Don "Buck P." Creacy says his art of storytelling and his Christian faith both have their roots in history.
"The ancients shared their knowledge of God with their children and told them stories about how they were delivered out of Egypt," he says. "And the very first gospel that was ever shared after Christ was resurrected and ascended into heaven was a told gospel."
Storytelling is not exactly an exalted form of ministry in churches today, as Creacy sees it. But five years ago, when some fellow storytellers of faith first gathered in Normal, Ill., they were surprised to find that there was a real hunger for faith-based storytelling.
"Storytellers gather together all the time, and we coach each other to fine-tune this craft of telling stories," says Creacy, a former full-time minister who now works at Toyota in Georgetown and has a side career as a professional storyteller. "It's a pretty common thing to have a weekend retreat. The added agenda to this one was, 'We're going to have a conversation about using storytelling in church.' When they got there, they were outnumbered by a bunch of people who found out about it, and they wanted to know how to do this.
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"Well, there goes our whole weekend," Creacy says, laughing. He wasn't able to make that first event, which became the first Christian Storytellers conference.
But he is heading up the fifth edition, June 16 to 18 at Harmony Christian Church in Georgetown.
It will involve 15 storytellers from around the country instructing attendees in how to create and build stories that can be used in ministry. The stories can be anything from colorful accounts of Scripture to contemporary stories about faith. One woman who satirizes people who try to sell faux religious artifacts in the Holy Land.
Creacy first discovered storytelling as child, when he shined shoes at a barbershop.
"All the news that was fit to be news was told at the barbershop," Creacy says. "Every good joke, every rotten joke, every political insight or theory was passed on. Every big fish, every big deer, all the hunting was told and told again at the barbershop, and I learned how to tell stories there."
The type of storytelling Creacy engages in is not just making up a big-fish story. It involves research and linguistic craftsmanship, such as Creacy's account of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
"To every one of us, it is very important that we tell our Bible stories accurately," Creacy says. "Now we're not quoting it verbatim. As a storyteller, we tell the story with all the details, and we find the emotion of the person who told that story originally.
"When I put together my account of the crucifixion of Christ, one of the things I did was a point-of-view study. I wrote down every character in that event, and I tried to figure out where everyone was in this scene, and then I did a character study."
In building a story, Creacy says, he tries to see it from everyone's perspective, pointing out, for instance, that many of Christ's enemies truly believed they were doing the work of God.
"I stood with the mockers and mocked, too. And I stood with the women and cried, and I beat Jesus with a cat o' nine tails. And that's what a storyteller does. He goes to those places to tell the story."
The conferences, Creacy says, are striking in that denominational differences disappear and ideas sprout beyond sermon series and Bible studies.
"Perhaps we have microanalyzed and dissected the Scripture," Creacy says, "to the point that the church has forgotten how to tell the whole story."