Looking for a fresh way to have a conversation about where faith and daily living intersect, our congregation turned to TED Talks and ended up with a rich class titled “TED’s Threads of Faith.” If you aren’t familiar with TED Talks, they are a series of talks given by some of the world’s brightest thinkers on hundreds of topics. You can access them online at http://www.ted.com. Talks usually last about 15 minutes so they’re perfect starters for larger conversations.
In our first experiment with the class, we chose to look at the common threads of people who live bravely, who dare to take on difficult subjects and what this might mean for a faith community. Who better to begin with than Brené Brown, author of “Daring Greatly”? In her talk “The Power of Vulnerability,” Brown shares what her research has taught her about what makes people vulnerable and what allows some people to live “wholehearted lives” while others don’t. The talk has had more than 10 million views.
It was a refreshing, eye-opening class. After listening to Brown, we stopped to reflect and then wrote on a flip chart the words in her talk that stood out to us. Those words included: vulnerability, fear, courage, love, mystery. Why might these words matter to the Church, we asked?
We repeated this process for two more weeks, looking at Bryan Stevenson’s talk “We Need to Talk about an Injustice.” Stevenson is a lawyer and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative which works to fight poverty and racial discrimination in the criminal justice system.
Again, we asked for the common thread in this man’s story.What words resonated with Brown’s words the week before and where did these words intersect with a life of faith? After writing our thoughts on a flip chart, we literally strung the words on slips of paper across the room: identity, grandmothers, love, courage, community, injustice, poverty.
The next week, we listened to spoken word poet and teacher Sarah Kay’s inspiring “If I Should Have a Daughter” TED talk. Kay spoke of the need to be oneself, of daring to step into life instead of away from it, of holding one’s hands up and out instead of close in. We added connection, risk, courage, and indignance to our thread.
As a final task for our class, we invited the participants to create their own thread, or spoken word poem, that Kay often uses to get her students started. Name 10 things you know to be true. Participants were asked to bring their lists back to class the final week. Those who were willing could share.
From these lists, we learned that many of us yearn to reach out, but also are afraid, that being vulnerable contains risk, but that being in community softens the blow. It was a great four weeks. We enriched our minds, grew to know one another better and learned about the difficult work of faith and living “wholehearted lives.”
What topics might you cover in classes using TED Talks as your base?
Allison Askins is the associate for communication and programs at St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church, Columbia, S.C.