22 November 2012

experience it for yourself

Here's an invitation I came across recently:

This week we will be experiencing something called Godly Play. I can't really explain it to you, other than it involves a parable. The only way you'll know what I mean is if you come and experience it for yourself.  

Some friends and I offered a Godly Play session as evening worship during our summer school last August. I was amazed at how many students came up to us afterwards saying things like,
I liked it so much more than I thought I would.
or I hadn't expected it to be like that.
or Now I understand! 

So many people "know" that they don't like trendy worship and so "know" that they won't like Godly Play.* Or they "know" that it's only for children,* and only for Episcopalians.* Maybe they "know" that Godly Play is about making children sit down and shut up.* Or that discipline is "outsourced" to the door person.* Or that Godly Play storytellers don't make eye contact with children: Preposterous!*

Whatever your preconceptions about Godly Play, may I invite you to seek out a taster course and experience it for yourself? If you've had one bad experience with Godly Play, might I beg you to give it a second chance? It's not the only curriculum out there and it's not the only approach that works. But there's a quiet beauty in the way it allows you to "play" in the presence of (and even with) God. I'd love for you to experience that.

One man from summer school said, If you'd told me I would happily sit during worship and play with modelling wax... I'd have said you were mad. 

  • Most adults experience Godly Play as gently thought-provoking. Nobody is ever asked to do anything they don't want to do, not even answer questions.
  • Godly Play has been used with people of many ages. The invitation quoted above was for teenagers.
  • Godly Play is used within many Christian denominations and by people outside traditional denominations as well. It is Biblical and liturgical. Storytellers are encouraged to adapt the liturgical lessons to fit the practices of their own churches (for example, when and how people are baptised).
  • In Godly Play, children are given a lot of freedom of choice... within clear constraints and boundaries. GP follows some of the educational principles of Maria Montessori, as well as Sofia Cavalletti's use of these principles in the spiritual education of children. 
  • There is a division of labour in Godly Play, but it's about achieving the smoothest possible supervision of the classroom. The storyteller and door person work together as a team.
  • Here's a post I wrote about eye contact

16 November 2012

visualizing the Circle of the Church Year

For a while I was changing the image at the bottom of my blog screen according to the liturgical seasons, inspired by Emily at Watkins Every Flavor Beans. This year I found it easier just to stick with one image of a circular calendar by My Faith My Life. So I appreciate that Browniesmoke (at What Can We Leave Out) has linked to the new coming year's calendar, now available at My Faith My Life. (Lo hay también en español.)

© 2012 Jenifer Gamber.
Permisson granted to
reproduce for church use.
I echo Browniesmoke's advice that even if some in your family (such as children doing Godly Play or Catechesis of the Good Shepherd) already understand liturgical colors, this calendar can help others (such as grown-ups) grasp it. It's also interesting for older children in that it is more detailed than some GP classroom presentations will be, since it has a square for every day, not just for every week.

Bear in mind if you're outside the United States that it's been created for the Episcopal Church so may not entirely match your own church's practices.

Thanks, Jenifer, for sharing this resource!

14 November 2012

an overdue hello

Our little congregation in Finland isn't doing Godly Play this year, because I'm too busy with my theological studies and even more because I'm not even there right now. My husband and I are spending a year in England. Although I told myself this might mean I could write up a bunch of half-baked ideas which had never matured into proper posts, so far I haven't posted anything on this blog since summer school! Not having the input and prompting of weekly (or near weekly) sessions has meant it was easy to ignore the blog.

But Sheila's recent post on her children's first visit to a Godly Play classroom provoked me to dust off my Blogger password and add an appreciative comment. And so I thought I ought to post here as well and explain why posts here have dried up. As I have said, I do hope to carry on... but it's unlikely to be at all frequent for a while yet.

In the meantime, to make up for a dearth of Easterkind material lately, here's a bunch of links and a puzzle. What tenuous connection could there be between Godly Play and Malaysian football? Read on!

photo by Kamal Sellehuddin, of 
Malaysian footballer Mohd Aidil Zafuan (on left)
  • I've found another new(ish) blog on children's spirituality, Learning Up by Fiona. One of the posts I enjoyed most from her was a story about how a group of 8-10-year-olds gave her a completely new perspective on the story of Jesus's triumphal entry into Jerusalem. (Three cheers for Wondering!)
  • David Pritchard has recently returned from Kuala Lumpur, where he presented the lesson, "Exile and Return". (photo) He reports that the Dignity for Children Foundation (an educational charity in Kuala Lumpur) has created Godly Play -style stories and materials for use with the Muslim children at their schools. (photo)
  • Anyone working with children might also be interested to read Dignity's vision / mission statement, which includes graphic representations of the cycle of poverty. It's also moving to note that their work is not just (Montessori) education and teacher training, but also a football & netball tournament
  • And here is an account of a sermon David gave during that trip, on 2 Kings 5, with the theme "Small is Beautiful".
  • Finally, I was pleased to see that even though I'm "taking a break from Godly Play", my blog was mentioned and linked from the Godly Play UK newsletter back in August. Thank you!