28 June 2013

making do - your Godly Play room

If yesterday's post, with the video tour of a "real" Godly Play room, or Sheila's recent post about spacious children's worship areas in Texas left you frustrated or discouraged - I hope this will undo that. Many of us have to "make do" with a space that feels less than ideal. But it's ok to do the best we can!

The minimum I would want is this: The space that is clearly a prepared space. It has been made special. It is both special ("set apart", even temporarily) and welcoming (for us). So if your circle will be made up of children, this should be a space which is set up with children in mind. There is a "threshold" of some sort, so that it is easy to tell the difference between IN the space and OUTSIDE the space. In the space there is a focal shelf, as well as materials for response and for cleaning up. Everything is displayed in an inviting manner (in open baskets, on low shelves if children are present) but also with care, so that it all looks orderly. Everything has a place. And that includes the people - there are mats or cushions or chairs enough for everyone.

You can stop reading right here. This, I believe, is enough.

doing Godly Play in my living room

If possible, the circle of participants will also be surrounded by the lessons and story materials. Again, these should be displayed in an orderly yet inviting way. Take care the first time you set things out, because ideally you will ever after always put them in the same place! Sacred stories should be together, arranged chronologically from left to right, with the core stories most visible and enrichment lessons stored beneath them. Parables are in a clearly different place. And liturgical action lessons are usually located near or beneath the focal shelf.

A piano bench is pressed into service as a parable shelf.

It is not necessarily a problem if everything needs to be set up and taken down each time. I have found that setting up is an excellent way for me to prepare myself for the session. After several months, once children had learned the layout of the classroom, then I would accept any offers of help that came from children who had arrived early. They had already learned to treat the materials with some care, and usually knew where to put them. [If you do this, you will need to think about how they enter the space - what if your threshold is not set up yet? and will you ask them if they are ready as they arrive?]

Can you spot a Parable box?

Don't forget to think about what cleaning supplies will be needed. In a future post I'll write about some optional extras that are nice to have in the room. Cleaning supplies, though, are not an optional extra. In Montessori fashion, we are confident that everyone will be able to clean up after themselves. They may need to be shown how, but they are then encouraged to carry on themselves. In fact, cleaning (or a task such as sharpening all the pencils) is a perfectly acceptable Response Time activity!

These chairs also served to delimit the space.

You don't have to replicate Jerome W. Berryman's diagram exactly! My Godly Play training took place in a room with a slightly odd shape, in which the obvious place to put the focal shelf was not (as is usually recommended) the first place you saw upon entering the room. One of the trainers commented that she was happy not to be using an "ideal" room for training but instead showing us how to "make do". 

Godly Play training classroom

Some related posts:

27 June 2013

visit a Godly Play classroom

Remember Sheila's post about her children's first visit to a Godly Play room? Here's a beautiful video tour of a one classroom in Australia.

Isn't that a gift, to show us their room? But perhaps like me you found it simultaneously frustrating. Did your fingers get itchy? I wanted to open that brown box on the Christmas shelf! (I'm guessing it contains "gold", incense, and myrrh.)

21 June 2013

"the Church's Colours"

I happened to pick up a little booklet we have, called A Pocket Guide to the Anglican Church, and noticed for the first time the section on liturgical colors. I like the use of the verb "wears" here:


The red, green and amber of traffic lights control the flow of traffic because motorists understand what these colours mean. Similarly the green/yellow, brown and blue wires in an electric cable indicate which wire is earth, live and neutral. 

The Church has used colours since the 12th Century to tell the faithful the sort of mood she is in. There are four principal colours, viz violet, white, red and green.

underlays for the Holy Family on the focal shelf
When the Church wears:

Violet she is in a solemn mood. Violet is the colour of penitence and is used particularly for the seasons of Advent (the four weeks before Christmas), and Lent (the forty days before Easter).

White she is in a happy and festive mood.

Red she is commemorating the death of someone who shed his [or her] blood for the Faith. We call these people martyrs. Red is also the colour used on Whitsunday, because it symbolizes the tongues of fire. 

Green she is in a natural mood. Green is the colour of nature and is used during the seasons of Epiphany and Trinity. 


from A Pocket Guide to the Anglican Church, p.43
by Ronald H. Lloyd
first published 1980, revised 1988 

I added the words "or her" myself! :)

11 June 2013

asking questions of children

Thanks to Godly Play Australia on Facebook, I came across a blog post by Yvonne Morris, asking:
...in our Sunday schools why do adults most often ask questions about facts and figures and places and information? Are there better questions to ask that will give us and our children that wide-eyed wonder when they connect their story with God’s story...?
She offers some examples of questions we might ask, admitting a strong Godly Play influence on her choices! And then she tells a lovely story. It begins like this,
Can I join you?” I asked the boy quite prepared for him to say ‘No’ but he nodded, so I sprawled near him on the blue blanket. He looked at the toy boat for a few moments. “I wonder what story this is” I say. “Mmmmm, I fink it’s the one where Jesus is asleep in the boat” he replied...
Click here to read the rest.

09 June 2013

still wondering about the pearl

I am still wondering about the Parable of the Great Pearl (aka the Pearl of Great Price).

I wonder how you'd feel about someone spending his grocery money - or rent money - on illegal drugs...

... or designer clothes... 

... or gold jewelry. 

I wonder if you watched the video I linked to here, and how you responded to it.

I wonder how you'd feel about someone giving her life savings to a televangelist? 

I wonder how that's different - *is* it different? - from the story in Mark 12:41-44.

I wonder how much God really expects us to give. 

I wonder what God really expects us to give. 

I wonder what it is that we get in return. 

"Pearls being removed from oysters" by Keith Pomakis

I wonder if we are supposed to identify with the merchant (in the parable of the Pearl of Great Price) or not. 

If not, I wonder who the merchant could really be.

04 June 2013

the parable of the Great Pearl

Warning: spoilers ahead. If you haven't had the Parable of the Great Pearl presented to you by a Godly Play storyteller, and you think you might get that chance - stop reading.

photo, used by permission, from Explore and Express
If you already know the lesson, and would like to read about my experiences with it, carry on.