History

The first story guild was established in 1998 at Grandview Calvary Baptist Church in East Vancouver where Tama was both a pastor and religious educator. Interested in finding alternatives to cut-and-paste Sunday School curriculum, Tama collaborated with her husband, Loren Balisky and friend, Mary Dickau to imagine an immersive, physical theatre experience for kids to engage with Bible stories. For the next 18 years Tama piloted the innovative Eastside Story Guild as it grew from half-a dozen mixed-aged kids to an intergenerational community of 50+ participants. Curtis Mathewson was the first music director and developed dozens of musical scores to accompany the story telling events. And in 2014, Larisse Campbell joined as ESG’s first Artistic Director. Since 2017 the Eastside Story Guild has continued under the direction of Jeqn Sneller.

In 2010, with the help of program director Adriana Zepeda, a new story guild site was launched in the Cuchilla del Tesoro neighbourhood of Mexico City. Over four seasons Contando Historias told the biblical stories of King David, Cain and Abel, Creation, and the Resurrection of Jesus.

In 2012, Tama and Curtis travelled to Kenya to attempt a joint-storytelling project between Bantu Christians and Somali Muslims that told the shared story of Hagar and Ishmael. Political unrest in the area made in unsafe to continue the Tana River Story Guild site beyond its first year.

The Assisi Story Guild, started in 2015, was the first Catholic site directed by Anne-Marie Hughes out of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in East Vancouver. Storytelling seasons included Noah’s Ark, Abraham and Sarah and the first historical (rather than biblical) story of St. Francis.  

In 2018 when she started as the Minister of Children, Youth and Families with Canadian Memorial United Church, Tama launched the Burrard St. Story Guild. In 2019 Larisse Campbell (Theatre Arts) and Ricardo Pequenino (Music) joined her team and they began telling the stories based on Tama’s original novel, Isho and the First Light.