21 September 2011

risk assessment (lighthearted)

Despite today's atmosphere of risk management as imperative...

(US Navy photo, public domain)
... the danger of lice had not occurred to me.

(No, I don't think I've caught them. But one Mom kindly warned people that she'd discovered that her child had them.)

14 September 2011

What do you mean, "*in* the story"?

In the Wondering Time after Sacred Stories, storytellers are urged to introduce four things to ponder. These are always the same. The first is I wonder which part of this story you liked the best. Just about everyone seems to like that. It gets the members of the circle thinking back over the story, and with that question most will feel comfortable sharing something out loud (... although nobody is ever made to feel that they must speak out loud.)

The third topic is I wonder where you are in this story. It can also be asked in a different way: I wonder which part of this story is about you. But this third topic is a tricky one. Adults may over-think it. Children may be baffled by it. Yet sometimes members of the circle share very deep and personal things about themselves at this point:

I am under the flood-waters.

I am the donkey, getting tired of carrying people.

I have come back from the desert to the river where there is refreshing water.

(my own materials)
It's also interesting when this question is taken literally. Last Sunday I told the story of the Great Flood. When I asked, I wonder where you are in this story, a child answered, I'm not there! I can't remember the exact words that followed, but the child gestured and observed that there were no figures of children in the story - just two adults and a bunch of animals. It's an interesting point. We think of this as a good story for children, and yet there are no children featured in the story.

[After a pause, I did point out that the Bible story says that after the ark landed, Noah's sons, who were grown up, and their wives, had babies to help "fill the world with life again".]

Frances, at "On the Chancel Steps", explored this idea of being in the story in her children's sermon for September 11th this year:
I wonder where you are in this story: I love stories! I love to read myself into the world of Winnie-the-Pooh, or mysteries, or kings and queens, or the Bible. But not all stories are in books. Each of us has a story.
Her closing prayer begins, Dear Lord, Thank You for stories. I might pray this prayer myself the next time I feast with our children!

12 September 2011

a group bulletin board?

Dear Godly Play folk, Good Shepherd catechists, and others working with children in church,

Would you be interested in creating a bulletin board together of photographs of Godly Play & CGS materials? I've recently discovered Pinterest - an easy way to save interesting photographs that you run across when browsing. You can also use it to share photographs you have taken yourself. The resulting collections (yours and others') can be a great source of inspiration!

Follow Me on Pinterest

If there were any interest, I'd certainly be up for opening up a couple of my "boards" for contributions from others, or even creating a few new ones explicitly to be group boards. I don't think that you need an invitation anymore to join Pinterest, but I'm happy to try to send one if anybody does need one.

Have a look and see what you think.

UPDATE: (13 Sept)
I've opened up several of my boards to be group boards, but each contributor needs to be added by me individually. It seems like I can't add you unless you have not only joined Pinterest, but "pinned" at least one picture. Probably all you'd need to do is "re-pin" one of my pictures to your own board? But so far I haven't been able to add anyone who doesn't have any pins yet.

11 September 2011

off-topic: 9/11

US Navy photo (public domain)
Today our grown-up congregation is observing "Awareness Sunday", a joint initiative of many churches in the English-speaking countries, to remember the victims of violence, the conflicts that underlie it, and to pray for peace and reconciliation.

And so today I'd like to recommend Gordon MacDonald's "Reflections from Ground Zero", a 5-day diary written while he was working as a chaplain at Ground Zero, a week after the terror attacks (September 18-22, 2001). I first read them as forwarded e-mails soon after they were written. They are thoughtful musings on the work of a chaplain, the task of ministering in crisis situations. (If you're not up for reading the whole thing - it's pretty long! - you can find an abridged version here.)
However, I was distressed to see that even the "complete" version has been edited. The following paragraphs have been left out entirely (compare what you find at the bottom of this page to the "Day One" version linked above):
The Salvation Army is the only group that introduces you as a couple. It's never "we're glad to have Gordon MacDonald with us this morning...and Gordon is pastor...., etc." They always say, "We're glad to have Gordon and Gail MacDonald with us; they are pastors of..." The Army, from the very beginning, has respected the notion of women in ministry and leadership and the genius of couples working together as teams on a partnership basis.
So, literally within minutes, I decided that this was not a moment for me to preach but that Gail should join me in dialoguing the thoughts on Elijah's wilderness experience that I'd prepared. I whispered to her that I would "preach" the sermon to her and she should respond with ideas, insights and questions of her own. The result was a presentation that was twice what I could have done alone. She was just terrific. And to think that this was a woman who, twenty-five years ago, would have been terrified of getting up to do a spontaneous talk.
We started by reminding people of the familiar instruction given by flight attendants:"If you have a child with you, put your airbag on first and then do what has to be done to the child." That seemed a useful way to remind these dear folks of the importance of tending after the soul and the body as they help others.
It's particularly distressing to me as a woman training for ministry to find that these words about women in ministry and leadership had been omitted. I haven't yet re-read through the whole journal, so I don't know what else is missing, but I remember how impressed I was, upon my first reading in 2001, by the candor of MacDonald's musings on the strengths and weaknesses of different church traditions - comparing, for example, his own ministry with that of a Roman Catholic nearby. As well, of course, as his observations about the Salvation Army, who were his hosts and indeed his passport into this zone.

Let me close not with distress over omissions, but on the powerful and practical witness of the Salvation Army, with the words of another preacher who visited Ground Zero with them, Philip Yancey:
The Salvation Army has learned to meet needs at the most basic human level. They’ll certainly talk with you and pray with you if you want, and the Salvationists in the shiny red “Chaplain” jackets were in high demand. Mainly, though, they were there to wash out eyes stinging from smoke, and provide Blistex for parched lips, and foot inserts for boots walking across hot metal. They operated hydration stations, and snack canteens. They offered a place to rest, and freshly cooked chicken courtesy of Tyson’s. The day I arrived, they distributed 1500 phone cards for the workers to use in calling home. Every day they served 7500 meals. They offered an oasis of compassion in a wilderness of rubble.

(kind permission for use of this photo granted by the photographer, urban)

02 September 2011

eye contact

photo by Heptagon, used by permission

Something that really sets Godly Play apart from other kinds of storytelling is the lack of eye contact between the teller and listeners. It seems to be one of the most disturbing features of Godly Play. It's certainly one that I have often heard people complain about. And I too find it frustrating sometimes not to be able to "see" how children are reacting to the story. But if I've understood right - that's precisely the point: It's not about where the storyteller's focus isn't, but about where it is.

The storyteller is completely engrossed in the story. And this deep involvement draws the listeners' attention to the same place. There's a lovely photograph of Jerome Berryman telling a parable story to a child. It's copyrighted and so I won't include it here, but please follow this link to the picture.

I don't think anyone could look at that photograph and say, "How weird that Jerome isn't looking at the boy!" It's clear that Jerome and the boy are looking together at a shared story. It looks perfectly natural and right.

If you have time you might click through the complete sequence of five photographs of that telling (at the National Godly Play Conference in Australia, July, 2011). There is one photo illustrating the eye contact that does occur before the parable begins, Even if you don't know what a parable is, the parable is already yours.

And then, I wonder how many sheep there really are? What I love about this photo is how curious Jerome looks. He has handed over control to the boy, and has no idea what answer the boy will come up with.

The third photo we've seen already: When there are places of danger I show them how to go through.

Four: I wonder if you ever had to go through a place of danger?

And finally, a picture of real intimacy and trust. I wonder what caption you would give to this photo.