26 May 2011

taking care with materials

Last Sunday I told the parable of the Great Pearl. At the end, I asked (this was my first question), I wonder whether the merchant is happy now? All the children leaned forward to look at the face of the picture of the merchant before answering.

Many Godly Play materials are deliberately made without facial expressions. This leaves the expression and emotion to the viewer's imagination. Do you picture Mary as serene or exhausted? Do you picture Joseph as proud or worried? Abraham's face surely looked different when he laughed at God's promise of a son than it did when he invited the three strangers to dinner.

But the Parable materials are different, and usually do show facial expressions. This wondering session warned me that we should be careful with them. We might search for ways to remind children gently that this is just one artist's impression, and that their own ideas are just as valid.

My own parable materials are colored, laminated, cut-out photocopies from Young Children and Worship. I looked up the originals in my book... and found that I'd used the characters the "wrong" way around. The one which Stewart and Berryman label as "Merchant" I used on Sunday as the Seller, and vice versa. I wouldn't have thought it matters much, except that I now see that the one who is supposed to be the Merchant (the one who sells everything to obtain the pearl) has a tiny smile on his face, while the Seller has a neutral expression.

With the way things worked out, I'm glad I used them the other way around. The children looked at a picture of a man with a neutral expression, and then had to decide for themselves whether he was happy or not.

(They all decided that he was.)


  1. :)

    and I expect the merchant did look smug too :)

    what got to me (we talked about this afterwards) is how dramatic it is that the man sells the extra things in his house, then his carpet, then his bed ... and even his WHOLE HOUSE ...

    the little junior churcher who exclaimed 'nooooo!' sums it all up ...

    and you know what, the parable opened up in a really really new way to me through that and the way the story was 'dramatised'

    thank you

  2. Good thoughts. Children can so easily be "programmed" into accepting one particular intepretation. We do really have to be careful to give them room to come to their own conclusions and also to give the Holy Spirit room to teach them. i still struggle with how much I say being "too much".


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