30 May 2013

feast your eyes on feast photos

I'm guessing that many of you, like me, don't read German - or not well enough to feel up to following a German blog. So you might have missed the feast photos published recently on Gott im Spiel. Markus's comment was that they've had some nice things to eat recently. And I see that, as we did in Finland, they use glass drinking glasses and paper napkins in the color of the season.

the Great Green Growing season
But most striking to me is that it seems the children in Markus's classroom may select materials to have near them during the feast. A favorite is the Table of the Good Shepherd, with its chalice and paten. Go check out his photos.

25 May 2013

making do: the focal shelf

Recently I had the opportunity of presenting a Godly Play taster session to some of the children's workers at my English churches. Another local storyteller kindly loaned me materials for several stories so that I could furnish our space, surrounding the circle with lessons as we normally do in a Godly Play classroom. Understandably though, the local storyteller couldn't loan me the "top shelf" focal shelf materials since those were essential to their own classroom.

Most of my own Godly Play materials are in storage back in Finland. I was able to borrow the Circle of the Church Year materials (the "church clock") and Baptism materials (minus the Trinity symbols). So here's how I "made do":

This photo was taken before I had quite finished -
I did put the blocks into the clock correctly before we started!
The focal shelf, as its name suggests, provides a focus for the room. It is the most important shelf, and it locates Christ as having central importance. We have the Holy Family in the middle, which tells both that Jesus came among us at a particular point in history, and also that he is now everywhere, taking the whole world into his embrace. I represented this with my Risen Christ cross and a little Christmas ornament showing Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus.

(Of course the true Holy Family materials also tell of a family made up not just by blood but intentionally, incorporating the lowly (shepherds) and outsiders (the Magi, who were not Jewish). But I had to make do with what I had, and since I was not telling that story this time, I felt that what I had was good enough.)

On each side of the Holy Family we have a reminder of one of the names Christ gave himself, one of the metaphors he used. To the left we have "the Light of the World", the Christ candle. This was relatively easy to provide; we already had a white pillar candle and base at home. Below it are the (borrowed) liturgical materials about the sacrament of baptism, which pick up the theme by talking about us receiving the light of Christ.

To the right we have "the Good Shepherd", and below that the liturgical materials about Holy Communion, when we gather around the table to recall his words ("This is my body...") and to meet him in the bread and wine. I didn't have the World Communion materials, not even the Good Shepherd, but I had a Central American cross depicting Jesus as the Good Shepherd. At the beginning of my session I introduced people to the space a little, drawing their attention to different things, and I asked them to imagine Communion materials below the Good Shepherd image.

I used the furniture I found in the space I had; the focal shelf was made of a piano bench! The bench was high enough that I felt I needed to stand the crosses up somehow, so I made use of two brass flower vases that were already in the space. I covered this shelf/bench with a white cloth (a damask cloth napkin) since we were just at the end of Eastertide. (Usually there is a cloth, in the appropriate liturgical color of the season, beneath the Holy Family but not covering the whole shelf.) Below this are the liturgical materials for the Circle of the Church Year.

If you don't have easy and regular access to Berryman's books, the UK Godly Play site has really helpful resources about how to furnish a Godly Play space. (Even if you do have Berryman's books, you might find these resources a useful supplement.) In thinking about what to do for a focal shelf, I drew on my memories of the document, "Designing and building a Godly Play room", which can be found on the same UK Godly Play page. [[Since writing this post, I've also remembered this post about the Focal Shelf on the Three Great Days blog.]]

Just as a point of comparison, the very first focal shelf I ever created had a Christ candle and a tiny Holy Family. I regret, though, that I had no Good Shepherd at all. The shelf was spread with a cloth of the right color, and although I had no church clock I did have the other three liturgically-colored underlays laid out at the base of my shelf. I placed Advent materials on the left, spatially liked with the Christ candle, and Lenten materials on the right. (Endings that are also beginnings, circles and cycles link World Communion with the Circle of the Holy Eucharist, the Faces of Easter, and indeed the Circle of the Church Year. So in a classroom they are typically linked spatially as well.) Our space was tiny. I had so few materials that I didn't surround our circle with the lesson materials, but kept Noah's ark and our one parable box in this same set of shelves.

Is your focal shelf as you would like it to be? In what ways have you been able to "make do"?

23 May 2013

my blog's on Facebook

If you'd like to follow me on Facebook, that's now possible. I've set up a Wonderful in an Easter kind of way page. You should be able to have a look even if you are not a member of Facebook yourself; the address is https://www.facebook.com/easterkind. Their software wouldn't recognize the avatar I use here (one of the wooden People of God; it might have been too small a photo) so for now, at least, my profile picture is the Finnish Holy Family set:

my profile picture on Facebook

This is all pretty new to me. I'm not sure whether I'll post every blog post there as well as here... I want to make it easy to keep up with anything happening here on the blog but not to overwhelm you or irritate you by double-posting. Comments and advice are welcome!

And if you like the page, please do click the "like" button there.

22 May 2013

Easter followup (part 2)

This continues my followup post about retelling the Easter story straight from the Gospel of Luke, illustrated with a slide show, and then asking Wondering questions of the congregation. I did this in two churches (one earlier in the morning and one later). The second congregation in particular tends to be wary of discussion, often complaining about being put on the spot if the priest asks them any questions.

For this reason, I started my sermons from the pulpit. I explained that one characteristic of family celebrations was to gather together and listen to stories, and talk together. Therefore the way I wanted to celebrate Easter was to re-tell the Easter story the way Luke told it, and to give people a chance to talk and listen to each other. Nobody HAS to say anything! I clarified straightaway, almost interrupting my previous sentence to assure people that nobody was going to be "put on the spot". All they had to do, I said, was to listen to one another. Not laugh, not argue, but listen.

licensed photo by Andreas Praefcke
I told the story, with the slides, and then asked the Sacred Story wondering questions. With hindsight, those questions weren't ideal for this situation. It's too hard, especially for people not used to Godly Play Wondering, to break out of the expectation that the empty tomb should be everyone's favorite part, as well as the most important part. And that there's nothing that should left out from Holy Scripture!

But even so, more people made comments than I had feared. And on the whole I got very good feedback afterwards. Two things surprised me. One was that some people were unwilling to speak into the microphone but not unwilling to speak. I asked if I could repeat their comments to the whole congregation and they said yes. They just were unwilling to have their own voice amplified. The other was that one woman thanked me and said how much she had enjoyed this twice, despite the fact that she hadn't chosen to say anything.

In fact, she apologized for being unwilling or unable to speak in front of others. I could easily have believed that such a person would dislike this style of "sermon". But she told me twice, once right at the end of the service and then again at coffee time, that she had really appreciated it.

It's good to remember that someone who is unwilling to participate in the way we expect isn't necessarily irritated, bored, or disappointed. They might even be appreciating our work.

21 May 2013

Easter followup (part 1)

Featherglen asked how my Easter presentation had gone. (Thanks, FG, for the query!)

As I explained earlier, I made a slide show to illustrate the Easter story, line by line. I used the day's lectionary reading, Luke 24:1-12, but also included some background from the previous chapter to set the scene. The pictures below illustrate these lines:
  • Darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.
  • Then Jesus cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
  • With these words, he breathed his last.
  • All his friends stood at a distance; so also did the women who had accompanied him from Galilee and saw all this happen.
  • The women took note of the tomb and how his body had been laid. 
  • Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments.
  • On the Sabbath day they rested, as the Law required.

In the telling, each slide contained just a single picture, but during the Wondering I showed a "review" slide to help jog people's memories. I started the Wondering with a slide showing all the images from the Resurrection part of the story (the lectionary reading), but I also prepared this review slide of the Crucifixion part of the story, and switched to this when anybody mentioned this part of the story.

And how did it go? Well there were a few minor mishaps. At the second church, even though we had tested all the equipment in advance, the projector and laptop refused to talk to one another when we started setting up for the service. Fortunately, the problem resolved itself after about ten minutes of sweating ... and rebooting things over and over again. 

Other than little snags like that it went well! I did learn something useful about the Wondering... and I'll make that a separate post.

20 May 2013

Was it a festival for you?

How was your Pentecost celebration? Did your church celebrate it like one of the three major festivals of the Christian year?

photo source: http://www.garageshopblog.org

Our preacher started his sermon by singing"Happy Birthday" to us, which reminded me of my Junior Church celebration two years ago. But it wasn't really a remarkable service compared to an average Sunday. The Cathedral, on the other hand, made it very clear that yesterday was a Big Deal, and I was thrilled to join them yesterday afternoon!

How about you?

18 May 2013

another busted halo video

You remember the Busted Halo video about Advent? They've done several, but the first one was the one that explained Pentecost in two minutes. Here it is:

14 May 2013

What do you like best about the Pentecost story?

The first time I prepared the Pentecost story was early in my introduction of Godly Play to the very young children in our church. Vandriver and I were not at all sure about knocking down a set of blocks as the opening to the story - the children were still learning our new, reflective storytime mood and we worried that knocking down a tower was going to send the wrong message!

Instead, I prepared a story based heavily on the Young Children and Worship version.

But I came down with the norovirus that year, and didn't do Pentecost at all.

our Pentecost materials
The next year, I found myself with the materials ready for the Young Children and Worship story but discovered that after months of telling Godly Play stories I was no longer really satisfied with the YCW script. It felt like the worst of lectionary readings can feel - less like a pericope (a self-contained unit) and more like a random chunk of text. It seemed to me to lack the shape of a story.

What I did like, though, was ending with Peter's words from Acts 2:39, "This promise is for you and your children," as I drew a little flame on the forehead of each figure, tall and small.

I did the best I could, but I felt quite dissatisfied with the telling. My wondering questions were genuine, as I asked what we might have added or left out from the story (I seem to recall that one child thought my table, representing the table from the upper room, was unnecessary).

Months later, the grandmother of one of our children came to visit and I encouraged the child to show her around the room after our session. I began slowly putting things away while they explored. At one point I overheard the child say, These are the Pentecost materials, (I was pleased since I'd only used the word about 2-3 times all year) and then - joy - the young voice continued, and these are the children.

So many Bible stories don't actually feature children in them. But the Pentecost promise is explicitly for children as well.

09 May 2013

presenting the Ascension

If only I were doing Godly Play this year, it would be time for my favorite lesson from Young Children and Worship. I hope you'll bear with me if I repeat some of what I've written on this topic before:

The relationship between Young Children and Worship and Godly Play is somewhat murky, especially to outsiders. But it would seem that the Ascension lesson was written by Sonja M. Stewart after visiting and working with Jerome W. Berryman (and after reading Sofia Cavalletti)

It's one of my favorite lessons. It is simple, while being both biblical and liturgical. It brings together the story of the Ascension with Berryman's "changing of the light", while also introducing (or reinforcing) the response we often give during the Eucharistic prayer to sum up the Mystery of Faith:

Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

(photo by stf, cropped by me)
In presenting this, I adapted Stewart's lesson in small ways. I didn't use a satin underlay, but a small linen table cloth. I showed the Crucifixion/Resurrection card from the Faces of Easter lesson to emphasize the connection with (and continuation of) the Easter story. I deliberately used the word Eastertide as well as "season of Easter". And I followed Berryman's choice of phrasing, the tomb could not hold him, rather than Stewart's God made him alive again. 

02 May 2013

a daydream

Vandriver and I are beginning to look ahead toward the end of our year in England... and I'm finding that I don't look forward at all to returning to my work in Finland. Instead I'm daydreaming.

What if there were a Godly Play job out there? Even a part-time one. Just for one "school year". Or might there be a Montessori day care that would take on someone with no paper qualifications for child care? (I can at least provide references and background checks and that sort of thing.)

The English church sometimes advertises jobs which are "house-for-duty", meaning you don't get paid but you get a house to live in. I'd consider something like that, but I fear those arrangements are for priests rather than children's workers. 

One part of my mind says it's just a daydream. But one part of my heart says, Go ahead and publish it, just on the off-chance that somebody looks up my email address (it's on my Blogger profile page) and sends me a job offer. We'd consider relocating! 

(p.s. Does this sound like I don't want to return to working with our church children in Finland? That's not what I mean! I'm feeling un-motivated right now about my "real job".)