson at Willowbrook UMC. Laura Sulzby, born and raised in Mexico, wanted her children to know about the culture in which she was raised and through this weekly writing group found a means to share her story.
Every Woman’s Story writing class has three primary goals:
- To encourage individuals of all ages, races, religions, and social and economic statuses to recall, record, and respect their personal histories; especially the steps they have taken privately and publicly to improve their own lives and the lives of others.
- To archive these individual autobiographies and biographies in order to provide a more complete and accurate record of human history, as well as a record of change in the status of women.
- To inspire others to continue the work still needed to achieve freedom, dignity, and safety for women and girls through the sharing of women’s stories.
Classes were held in a conference room where 10 to 15 participants gathered to learn. Most participants were members of Willowbrook Methodist Church. Because of some strategically placed flyers posted in the community, a small percentage of the class was from other denominations. Over the years, under Laura’s direction, approximately 10 participants have either professionally or self-published their own book. Every Woman’s Story has become very popular in the Sun City area and class sizes continue to grow.
Even though the group was originally formed for women, men are equally welcome. Today there are 12 to 18 participants in any one session. The group meets weekly to read the stories written the previous week and follow the readings with a questions, comments, and suggestions time. To protect privacy, what is read in class stays in class. Participants do not correct grammar or spelling and encourage a conversational style of writing. This format takes the pressure off shy participants who otherwise might not attend.
The class has become not only a learning experience, but a place where friendships are formed. Participants are inspired by hearing each other’s stories, and by sharing become a close-knit fellowship. Writing stories also helps participants to be honest about who they are. When folks share their lives they are in touch with themselves, other family members, and friends. Discovering just how far the stories might reach is exciting.
As a starting point, every new class participant is given a handout that is packed with story starter ideas. Stories might include the presence of God in their life, good feelings, not being coerced into coming to church, and an element of faith evolving. Click Here to download a copy of the class handout. For more information about Every Woman’s Story contact Marge Starkey at email@example.com.
Sharing faith stories are one of the best ways to build church culture. Increase readership by publishing them in your church newsletters. Encourage leadership development by asking individuals to share their stories from the pulpit. Let seekers get a glimpse of what they’re missing by posting video stories on your church website. If you’re interested in learning more about communicating stories of faith, don’t miss your 2015 District Leadership training. Contact your District office to get specific date and location information for your area.