There’s something about improv that has always frightened and impressed me.
It’s amazing what people can come up with on the spot, with no time to analyze what would be the smartest or funniest or most helpful thing to say.
I’ve always preferred acting in plays, where there is time to practice over and over again. This explains why when it comes to ministry I’m comfortable preaching a sermon but I get anxious when asked to say an impromptu table grace.
In her book, Engaging Technology in Theological Education, Mary Hess uses the analogy of preparing to perform a play to describe how we might work toward having the biblical witness at the heart of our teaching and learning.
She describes learning the character and the script as just the first step.
We learn the biblical stories and characters, get to know the background, and gain insight on what the story is saying.
Next comes practice performing.
We move from knowing the stories to knowing how to share them, from knowing what is being asked of us, to knowing how to begin living into such a way of life.
Then the script must be enacted in multiple contexts.
We know that we can only fully understand in as wide a circle of learners as possible.
Finally, we must begin to improvise.
Once the stories are at the heart of our story, they exist so deeply within us that we can live and share them, even as the context around us shifts and changes.
The Christian church has an old, old story to tell in a radically different time than when it was written.
As we find ourselves engaging in ministry through social media and in various online communities, we are like improv actors seeking to share our stories in new and exciting ways.
It’s still a little frightening.
It’s also entirely impressive when it’s done well.
Engaging Technology in Theological Education: All That We Can’t Leave Behind.Mary E. Hess. New York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2005.