29 April 2012

Who's left holding the baby?

It was about a year ago that Sheila commented to say she enjoyed hearing about local church customs which "outsiders" might not know about or even necessarily notice - like the significance in Finland of the number of candles on the altar.

Today, seeing Emily's beautiful photograph of her son being baptized in the Cathedral of St. Andrew, reminded me of another Finnish practice. Here it is not the priest, nor a parent, but one of the godparents who holds the baby.

Anglican and Lutheran priests alike accept this practice here. I've mentioned some features which distinguish our Lutheran priests' baptismal practices from the Anglican ones in another post.

The photograph below was taken the first time any of the children chose to work with our baptism materials, only a few weeks ago. An older girl chose to work with them alone first, but she finished before our Response Time was over and so this other girl was also able to use them. I didn't intend the photo to be quite so blurry, but it does a good job of obscuring her face!

prayer to the Faithful Shepherd

Today's Common Worship collect:

Risen Christ, 
faithful shepherd of your Father's sheep: 
teach us to hear your voice and to follow your command, 
that all your people may be gathered into one flock, 
to the glory of God the Father. 

(working with the "Good Shepherd and World Communion" Godly Play materials)

26 April 2012

Eastertide guest post: 'Jesus the King' materials

The Eastertide guest post festival continues. This week I've written the guest post, for Sheila's Explore and Express blog, although I "cheated" a little in that I didn't write about an Eastertide subject, but Jesus' pre-crucifixion Triumphal Entry. It fits into what I think of as my "making do" series, about materials.

I've met many people who think that Godly Play is all about expensive wooden figures. It's not true. Godly Play is about treating children with dignity and creating holy space. I own a few Godly Play materials that were made by official sourcers, but others that were cobbled together from flea market finds. Some I do plan to replace eventually with something more beautiful. But some of my quirky materials I would never want to replace! My Jesus the King materials illustrate this well, I think. ...Read the rest by clicking here.

18 April 2012

Eastertide guest post - Stations of the Resurrection

Sheila was one of my first blogger friends. We both live "abroad" and use Godly Play with children in church. She lives and works in Berlin, and blogs about Godly Play, art education, and encouraging kids to enjoy nature. The Celebrating Lent link party that we co-hosted this winter was largely her idea, and together we've decided to celebrate Eastertide with a series of guest posts. 

Her guest post here begins with a reference to the Stations of the Cross. For those who might not know, this is a way of prayerfully remembering the events of Good Friday. There are 14 stations, including "Jesus is condemned to death", "Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry the cross", and "Jesus is nailed to the cross". The stations are often depicted visually and separated from one another in space - so you pray with your body as well as your mind as you move from one station to the next, and no reading is required. Wikipedia lists two variants of the stations, one more traditional and one more closely tied to Scripture. An excellent introduction to the traditional one is this website for children, but I also love reading about creative approaches like praying on the Chicago "L".  

You may be familiar with the Stations of the Cross, but did you know that there are Stations of the Resurrection as well? 

After several years of doing the Stations of the Cross with my children and finding them so meaningful, I thought it odd not to spend just as much time focusing on the Resurrection. I was looking for something similar for Eastertide when I found out about this awesome tool through Lacy at Catholic Icing. (If you are not familiar with Lacy's blog, it is full of wonderful ideas!) 

The Stations of the Resurrection cover all of the stories found in the four Gospels and beginning of Acts that happened after Jesus was resurrected and began appearing to different people. If you click here, you can find several versions of the Stations that Lacy has provided links for. My favorite is the downloadable Montessori-type cards found in her post. 

As you can imagine, I immediately printed out the Montessori cards (despite the fact that my printer was running out of ink!) and began to think about how to use them. So far, I have used them in these ways:

1) As a basis for good old-fashioned storytelling! (After all, we don't always have our Godly Play stuff right on hand, do we?) While on vacation in Texas last week, I sat with both children in a hammock looking up at the stars and began to tell them the story of Jesus appearing unexpected to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Both kids were mesmerized, and my son wanted to hear the story of Jesus' encounter with Thomas afterwards. Since then, I have been intentionally telling one of the Stations as a bedtime story and encouraging the kids to respond in prayer afterwards. 

2) As a game! My son loved matching the cards to the pictures and guessing the sequence. And since these cards have Roman numerals, it was also a great way for him to practice recognizing them.

3) A place to "hang out" or "revisit". In the Stations of the Cross for Children, the author explains a station as "a place to wait or one that you can come back to". I reminded my son of this and asked him, "Which Station would you like to hang out at tonight?" He wanted to go back to the first Station where Jesus is resurrected, so I told him that story all over again. Sometimes we think that children get bored easily and that they need more variety than they actually want. Many times they will simply want to hear the same story over and over again. The Stations of the Resurrection allow kids to "hang out" at the places they want to revisit and process, even if we adults may not understand exactly why.: )

13 April 2012

guest post - Godly Play training 3

My guest this week is Matthew, a Children and Families worker from Derbyshire who is writing about his Godly Play training course. I’ll briefly summarize some highlights of what he’s already said, but here also are links to his part 1 and part 2.

Matthew was introduced to Godly Play when he saw a Sacred Story told within a child’s celebration service. That inspired him to organise a taster session for his Methodist Circuit, which in turn led to him signing up for the next available training course. The Godly Play training courses are three days long. Matthew wrote about being particularly challenged on Day 1 by the Door Person’s question, “Are you ready?” On Day 2 and right into Day 3 he was grappling with the differences between story “genres” in Godly Play. Being used to immersing himself in a Sacred Story and then Wondering afterwards, he was disconcerted to find that Parables have Wondering both at their beginnings and at their ends.

Here’s his Part 3:

By now I had more questions popping off in my head, Why are only certain stories covered? Why are they categorised into Sacred stories, Parables and Liturgical messages? Would I be able to write my own material one day? I learned in Day 3 that whilst these were valid questions, they were ones that were not necessary to explore at this point in my experience of Godly Play. It was clear to me that Godly Play had been thoroughly and thoughtfully prepared and put together.

World Communion (photo from Storyteller's training course)
A brief note on my first experience of storytelling … so far! As it was with Days 1 and 2, we spent the afternoons trying out the stories for ourselves. I chose to do a Liturgical message and it was the Good Shepherd and World Communion. Now I love Liturgy and I love Communion and what it represents, further I love the message of the Good Shepherd leading his people to Good Pasture, so it was no problem to get into the story. I was glad of the experience, however I need more opportunities to learn the scripts and get better at learning the actions that go along with them. In the morning I remembered the actions exactly as they were, but when it was time to present the words and actions in the environment I got rather nervous. I am sure it will get better with experience.

Godly Play going forwards

There are a few ideas the folk in the circuit and I have to see Godly Play as part of the Children’s work. They include
  • having a Godly Play session monthly instead of Sunday school, 
  • building up the stories to have as a mobile capacity for Godly Play, 
  • perhaps the biggest of my dreams is to see a full Godly Play room in the circuit. 
I believe nothing is impossible with God, but prayer will be needed for full appreciation of the theology and values behind Godly Play in order for it to be wholeheartedly adopted. I have also reflected on using the principles, values etc. of Godly Play in some of the other areas of my practice. 

For example I have adopted the attitude of self-reflection when leading Collective Worship, and in two of the after-school clubs we are working on the Welcoming aspect to the Children, but also incorporating their parents around times of dropping off and picking up. One thing is clear for me is that I have more and more questions that will only be answered by continuing this spiritual journey with Godly Play. I intend on joining a network, where those exploring Godly play get together and experience a story and share our journeys with Godly Play.

Matthew Loader
Exploring the Sacred Story shelves
(photo from Storyteller's training course)
Children and Families Worker
Peak Methodist Circuit
Tel: 07940849819
blog: Reflections of a Practitioner

Matthew, thanks very much! This has sparked memories of my own training experience, when everything was so new - both exciting and confusing. I hope it may also encourage others to attend taster sessions or full training courses. A training course introduces all the genres of Godly Play and gives everyone an opportunity to present a lesson, as well as to experience at least one complete Godly Play session with experienced leaders. For me, it was as much a retreat as a training event. I highly recommend it!

12 April 2012

guest post - Godly Play training 2

This week I'm sharing guest posts by Matthew Loader, a Children and Families Worker from the Peak Methodist Circuit in Derbyshire. Matthew only recently did a three-day training course in Godly Play. Although he'd experienced a "taster day" he was still very new to GP, so I've found it refreshing and even startling to look at Godly Play through his eyes. If you haven't already read part one, you should start here.  

photo taken at Storyteller's training course
The two questions I remember I had at the end of the taster session, therefore going into the training were:
  1. Was Godly Play an experience intended primarily for working with Children? 
  2. Was Godly Play an experience exclusive to a full Godly Play session, or could Godly Play be integrated into other activities, for example after school clubs and Toddler carer groups?
About the Godly Play 3 day training course
As we were welcomed into the Godly Play room on Day 1 of our training I was challenged by the role of the Door Person when I was asked if I were ready. I thought, well am I ready? Then I thought well, sometimes I may be ready and sometimes I may not. Either way it was clear that this experience was preparing me for what I describe as an encounter with God. To this day when I am part of a Godly Play session I always encounter God through the Story, Wondering questions, Response time and I have always been keen on the levels of hospitality shown when food and drink is shared, known here as the feast. It all began with the simple question, are you ready? This led to self-answering my 2nd question. Whether or not it would be possible to have a Godly play room like the one we had our training in, or if you had a mobile facility going into schools or setting up in your church, for me Godly Play would always have to be experienced in its full capacity. I am reminded of John 10:10b “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (NIV). I think my first question was also answered by this point: I had fully encountered God for myself in both the taster session and the opening story on Day 1 of the training. Indeed this would continue on Days 2 and 3; I am sure it will always be the case. So Godly Play is also effective with adults I thought, Maybe this will be something to explore on the Families side of my role.

On day two we had the experience of investigating the Spirituality of Children, a particularly interesting topic for me, firstly as I am a father, and secondly as I am trying to research this as I move from an understanding of young people (post-11) to Children’s work (pre-11). We were provided with many resources, which is extremely useful and I now have my sights on 3 or 4 books to get stuck into. We then moved onto a Godly Play session and one of the Parables. This was something I would grapple with over the remainder of the day and also Day 3. I found it hard engaging with the difference in the role of the Storyteller as some parables began with Wondering and then went into the Story, whereas for me I found it easier with the Sacred stories, to immerse myself in the Story and then Wonder at the end.

*     *     *     *     *

Tomorrow I'll publish part 3, in which Matthew writes about his first experience as a Storyteller, and his Response to the training in terms of plans for the future. 

11 April 2012

guest post - Godly Play training 1

As I, Storyteller, said in my last post, and as Sheila has more eloquently said here, we're going to celebrate Easter together with a series of guest posts for Eastertide. Part of what gave me the idea was that I'd just received a guest post myself. So although this one's not about Eastertide per se, I'm going to use it to kick off our Eastertide guest post series. 

I met this week's guest, Matthew, through Twitter. I asked if he'd be willing to write something about his experiences of Godly Play training for my blog. I'm happy to say that he agreed. With his permission I split it up into a sort of mini-series, and I've illustrated it with some photos of my own choosing. Without further ado, here's the beginning of his post. 

Background and introduction to Godly Play

My name is Matthew Loader, I am a Children and Families worker for the Peak Methodist Circuit in Derbyshire. I have recently completed a 3 day training course in Godly Play.

My Godly Play experience began when I saw a Sacred story being told at a child’s celebration service. The things that struck me was the level of engagement of both the Children and the adults present, further the lack of engagement of what I now know was the Storyteller. This experience left me both intrigued and with questions about Godly Play.

In the circuit in which I work there was also some knowledge and experience of Godly Play. After more research I decided to organise a taster session to take place in the Circuit in Bakewell where I live. This was well attended and saw representatives from 4 different churches, 3 from within the Methodist circuit, and 1 from a Anglican church from a village in the circuit. Those attending the taster session were informed of local training taking place to follow up on the taster session; myself and one other booked ourselves onto the next available course. The two questions I remember I had at the end of the taster session, therefore going into the training were:
  1. Was Godly Play an experience intended primarily for working with Children? 
  2. Was Godly Play an experience exclusive to a full Godly Play session, or could Godly Play be integrated into other activities, for example after school clubs and Toddler carer groups?

Bakewell Methodist Church, photo by Eirian Evans
For the answers Matthew found, tune in next time

09 April 2012

from Lent into Eastertide

I would like to thank everyone who participated in the Lenten link-up, Celebrating Lent, co-hosted by Sheila from Explore and Express and me. I enjoyed reading about so many ideas for preparing for Easter, with crafts and artwork and nature...

using Montessori methods...

(Tired, Need Sleep)

and Waldorf....

(Frontier Dreams)

taking children to interact with the elderly...

(Explore and Express)

and including children in local community worship:


In addition to the variety, I've enjoyed spotting overlaps and similarities. We had photos of Lenten spirals from both The Diary of a Sower and Frontier Dreams; of Cenacles from Thoughts from the Sheepfold and My Domestic Monastery. To my post about Lenten displays I might have added the dinner table displays by Featherglen and Watkins Every Flavor Beans.

And now, whether we did all that we hoped to in preparing for it or not, another Easter has dawned. As St. John Chrysostom said,  You who have kept the fast, and you who have not, Rejoice, this day, for the table is bountifully spread! 

And Easter isn't over on Easter Monday or even tomorrow but continues for a full six weeks! Sheila proposed that, having observed Lent for all six weeks with our link-up, we should do something for the six weeks of Eastertide as well. I suggested that I'd like us to organize some guest posts now that we've connected with so many different bloggers. I've written a column for Sheila's blog and she's written one for mine, and we're also inviting others to join us. So I hope you'll continue to drop by during the next six weeks as we celebrate Easter and community with a series of guest posts.

05 April 2012

mixed feelings

Bishop Sebouh Chouldjian washing feet (photo by Psalm Tours, used by permission)

Last year, I found it very moving to interact with a child at our Maundy Thursday service. Thinking about that this year, it struck me that foot-washing is one of the few sacramental-like rites at church that children might participate in. (Most children in our congregation do not take communion yet, and were baptized long before their earliest memories.)

So I really wanted to provide a way for children to participate in our Maundy Thursday service this year. I made arrangements with the priest well ahead of time, and agreed that I'd lead children's activities outside the chapel until the footwashing, and again from the footwashing until communion. The idea I was most pleased with was that it would be the children (and me) who would strip the altar afterwards.

photo source
Since we wouldn't be in our regular setting, I'd decided to bring only the Faces of Easter and focal shelf materials, which we'd then clear during the evening in a practice for clearing the altar, leaving only the Christ Candle. I'd also decided that since we couldn't Wonder by bringing something to the story plaque of the Last Supper, instead *I* would lay out a few things to help me tell a slightly extended version - a bowl of water and a small towel, a slice of bread and a small bottle of wine (with a little glass to pour a bit out into).

Unfortunately, with all the stress and over-time at work, I had neglected to publicize my plan to offer Junior Church for this service. It was only today that I texted the parents of the children who are our regulars to invite them. Most texted back that they'd already made other plans or couldn't come for another reason. By that point I'd already begun to realize how exhausted I was, and that I was on the verge of a fever / sore throat / cold.

So it was with great of relief and disappointment, in pretty much equal parts, that I sent a followup text to say I wouldn't do it after all unless any parent had already told their children about it. And curled up in a fleece jacket on the couch with a hot tea and the television remote control.

02 April 2012

a blip

I try not to pay too much attention to the stats, especially the numbers, but this was really startling!

I'm planning another short post in the Making Do series. It's already half-drafted in my head, and I took a photo for it yesterday, but things are so hectic at work right now that I'm just wiped out at the end of the day. Soon, I hope. Thanks for dropping by (even those of you who chose not to click through some 65+ pages in rapid succession). :)