Church collects individual stories to create a whole
A Vancouver congregation known as U Hill (University Hill) is putting pen to paper to capture and record firsthand stories from those who attend.
The idea has been with church member Esmeralda Cabral for some time. A memoir writer who has attended U Hill for 30 years, she decided to take action after leading a six-week writing workshop for her church during the pandemic.
"During that workshop I realized, These people can write! We also had three prominent, longtime members of our congregation pass away around that time. I had a sense that our history was passing without anybody recording it, so I just put the idea out there," Cabral explains.
After she sent an initial email back in March, interest slowly trickled in. To encourage participation Cabral provided further direction with story examples, a thousand-word limit and a September 30 deadline. Submissions picked up steam.
Stories include an account of what it’s like to be the choir director of The Singers, a serendipitous moment in a campus gift shop that attracted a new member, a couple journeying from infertility to adoption, memorable Christmas Eve services, annual golf tournaments and what it’s like walking down U Hill’s aisle to say, "I do."
Cabral is already approaching her goal of 50 stories – tentatively entitled This Is Who We Are – with plans to launch at the end of this year. The stories, along with photo submissions, will be collated in a binder that people read, while plans for an online format are already in the works. The hard copy binder will be a living collection with plastic sleeves where more stories can be added as time carries on.
"I think the act of writing something personal is daunting, so people have had to look at it as a prayerful exercise and as a way of giving to the community. We’ve just planted the seed. I think when people see it and start reading it, more will be prompted to contribute," says Cabral.
With plans to add to the book twice a year going forward, it is sure to be a living piece of history for U Hill (UHillCongregation.Squarespace.com) where new members can hold space for those who came before.