WORDS are potent, pregnant with the power to inspire, delight, and wound. In the hands of a skilled storyteller, they invite a reader to see the world afresh. Jesus, of course, presents the very model of this. In Yours Truly, Murray Watts — one of the founding directors of Riding Lights, whose achievements include writing the screenplay for The Miracle Maker — places his own substantial storytelling gifts in service of telling the good news of Jesus afresh.
Watts’s stories delight the imagination. He engages with a range of biblical characters in a fresh way, most notably the penitent criminal crucified with Jesus. His cast of colourful characters extend far beyond the Bible, however: here are jaded celebrities, successful businessmen, and even a “wayward” spider. As a good Evangelical, Watts never loses sight of the centrality of Jesus Christ, but resists the temptation to take the most direct route. In doing so, he takes his place among storytellers of the stature of Trevor Dennis and Simon Bailey.
Yours Truly is deceptively simple. At a little more than 100 pages, it is possible to read the book in one sitting. Watts’s stories, however, invite the sensitive reader to slow down and savour each parable’s magic. Some of the best, including “The Ultimate Crash” (a story about the collapse of technological culture) haunt the imagination for days. There is wit in evidence, too. “The Christmas Letter”, for example, is an amusing take-down of the “round robin”.
Watts’s parables would work very well in sermon-slots, and stories such as “The Spider Who Believed in Himself” have that magic simplicity that most all-age talks lack. In short, Watts understands that storytelling is about imagination and participation: he invites his audience in and lets them think for themselves. Surely Jesus would approve.
Canon Rachel Mann is Rector of St Nicholas’s, Burnage, and a Visiting Fellow of Manchester Met University.
Yours Truly: Parables and stories
Church Times Bookshop £9