Storytelling resources Wisdom Story

Kudos for Elisa's Work

"I am delighted to commend storyteller Elisa Pearmain to you. First Parish Universalist Church in Stoughton, Massachusetts is a lay-led Unitarian Universalist community and Elisa Pearmain initially came to our congregation during the pandemic, on Zoom, with her warm, wonderful presence. Elisa visited us five times in 2022 to enhance our theme of The Power of Story and Storytelling. In her thoughtful and beautifully delivered services, her storytelling skills enthralled our congregation. She got several of us to write and share stories and her creative ideas helped to strengthen our community. We highly recommend her to other congregations."
-- Elisa Blanchard, Adult Programs Chair, FP Stoughton, MA.

"I so appreciated your "gift" at First Parish of Sudbury this morning. Your stories (and the pearls of wisdom in between) were what I call "real usable stuff". Thank you."
-- A. K.  (Parishioner - Sudbury First Parish, Sudbury, MA.)

"Elisa Pearmain is a welcomed guest in the pulpit at UUSGU. She tells stories rich with deep moral and ethical teachings fitting for a worship service. She conveys the meaning in the stories with her words, the effective voices and expressive gestures, that invites audiences of all
ages to fully enter the worlds she creates. Recently, Elisa brought a series of stories on the theme of Forgiveness and Possibility that really energized my congregation. In the sermon talk back many people expressed wanting to examine the role of forgiveness in their families and other important relationships."

--Rev. Daniel Gregoire Unitarian Universalist Church of Grafton and Upton, MA.

“It takes a gifted person to be able to "see" into a story and lift out the deepest meanings.  Elisa is that kind of person.”
-- Rev. Jeffrey Johnson, UCC Milton, MA

"Plymouth Church invited Elisa to speak to a group of our seniors and tell spiritual stories from around the world. He stories were wise, varied, and best of all very engaging! Her delivery, and ability to "feel" the story and not simply tell it, kept all of us listening very closely. In the luncheon that followed, Elisa joined us and was very personable and approachable. The seniors recounted their favorites stories that she told, and even told some more of their own! I highly recommend using Elisa for any event, but her special knowledge of spiritual stories and understanding of faith communities makes her especially suited to church events and activities."
-- Rev. Joe Zarro, Pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church in Belmont.


Elisa PearmainWisdom Tales – Storytelling in Religious Settings

Elisa Pearmain has been telling stories in churches for over twenty-five years. Her first book Doorways to the Soul: 52 Wisdom Tales from around the World (1998) contains 52 short tales from different spiritual, religious and folk traditions designed to be read one per week with exercises to deepen our connection to the wisdom in the stories, and to foster personal and spiritual growth. Her second book Once Upon a Time: Storytelling to Teach Character and Prevent Bullying is a favorite in RE classrooms.  Her new CD Forgiveness: Telling our Stories in New Ways (2013) combines storytelling and commentary to teach about the processes and benefits of forgiveness. Elisa is a former author and consultant for the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Tapestry of Faith curriculum She leads services for families, adults and children, and offers workshops to all of those groups and RE teachers as well.

Please check out her article "Feeding the Spirit: How Wisdom Tales Become Our Teachers”.


Elisa’s “Wisdom Tales” Programs


Elisa offers storytelling programs for all ages in religious settings. This includes programs for children and families in and out of the sanctuary, and “story-sermon’s” for adults in the sanctuary. Family programs are also available for other church functions.

Adults: Story sermons are programs consisting of stories from several spiritual traditions presented on a theme with a small amount of commentary to join them together. Examples of themes Elisa presents include: Wise and Witty World Tales, Once Upon a Present Moment: Mindfulness, Forgiveness: Telling Our Stories in New Ways , Facing our Fears and Finding  Courage, Self-Compassion, Surrender,  Gratitude, Stories as Doorways to Spiritual Growth, or you suggest a them! Elisa is often asked to design the whole service, from opening words, to responsive readings to closing words. Your church can provide the theme.

Children and/or Family Audiences: Elisa tells folk tales from multiple spiritual and cultural sources on themes related to kindness, non-violent conflict resolution, cooperation, peace and justice, and earth stewardship. She can tell to large and small groups. Her story programs involve the children and often culminate in the whole group standing and telling a story together.

Holiday Programs: Elisa also offers special programs for holiday time such as winter solstice, and Christmas Eve.  At Christmas time she tells her original story of the “Shepherd Boy’s Gift”, which tells the Christmas story from the point of view of a shepherd boy who gives the gift of care for his wounded lamb to Jesus, and Mary tells him that love is the greatest gift of all. This story is often broken into three parts with carols sung by the congregation in between.



Elisa offers the following workshops for adults, Religious Educators and Ministers, children and families.

Once Upon a Present Moment

Folktales from many cultures and traditions, interspersed with short exercises for understanding and practicing mindfulness meditations and mindful living. 90-120 minutes. This workshop has been hailed as, "A lot of fun, and a great learning experience!" (Adults)

Once Upon a Calm Classroom

Age appropriate stories and exercises to learn about calming our brains and our bodies. Grades 3-8) For more info...

Religious Educators and Laity

A storytelling course for more effectively sharing stories with children and examples of drama exercises to follow the stories that deepen the children’s connection to the themes presented. We can work ith stories from your curriculum. 90-120 minutes. (Adults)

Elisa came to our church to train the RE teachers in storytelling. After the workshop my teaching improved substantially. I felt liberated to take chances on my delivery - to the benefit of my audience, and I've been having so much more fun! Our second graders never sat through Bible stories with such rapt attention. Their comprehension has improved as well as their ability to understand the stories on a more human level. The transformation has been fairly incredible.

Sandy F. Trinitarian Church, Concord, MA


Forgiveness: Telling our Stories in New Ways – a 60 minute to 5 hour workshop

Forgiveness is an integral part of the emotional, spiritual and even physical healing process, and yet it is poorly understood. It offers an opportunity to look at and relate to our stories of wounding in new ways. It calls us to see those who have hurt us with more complexity and compassion. It guides us to forgive ourselves, to let go of the role of victim, and ultimately to live and love more fully. In this experiential workshop, participants will explore through the medium of story what forgiveness is, its gifts for daily living and spiritual growth. Elisa will share several folk tales and personal stories related to the forgiveness process and will guide participants through storytelling and writing exercises to learn from and share their stories of forgiveness. No storytelling experience necessary.

“Elisa led a workshop on forgiveness for our church’s Lenten series on spiritual practices. The program was well-attended and received excellent reviews. Elisa incorporated a perfect mix of stories, wisdom and space for us to share our own stories with each other. We created deeper community by acknowledging together the complexity of this shared issue and each of us received insights and encouragement on our own paths of forgiveness. We are looking forward to bringing Elisa back for a longer program!"
--Brenda Fingold, Adult Formation Committee, St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, Lincoln, MA

Shaping and Sharing Our Stories of Grace

This is a workshop for ministers, religious educators, and adults on remembering, shaping and finding deeper spiritual meaning in our personal stories. Elisa will share a personal story and demonstrate how she found deeper spiritual meaning in the story and made it more meaningful to others. Then she will lead participants in shaping and sharing their own spiritual tales. No storytelling experience in necessary. This is a great workshop for building a stronger community. As participants hear one another’s stories deep bonds are formed. 120-180 minutes. (Adults)

"Elisa is so knowledgeable and nurturing. She really helps students
to find stories within themselves and to tell with confidence".
Stories as Grace participant

A Trunk Full of Tales

A community building workshop for families. In this workshop members of the congregation of all ages (5-105) hear Elisa tell a family story about an object of value to her family, and a lesson learned. Then Elisa guides participants to share something that has been handed down or given to them and to tell the story behind it. This can happen in large or small groups. In the process congregants get to know one another better and have a satisfying experience of storytelling and listening. 90-120 minutes. (Families)

Doorways to the Soul: Wisdom Tales for Spiritual Growth

This is a workshop or short course in which participants work with short tales from many spiritual traditions to deepen spiritual growth. (Adults)

I Wonder Tales

This is a workshop for children that promotes honoring and wondering about natural phenomenon by making and sharing stories to explain nature creatively. 60-90 minutes. (Best for grades 2-4)


Recent Performances and References

First Church Congregational Norwood, MA
Rev. Michele Bagby Allan – (781) 762-3320

Unitarian Church of Grafton and Upton, MA
Rev. Daniel Gregoire  (508) 839-2927

Unitarian Church of Needham, MA
Rev. Catie Scudera  (781) 444-0823

Unity Church of Central MA, Northborough MA
Kathleen Kerswig LUT, Spiritual Leader  - (508) 306-1268

Plymouth Congregational Church in Belmont
Rev. Joe Zarro, Pastor  - (617) 484-5257