03 August 2011

Godly time

One of the ideas that Godly Play has opened up for me is that we can be with God in play, and in "just being". I don't suggest that we should dispense with corporate worship, but I have been stretched by notions of wordless prayer, active prayer, and time that I cannot even call prayer but nonetheless seems to be Godly.

Last week a few of us traveled to see an architecturally famous church. A 98-year-old man leant on my arm, and the two of us walked slowly up a side aisle. He began to puff and pant, and so as we entered the chancel I urged him to sit down. We sat together and looked around a little, and then I got up to speak with somebody else. I looked back and was surprised and moved to see the man hunched over his cane, mouthing silent words. I thought, "He's praying!"

We soon left the church and meandered through the grounds before making our way to the parking area. Another able-bodied person helped the man to a bench. When the time came to leave the man had his head back and was gazing at the church tower viewed against a bright blue sky, and at birds circling overhead. I could not bring myself to interrupt him. 

Photo by john shortland, used by permission

This is a man who is essentially house-bound, as neither he nor his wife drive any longer. He has so little short-term memory that he cannot really hold a conversation, enjoy reading, or even remember to remove his shoes when he goes to bed. His wife told me that he can no longer cope with church services, even on the rare occasions when younger relatives visit and offer to take them.

Yet there outside the church I had a powerful sense that he was engaged in Godly work: admiring the birds' flight and enjoying the sun. He was engaged. It called to mind the Montessori quote I posted recently - the child who concentrates is immensely happy. And again, I thought of Godly Play - we have all the time we need. Surely there was no rush to take him to the car. The others could wait another few minutes.

Photo by Adam Jones (cropped by Storyteller and used by permission) adamjones.freeservers.com

[You might like to read another post about all the time we need.]

[The photos I've used here show a different church and a different old man - they are publicly available photographs and I am grateful to the photographers for sharing them.]

[In May 2012 I edited this post, deleting one phrase: he is not demented. At the time of posting, I believed dementia to refer only to hallucinations and severe errors in reasoning. I have since learned that it is used much more broadly for the loss of a range of brain functions, including memory.]

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