Presbyterians Today

NOV-DEC 2018

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"You need to go to that conference," Coombs remembers her saying. He brushed it off; she didn't back off. And so, he went. "It was love from the very start," Coombs said of his experience at the conference, which was presented by members of the Network of Biblical Storytellers. There in a classroom, Coombs, now president of the network, wit- nessed firsthand how the ancient art of sharing one's story orally could capture the imagination, help one see things differently and reconnect to familiar words in a new way. Coombs took it all in, and he took T he church lectern has been pushed aside and the chancel chairs rearranged, just hours after the good news was proclaimed from that space. Now, in a few minutes, another story will be told. As the last of the stragglers enter the sanctuary, quickly and quietly taking their seats, a man dressed in a Victorian frock coat and top hat walks onto the makeshift stage. After a brief dramatic pause, he begins with the opening words of all good stories — "once upon a time." Once upon a time, of all the good days in the year, Christmas Eve, old Scrooge sat busy in his accounting house. And with that line, the Rev. Tim Coombs is no longer the co-pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Scotia, New York. Coombs is a thespian. He is a storyteller. And he has just transported the 21st century audience to the 19th century world of Ebenezer Scrooge. For more than a decade, Coombs has been taking his one-man show of Charles Dickens' timeless classic, A Christmas Carol, on the road. Coombs takes the show to churches and other community groups, where the two-hour presentation is often accompanied by a Victorian tea for refreshments. Coombs loves telling this story, as it is one that is dear to his heart — and one he knows by heart, staying true to Dickens' words. The pastor-turned-storyteller even includes many of the author's biblical references that movies often leave out. "I'm not sure why movies do that," Coombs muses. Coombs became enchanted with the story of Scrooge in seventh grade, remembering how his English teacher would turn off the class- room lights, light a candle and begin reading to the students. "I was so engrossed in it," he said. Little did he know that someday he would be carrying on the tradition of telling stories to others. In 1995, while attending an educa- tional meeting in Albany Presbytery, a colleague approached Coombs, urging him to attend a synod-spon- sored biblical storytelling workshop that was being held at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The colleague was insistent. A pastor shares his passion for storytelling New worshiping community emerges from ancient art BY DONNA FRISCHKNECHT JACKSON EVANGELISM 16 NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2018 | Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay COURTESY OF TIM COOMBS It's not all Bible stories that the Rev. Tim Coombs tells. Every December, Coombs dusts off his top hat to tell the story of Ebenezer Scrooge in his one-man performance of A Christmas Carol.

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