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When you are all sitting comfortably, I will begin: Once upon a time…

There is nothing more wonderful than listening to a well read story or, even better, a good story-teller.  Quickly we are drawn into the world of the story, transported to a different place, caught up in the lives of different characters. A well-chosen story, is better than a long-winded explanation, makes its point without preaching and above all is memorable.

And sharing stories from our own lives is a wonderful way of inviting people in to our lives, of helping people get to know each other and understand each other.

At Norwich Cathedral, The Wilderness Factor is an opportunity for people to do exactly that – share stories.  In particular people are invited to share stories of how they coped in a time of wilderness, a moment when their lives seemed to be crumbling.

At the East end of the Cathedral during Lent is a changing display of fourteen stories describing how a friend, stranger or faith provided comfort, support, guidance or help when life became dark or overwhelming.  And those who read the stories are invited, if they wish, to share their story of a wilderness moment, and leave it behind for others to read.

What is striking about each of the stories is the ordinary-ness of the support and help given; everyday acts of kindness that make the difference between people coping and not coping.  These stories are a reminder that we can all make a difference in another person’s life…and the part faith too can play when the familiar landmarks of our lives start to fall.

Sitting before a roaring fire, warm and safe, may seem the best place to say, “Once upon a time…” but these stories on display show that the wilderness can also be a good place to share story.  When we can be open and honest about our own vulnerable moments we can bring comfort to others, and the wilderness no longer is quite such a frightening place.

In the sharing of these stories we learn to become deeply grateful for the part other people can play in our lives – and the wonderful discovery of a God who, as Julian of Norwich revealed, may not stop us being storm-tossed but who never abandons us.