13 May 2016

Prayers at Pentecost

This week leading up to Pentecost has been a week of prayer in the Church of England. Activities have ranged from novenas to 24-7 prayer rooms, from Lectio Divina to neighbourhood prayer walks. To involve my church, I scheduled a prayer activity for each weekday this week. Three of these were services at the church. But I also offered to do "themed devotions" for our two children's ministries this week.

These are not children accustomed to Godly Play; most of them are not even accustomed to attending church. Our ministry includes opening prayers and some teaching about the Christian faith, but most of the time is spent on games and other activities.

I chose to use part of the Pentecost Celebration from Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. This is something I learned about back in October 2013, and already then I was excited and intrigued about using it with others. The goal was to invite each child to a prayerful moment, one which could be understood as a prayer for renewal by the Holy Spirit (which is one of the themes of our week of prayer).

I began by super-briefly reminding children of the Christian concept of the Trinity, and reading Isaiah 11:2. I then listed the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, showing cards I had prepared. These included illustrations to help non-readers. I lit seven candles placed by the cards. I started playing a cd of Taizé chants (starting with one on the theme of the Holy Spirit), and invited each person to come forward, one at a time, and light a candle of their own from the candle of one of the gifts. This would be their prayer for more of that gift.

It wasn't entirely smooth and ideal. The boys poked each other and stage-whispered, "Fire-POWER!" One teenage girl announced that she didn't know how to pick because they were all about God and she was an atheist. The "taper" dribbled far more wax than I had predicted, and some of the tea lights were surprisingly hard to light. 

But, each person present did come forward and light a candle. While the group atmosphere was not consistently reverent, almost everyone was serious about their own turn at lighting a candle. Most of them took time to select which gift they would choose. Although I had included illustrations so that non-readers might choose meaningfully from amongst the cards, I was also aware of the advice from Catechesis training that for some children the solemn lighting of a candle would be meaningful enough without fretting over the extent to which they had understood the choice to be made. 

After doing it with the first group, I realised that it was best to have the table positioned so that those lighting candles were facing away from the rest of the children. Something that did work well was having them blow out the taper once they'd lit their own candle, and then hand the taper to someone else who would then come forward for their turn.

Once all the children had lit candles, I asked them to invite the staff to do so as well. And it was clearly a moving and meaningful activity for them, too. 

18 August 2015

on worship and play

High up on the list of things that hinder worship is the idea that there's some particular way to be good at it, that one can be more or less effective... 

(licensed photo)

Worship is simply the Christian word for the joy of existence.

(Giles Fraser, on "Thought for the Day")

31 July 2015

Wonder of the week

One gift that Godly Play gives to adults can be to reconnect them with a sense of wonder. What gives you a sense of wonder? From time to time I am freshly awed by the way bodies can heal themselves.

I had a blood test a week or so ago, and have a colorful bruise as a result. Then I walked too close past a neighbor's shrub and got two parallel scratches across my lower arm. But they are fading, and the lower one would already be very difficult to see without the first one. Soon there will be no trace of either scratch, nor of the bruise.

Sometimes I imagine what it would be like if we were like dolls or other objects that chip and get stained and cracked. Of course, I know that some things don't heal to the point that they are like new again, and we carry scars. But the fact that we heal at all is a source of wonder to me.

22 May 2015

excitement about things to come

Vandriver and I moved house this week. This is our sixth move in three years and not one we were expecting. So, although we are very happy to be here, the move has been both physically and emotionally grueling.

But here is one of the reasons I am happy to be here: we looked at the layout of our new house and the ways we used our most recent house, and decided that here we'd use one of the upstairs bedrooms as our sitting room, and the ground floor "living room" as a theological library and Godly Play room!

I am so excited by this prospect! So much so that it's the room I most want to unpack and set up. Here's where I'm up to so far. (Nothing is yet organised; I'm still just getting things out of boxes and onto shelves.)

10 April 2015


I am feeling a little sorry for myself today. Lovely pictures of this weekend's Godly Play® UK annual conference keep appearing in my Facebook feed, and I am not there. I would so much have loved to put myself forward as a potential Godly Play Advocate (for which they were doing training today)!

But for various reasons, all related to being a curate (a trainee minister), I was unable to attend.

However, I did have a nice Godly Play® encounter today and I am trying to tell myself I should focus on that (rather than dwelling on feeling sorry for myself missing the conference and Advocate training).

Today, for the first time, I made a "baptism visit". That is to say, I met with a young family who will have their 8-month-old baptised in our church. They have an older child, a girl who is in "Reception" (similar to American Kindergarden), who has already been baptised. However, as is the case with many families seeking baptism in the Church of England, they do not regularly attend our church. I decided that what I would do at this meeting was to present the Godly Play baptism lesson.

I explained to the mother (the father was at work) that this was aimed at the older daughter, but that it was also for her (the mother) and that at the end of it I would ask her about whether there was a particular hymn she'd like at the baptism. And we sat down on the living room floor.

I didn't feel there was really time to settle down, but trusted that the lesson itself would gradually settle us. It did, although it took a while. The mother interrupted near the beginning to ask, "Is this how the baptism itself is going to be?" and I explained that no, this was just to lay the groundwork for them. With the baby crawling about, I didn't leave all the symbols on all the circles, but put them down one at a time, and then once I'd used each one I removed it to the coffee table.

it never looked like this today

But by the time I got the doll out, we were still and focussed. Mum had corralled the baby into her lap when I lit the Christ candle, and the older sister had settled into the mode of watching a presentation or hearing a story.

I asked what we should name the baby and looked at them, and the girl suggested, "Rosie". She looked ever so pleased when I said (straight from the script), "Rosie. That's a good name." And I showed how I would baptise the baby, and lit tea lights for each of us, and then we changed the light and spent a long time watching the smoke (the invisible light of Christ!) rising into the air.

What have I taken away from this? And what have they? In addition to the little lesson or reminder about our Trinitarian God, I believe I gave the sister a framework from which to follow the baby's baptism service, and I think the gentle demonstration prepared both Mum and sister to expect something reverent. And it's made me realise how much I want to try to carve out the time at the font (the baptism and then an anointing with oil) as a reverent time within any baptism service. I don't feel that's something I've done as well (or as consciously) as I'd like at baptisms I've done previously.