The evolution of the Network of Biblical Storytellers grew from the studies of Walter Wink in the early 1970’s. Wink had become increasingly dissatisfied with the results of classical biblical studies and its failure to bear fruit for contemporary Christian faith.
Tom Boomershine, who was to become the founder of NBS, was a student of Wink. In 1974 when Tom completed his studies that focused on the telling/hearing of the gospel as oral/aural event, there was some question as to whether a Ph.D. would be granted to him because of his project’s methodological innovativeness. Tom, too, had rejected the contemporary trend in biblical studies of appropriating the principles of literary criticism to the field because he believed that this approach ignored the crucial role of oral culture in the development of the texts. Furthermore, this approach in the academy was undertaken from scholarly assumption that had officially abandoned and rejected the faith perspective as irrelevant to its work.
Word of Tom’s work spread and a small circle began meeting together to learn and tell the stories, experiencing the depth of the stories and building a community around the spiritual discipline of learning and telling. Tom Boomershine and Adam Bartholomew made it formal in the spring of 1977 as the “charter members” committed to organizing a group of storytellers at New York Theological Seminary.
In those early years NBS was more of a community than an organization or institution. In some ways this is still true, as participants in the Network have been drawn into deep, abiding relationships that draw their strength from the shared experience of the biblical stories. A decade after it all began, NBS sponsored its very first public gathering. It was called a “Festival of Storytelling” and was held at the University of New England at Biddeford Pool, Maine with the theme, “Telling the Stories of Peace.” More than 200 people came from all over the country to that first public event. Now called The Festival Gathering, this annual conference about biblical storytelling has celebrated its 20th anniversary and continues to attract storytellers from all over the world every August.
The International outreach of NBS began in 1988 as members of NBS made a trip behind the Iron Curtain to the Soviet Union to tell and hear the stories of peace! Since that time NBS representatives have traveled to several overseas countries to spread the word about biblical storytelling. In addition, guilds have formed in other countries as storytellers have made their way to the United States for the Festival Gathering and returned home to start biblical storyteller communities in their homelands. In 2010, Sierra Leone native Juliana Rowe joined the board of NBS and became its international outreach coordinator. Juliana has already led one trip into the Gambia and will make a return trip with a volunteer team in 2011.
The Network is now headquartered at the Indiana Interchurch Center in Indianapolis, Indiana and boasts an international membership of gifted biblical storytellers.