Drawn Like Moths to Light

. . . if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another. . .
1 John 1:7

I squirmed in my seat when I heard the words “I am Jesus,” exclaimed from the pulpit. The woman who said them went on to rebuke the audience for our waywardness; an awkward moment for everyone  in attendance. I couldn’t yet grasp that this was likely the most interesting moment I’d ever experience at a testimony meeting because I was too wrapped up in the idea that she was one more example of all the ways this type of meeting goes wrong — too many travelogues, thank-i-monies, and public confessions were heard in fast and testimony meeting, aka “Open Mike Sunday.” I was at a complete loss as to why we turned the meeting over to the whims of the congregation at large.

But, recent attendance at a local story swapping event, my city’s MothUP, has changed my perception. Think of MothUP as a secular testimony meeting, plus food, spirits and applause. It’s one of the on-going programs of Moth, a non-profit storytelling organization started by George Dawes Green when he moved to New York from coastal Georgia. Green was trying to recreate the sense of connection he felt in Georgia during late night porch sessions sharing stories with his friends. Moth is named after the moths that would find their way to the porch attracted by the light. Green’s hope is that others are attracted to the stories, like moths are to flame.

The monthly meeting works like this: Stories must be loosely based on the monthly theme. Time limit is 5 minutes. Your story should be true. Stories must be told, not read. Names are pulled from a hat to determine who gets to share their story.

Similar to testimony meeting, some stories at MothUP made me cry or laugh out loud, and others bored me for most of the 5 painful minutes. There was TMI on the part of some participants and some left disappointed they didn’t get to share. But, by and large, there is a definite sense of community among those who come every month; they know and seem to enjoy, root for and even love each other through the stories.

MothUP made me realize I had been overlooking the most important factor of Open Mike Sunday all along.  It’s the stories. Whatever form they take; we are sharing pieces of our souls with each other that benefit tellers and listeners alike.

Rather than mentally noting and judging how appropriate the remarks are and whether they fit into my worldview, I can just listen to the story about how their mother never raised her voice at them or how they paid tithing and the same day received a miraculous block of cheese on their doorstep worth that very same amount. I can enjoy a story and root for the success of its teller. It’s the truth as they see it, some small piece of who they are or wish to be. It’s a community builder that creates connection. It’s an uncorrelated moment of bliss.

I had it wrong. I expected the stories to shed some light on the divine. But, it seems the stories are the light and the real testimony of the divine is how they draw us closer to each other in fellowship.

Despite my new-found fun in first Sundays, I’d still suggest we add applause, food, or even a theme to the meetings: Lost and Found, Miracles –Extreme Edition, Three Nephite Sightings, Guilt-ridden Gratitude.

Drawn to the flame: what’s your take on these first Sunday meetings? How do you connect with others?