24 December 2011

Merry Christmas

"La Navidad" - a gift to the public domain, by Antonio "Aguijarro" Guijarro Morales

22 December 2011

Advent art - initial reflections

As "stf" has commented, it is worth my reflecting upon what is behind my unwillingness to let go of control over the finished product of my Advent art (presented over the past several blog posts). But I do think that a big part of it was simply that I was trying to do too many things with that one project. I wanted to give the children something to do if they got bored or antsy during the sermon at church, but I wanted that to be more than "busy work". I wanted something beautiful for Advent. I used the project myself as a sort of meditative preparation exercise for Christmas.I wanted something that would link Junior Church with the all-age Christmas Day service. I liked the idea of a mystery that would become more and more understandable during Advent, to be revealed completely on Christmas.

And my other inspiration, besides the original stained glass window linked to yesterday, was Sarcastic Lutheran's congregationally-made Advent Icon. [She's moved her blog and I cannot track down the post right now to link to it, but it was created entirely of ad circulars - a transformation of the materialistic (and rubbish) into something holy.]

All this was too much burden for a single project to carry!!

Yet this is not to dismiss stf's comment lightly. As I move into ministry, leading and serving congregations, I will come up with liturgical suggestions which congregations will dislike, or find boring, or confusing. People will "mess up" my beautifully-designed plans. I do need to remember that worship is Process, not Product. May we all feel prepared, at the end of even the most muddled and "imperfect" corporate worship, to go forth to love and serve the Lord at home, at work, in our families and our communities.

21 December 2011

advent art, part 4

It was a rush to get the collage ready for 4th Advent. I wasn't yet finished when stf came to collect me for Junior Church, so I brought the supplies with me. Once we'd got the classroom set up with our Godly Play materials, I sat down at a work table and carried on.

photo by seethroughfaith (I cropped most of myself out of it)

To my great disappointment, I realized that I had left at home the thick black magic marker with which I had planned to outline all the elements. This would have made Mary and Joseph's sleeves clearer, for example, and would have allowed me to draw in Jacob's staff. I had also still been undecided about whether to draw in windows and doors on some of the background houses, as in the original I had based this work on. But I just had to do without all that. 

photo by seethroughfaith

I have now turned the work over to the pastor, along with one important additional element - a manger, with a little head just visible nestled within the hay, surrounded by a golden halo. This will be attached to the poster collage as part of the all-age service on Christmas Day. I can't wait to hear whether and how this worked in the service (I'll be with my mother-in-law across Christmas, not here), and to see how it looks with the manger added.

(In all the rush, there was certainly no time to go over it all with a coat of Modge Podge, as I'd hoped. The pastor may find that some of the scraps begin to lift or curl. They can just be carefully left alone, or gently stuck down again with glue or paste. I hope to finish it off in the ways I'd intended after Christmas, maybe even in time for Junior Church on New Year's Day.)

20 December 2011

advent art, part 3

By the third week in Advent, a good deal more of the picture had taken shape.

At least one child was pretty sure that this was going to be a picture of Jesus. 

(background: part 1, part 2)

19 December 2011

advent art, part 2

(continued from yesterday)

Another problem with my art idea was that I wanted the children to be surprised by the end result. This meant not being able to tell them very much about why they were doing this cutting and pasting, and why everything was supposed to be the same color. So they lost interest fairly quickly. In hindsight, this seems a fairly obvious flaw in my plan!

And the final problem was that I found I was too invested in how I wanted this project to turn out. It wasn't primarily about the process - the final product was also extremely important to me. So I was really unable to let the children work on it freely. In the end, I did most of the work on this project myself. I did have a little help from one of the children (and another adult) on Thanksgiving Day, and three other adults gave me a little help on a couple of Sundays. But the bulk of it was me.

By the second Sunday of Advent (our first Junior Church session in Advent), I was able to place this in the room:

When asked, I explained that it was Advent art. I tried to remind them of the work they'd put into it the previous month (I'm not sure any of them really made the connection), and explained that it would be finished gradually during Advent. I wondered what they thought it might be. One suggested a boat (you can see the prow of the boat there in brown). Another said it looked like it would be a castle. Another suspected that we'd eventually see a priest in the middle. 

More tomorrow...

18 December 2011

advent art, part 1

Way back when we had the children in Big Church for Fr Rupert's last service with us, I invited the children  to do some cut and paste work during the sermon. I had brought background shapes cut out of heavy card and asked them to cut out and paste scraps of similarly-colored paper onto them.

This was not an unqualified success. The biggest problem was that I'd set up so that they could choose whether to work on the floor or kneeling in front of chairs, using the chair as a desk... without having thought about the fact that every time a glue stick came down on a chair, a BANG would echo around our stone chapel.

the very beginning of this year's Advent art

More of the story of this year's Advent art will be posted tomorrow!

11 December 2011

topical response work

The children in my Godly Play classroom are aged 2-6. They almost always choose to work with the art materials during Response Time, rather than story materials, and it's extremely rare that the artwork they do is [or rather, seems to me to be] related to the day's lesson, any lesson we've done, or anything to do with their spiritual lives at all!

In fact, it was striking when two new children joined us in the autumn, children who had been to Sunday School elsewhere. For the first several weeks, the older one drew pictures of Jesus on the cross, and the younger one often copied this. It seemed likely to me that the elder child was trying to do what s/he assumed would be expected. Otherwise, though, apart from rainbows when we do Noah's ark, I don't think any of the artwork has had anything to do with our lessons.

Most of the time I manage not to be bothered by this. I know that every week these children pay attention to a lesson, break bread together, and receive personal blessings from our pastor. They are given the opportunity to thank God corporately in song and individually in naming something that they're particularly thankful for that week. And so it's enough that in the Response Time they know that they'll be trusted enough to be left alone for a while if they want to be, while knowing that we will be happy to look at their work with them if they ask us to. It's enough that they are in a worshipful environment with adults who care about them.

That's enough.

But I was thrilled today when a four-year-old showed me this winding trail of glitter glue and explained, It's the road to Bethlehem.

EDIT: Just minutes after posting this, I was led to this Washington Post article about play, which reminded me that the more we limit the children's choice about what they do, the less it's play. And after all, the name of this curriculum is Godly Play.
h/t UMC Ministry with Children

06 December 2011

it never rains but it pours

I'm a bit embarrassed to realize that in the past week or so I've pointed my readers to two Godly Play blogs that were new to me, but I've never mentioned The Patch. I had overlooked it because I hadn't realized how much more GP-oriented it has become recently. This blogger, Kas, has recently taken up a post as a lay youth worker with YP4L (Young People for Life) in the Diocese of Leicester. And Kas also recently did a Godly Play training course! So suddenly there is a fair bit in that blog about using Godly Play.

In this post, with the GREAT :) title of "Easter Kind of Way" :) , there's a beautiful picture capturing the moment when one of the young children, having heard the GP Holy Family lesson for the first time, began retelling it to one of the adult leaders.

So Kas, too, has now been added to my blogroll in the right-hand sidebar. Good on ya, Kas!

05 December 2011

Oh yes I know

One reader emailed to say that the song I mentioned in my previous post had been unknown to her until she Googled it after reading what I'd written. I'm glad she found it despite my referring to it by its second verse rather than the first! I like to think of it as an Advent song.

04 December 2011

Our Second Second Advent

Second of Advent last year was my first full Godly Play session with children. It was held in my living room, with two children in attendance:

Now, a year later, we have been meeting in a church hall, with five children regularly attending. and the pastor comes to greet us (with communion and blessings) at the end of every session.

Today we had a new member join (and we hope to welcome another next week): 

His big sister (already a very experienced member of Junior Church) was rather disappointed to learn that he wanted to work independently during the Response Time, but she rallied well, especially when one of her friends asked to work with her.

I opened the session by introducing the Holy Family figures and changing their underlay from green to purple. I wanted to teach an Advent song, so asked children if they could think of songs about getting ready for Christmas. One child suggested "The Little Drummer Boy", but the most confident responses were "You'd better watch out" and "Santa Claus is coming to town". I conceded that insofar as these are songs anticipating Christmas then we might consider them to be Advent songs. The song I taught, though, was "Jesus is Coming (O yes, I know)" from South Africa.

03 December 2011

and yet another blogger!

It's not long since I posted about Jennings' new blog, and now I've stumbled across another. The Wonder Circle (what a great title) is a blog maintained by Rebecca from South Carolina. I've only just found her blog, but a couple of things have struck me already:

She has an extensive series of pages, linked from the top of the blog, working their way through all the elements of a Godly Play session, from Preparing the Environment, Getting Ready, and Entering the Circle right through to the way they Close their Sessions. She notes that, I describe Godly Play by sharing the way our church does it. That doesn't mean that it's the best way or the prescribed way, or the only way, of course, but it's the way that suits us best. I expect all of us will see some things there that we wouldn't want to do in our own classrooms and other ideas that we'll be excited to implement for ourselves - isn't that the way blogging often works?

This post about the lesson of the Ark and the Tent she wonders whether her fourth-graders would like to turn a table on its side and cover it with blankets as a much larger-scale model of the Tabernacle. What an amazing idea!

A belated welcome to the Godly Play blogosphere, Rebeccca. Glad to have found you. You'll find some of the other bloggers I knew about in my side-bar on the right. I have found it a joy to have this circle of support in my work with children, something which is "virtual" insofar as it is long-distance, computer-mediated, and asynchronous (not necessarily instant or simultaneous), but also very real. A big thank you to all of you who blog about GP (and CGS) and to all my readers, with extra thanks to those who comment and/or email me.