24 February 2015

recreating ("playing") church at home

I'm grateful to Carolyn Pritchard for sharing this video on Facebook, and wanted to share it with my blog readers, too. It has already been blogged about at Pastoral Meanderings, who calls it a testament to what children see, hear, and learn, and Ex occidente ad orientem, who gives "Kudos" to their mother who probably took them to the vigils and the Divine Liturgy. 

The video shows two Orthodox Christian children repeating what they have seen at church: crossing themselves, anointing each other, carrying a Gospel book, swinging a thurible (incense), chanting Alleluia, and kissing the hands of the priest. Their mother, while filming, sings.


21 February 2015

not just cute, but members of the church


Today Vandriver and I were in Denmark for a very special service- the licensing and institution of the new Anglican chaplain at St Alban's Church, Copenhagen. [This chaplaincy is part of the Church of England's Diocese in Europe.]

Within the service was a "Rededication of the Ministry of the People of God". The archdeacon (leading the service, representing the bishop) invited representative members of the congregation to come forward and, one by one, offer their new priest an object symbolizing one aspect of ministry and ask him to take that on. 

For example, the organist presented the priest with a hymnal and said, Be among us as a priest using the power of music to deepen our understanding of God's Word. And then the whole congregation affirmed, Together, by God's grace, we will worship the Lird in the beauty of Holiness. 

I was pleased to see that one symbol was to be of "ministry with young people", and that the congregation was to affirm, Together, by God's grace, we will value the vision of our young people and nurture the faith of our children. I was also pleased that the person presenting this symbol and speaking the invitation to the new priest was indeed a child. And I almost jumped with glee when I saw that the "symbol" chosen was a Godly Play object! 


[The symbolic objects: water (representing baptism), oil (for healing), a Bible, a scroll containing the text of the Porvoo Agreement (an ecumenical agreement between, amongst others, the Church of Denmark and the Church of England), a stole, the City of Bethlehem (Godly Play / children's work), a hymnal, a chalice and paten (for Holy Communion), and a booklet about this church in its local context.]

I later reflected on the fact that the child was treated no differently than the organist or any other of the congregational representatives. He was not treated as cute or amusing, not merely tolerated or indulged, but he was acknowledged as someone of equal worth and accorded the same respect and responsibility (a responsibility within his range of competence) as others. 

And you know what? He wasn't the only young person being taken seriously at that church. Not by a long shot. Because the 'server', who poured water for the priest to wash his hands with, who accepted the offerings brought to the front of the church and then presented them to the priest, who held the Gospel book as it was read from - the server was a fourteen-year-old. 

Again, though, this was not highlighted in any way. She was treated (and acted) just like servers I've known in other churches, servers aged 28 or 55 or 74. I thought of 1 Timothy 4:12- Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers.

I spoke with her briefly after the service (which is how I learned her age). She said she'd been doing this for some years already. It certainly had been clear during the service that she was very used to these tasks, acting with a quiet confidence, unobtrusively anticipating where she needed to be and when. She then said to me, I'm not just the server; I'm the assistant sacristan (!).


And yes, as we spoke she was gathering the chalices and ciborium and other "silverware" into a basket to carry back from the chancel to the sacristy for cleaning and putting away. I showed her this photo and asked if I could post it on the internet. Of course! she said, and explained, I do this for God

What a joy to see her serving in this way, with her gifts recognised and put to use, affirming her worth within the Church.

12 February 2015

decorating the paschal candle by hand

Last year, I heard one priest from the Diocese in Europe comment that his church budget would not stretch to a paschal candle with the year on it, and that even the purchase of the paschal candle he did have was something he'd had to defend.

store display of paschal candles
(licensed photo by Gagorski, cropped by Storyteller)

Just a few days later, I came across a lovely blog post, also from the Diocese in Europe, and I thought, Here is a possible solution to those financial concerns. Bishop David Hamid wrote that in St Margaret's Anglican Episcopal Church in Budapest, they have a tradition of buying a large, plain candle and having the children decorate it.

Eurobishop: Children of St Margaret's Budapest prepare the paschal candle: Krisztus feltámadt! ... These photos show them hard at work in Sunday School on Palm Sunday and presenting the finished product to the congregation.

Decorating actual candles, or doing paper-crafts of gluing bits of paper to reflect the way a paschal candle is decorated - this kind of work is often found in a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium. Leslie Swaim-Fox is one of a number of bloggers who have posted about this:

Thoughts from the Sheepfold: The Paschal Candle: The paschal candle is a symbol of the Risen Christ which speaks very powerfully to children. ... I love the words that we say with the children while they press the wax pieces onto the candle.

Leslie explains in the comments to another post that she uses thin sheets of colored wax, cutting out the shapes they will need with a craft knife. Jessica, at the Shower of Roses blog, made a more elaborate candle by using not only colored wax but also acrylic gems and gold metallic cord. Jessica has also listed several other ways of decorating a plain candle here (scroll down to "Easter Paschal Candle"). If you're not up to doing this craft but would like a paschal candle for the home, you can simply print out a design and wrap it around a candle (Jennifer at Family in Feast and Feria offers a free printable every year).

Depending on the age of the children who do this, your candle may not be as "perfect" as a store-bought one, but you will have saved money AND involved the children in a useful and meaningful way in the liturgical life of your church.

(public domain photo by Rabanus Flavus, cropped by Storyteller)

22 June 2014

Last Sunday

Last Sunday was our Last Sunday in Finland. Vandriver and I were given a lovely send-off. They robed us in albs before four priests laid hands over us and prayed for us. Then our friends from the choir sang a special song for us. A final, really special moment for me was when our godson's parents suggested to him that he kneel at the communion rail not with them, as usual, but with us. He came and knelt next to me and I was able to show him my stoles that had been set on the altar during the Eucharistic prayer as a way of consecrating them to their use in my upcoming ministry.

06 May 2014

Godly Play ®

Did you know that the phrase, Godly Play, is a registered trademark?

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to train as a facilitator in a very different sort of activity. I'm not going to say what, because I don't want to distract you. Maybe I'll write a blog post about it in the future. The point right now is that part of my training for this other activity included a very serious talk about the fact that its name was trademarked.

Our trainer went so far as to encourage us to pronounce its name in our heads as ending with the letter R, to remind us that every time we wrote it we should add the ®. We were told that only upon completion of the training would we be allowed to use the name in the titles of our activities. Anyone who hadn't done the training had to say that they were working in the style of this activity (and even then, to add the ®).

(image source)


You know, I don't recall the topic of trademark coming up in my Godly Play® training. But now, having had the lecture, I think perhaps it should have. Partly, it's about giving credit to Jerome W. Berryman (who wrote the Godly Play® scripts and adapted this method of Christian education from the work of Maria Montessori, E.M. Standing, and Sofia Cavelletti along with Gianna Gobbi). But it's also about avoiding misunderstanding, about protecting this work from poor imitations.

I've seen blogs and websites whose authors seem to think that Godly Play® merely means using cute toys to act out Bible stories. I've run across people who assume that it must refer to any playful activity in church. I'll even admit that I've cringed at some practices I've seen by people who are at least using Jerome W. Berryman's scripts, but don't seem to understand the principles behind them. Of course it's a balance. I don't want to scare you off from giving Godly Play a try! But do please seek out a taster day, a training course, Berryman's books, and/or the official Godly Play® You-tube channel before you use the trademarked name.

I hereby announce that I've gone through my blog this week and revised several sections, adding the ® symbol.

04 May 2014

from sheep to shepherd

In some church calendars today is Good Shepherd Sunday. Our pastor's sermon included a section about how the word pastor is from the Latin word for "shepherd". And it reminded me of a Godly Play moment that I experienced earlier this Spring.

I was in the circle, listening to someone else tell the stories of the lesson, Knowing Jesus in a New Way. There are a lot of parallels between this lesson and The Faces of Easter. Both are a series of episodes which can be presented week by week or all at once. Neither set of materials includes figures to be moved around, but rather a series of pictures placed on an underlay which is unrolled further with each episode. Both end not with verbal wondering, but with an invitation to find something in the room to bring and place alongside the story materials, "to help us tell more". 



The stories in Knowing Jesus in a New Way are the resurrection appearances of Jesus. One episode of the lesson is the last story from Matthew's Gospel, where Jesus gives the eleven disciples the Great Commission. The Godly Play script ends like this.

As they walked back south to Jerusalem, they knew they had been followers, now they were to be leaders. They had been sheep, now they were to be shepherds. 

Jerome W. Berryman, The Complete Guide to Godly Play, Vol 8, p. 114

As I listened, it struck me quite forcibly that the same is true of me. I have been formally training for ministry for almost three years. At the end of June, Lord willing, I will be ordained as a deacon in the Church of England. I will resign from my present job (I gave notice already at the end of December), and Vandriver and I will move to England where I'll take up the post of "assistant curate" - a three-year, on-the-job, ministerial training post. The expectation is that I'll be ordained as a priest in 2015. 

Our storyteller told all seven episodes, so we had to choose not only whether to get something to bring into the circle, and what that would be, but also which picture we wanted to expand upon. For me that day, the decisions were easy. I brought the priest from the World Communion materials, and carefully placed it next to the disciples.