22 June 2014

Last Sunday

Last Sunday was our Last Sunday in Finland. Vandriver and I were given a lovely send-off. They robed us in albs before four priests laid hands over us and prayed for us. Then our friends from the choir sang a special song for us. A final, really special moment for me was when our godson's parents suggested to him that he kneel at the communion rail not with them, as usual, but with us. He came and knelt next to me and I was able to show him my stoles that had been set on the altar during the Eucharistic prayer as a way of consecrating them to their use in my upcoming ministry.

06 May 2014

Godly Play ®

Did you know that the phrase, Godly Play, is a registered trademark?

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to train as a facilitator in a very different sort of activity. I'm not going to say what, because I don't want to distract you. Maybe I'll write a blog post about it in the future. The point right now is that part of my training for this other activity included a very serious talk about the fact that its name was trademarked.

Our trainer went so far as to encourage us to pronounce its name in our heads as ending with the letter R, to remind us that every time we wrote it we should add the ®. We were told that only upon completion of the training would we be allowed to use the name in the titles of our activities. Anyone who hadn't done the training had to say that they were working in the style of this activity (and even then, to add the ®).

(image source)

You know, I don't recall the topic of trademark coming up in my Godly Play® training. But now, having had the lecture, I think perhaps it should have. Partly, it's about giving credit to Jerome W. Berryman (who wrote the Godly Play® scripts and adapted this method of Christian education from the work of Maria Montessori, E.M. Standing, and Sofia Cavelletti along with Gianna Gobbi). But it's also about avoiding misunderstanding, about protecting this work from poor imitations.

I've seen blogs and websites whose authors seem to think that Godly Play® merely means using cute toys to act out Bible stories. I've run across people who assume that it must refer to any playful activity in church. I'll even admit that I've cringed at some practices I've seen by people who are at least using Jerome W. Berryman's scripts, but don't seem to understand the principles behind them. Of course it's a balance. I don't want to scare you off from giving Godly Play a try! But do please seek out a taster day, a training course, Berryman's books, and/or the official Godly Play® You-tube channel before you use the trademarked name.

I hereby announce that I've gone through my blog this week and revised several sections, adding the ® symbol.

04 May 2014

from sheep to shepherd

In some church calendars today is Good Shepherd Sunday. Our pastor's sermon included a section about how the word pastor is from the Latin word for "shepherd". And it reminded me of a Godly Play moment that I experienced earlier this Spring.

I was in the circle, listening to someone else tell the stories of the lesson, Knowing Jesus in a New Way. There are a lot of parallels between this lesson and The Faces of Easter. Both are a series of episodes which can be presented week by week or all at once. Neither set of materials includes figures to be moved around, but rather a series of pictures placed on an underlay which is unrolled further with each episode. Both end not with verbal wondering, but with an invitation to find something in the room to bring and place alongside the story materials, "to help us tell more". 

The stories in Knowing Jesus in a New Way are the resurrection appearances of Jesus. One episode of the lesson is the last story from Matthew's Gospel, where Jesus gives the eleven disciples the Great Commission. The Godly Play script ends like this.

As they walked back south to Jerusalem, they knew they had been followers, now they were to be leaders. They had been sheep, now they were to be shepherds. 

Jerome W. Berryman, The Complete Guide to Godly Play, Vol 8, p. 114

As I listened, it struck me quite forcibly that the same is true of me. I have been formally training for ministry for almost three years. At the end of June, Lord willing, I will be ordained as a deacon in the Church of England. I will resign from my present job (I gave notice already at the end of December), and Vandriver and I will move to England where I'll take up the post of "assistant curate" - a three-year, on-the-job, ministerial training post. The expectation is that I'll be ordained as a priest in 2015. 

Our storyteller told all seven episodes, so we had to choose not only whether to get something to bring into the circle, and what that would be, but also which picture we wanted to expand upon. For me that day, the decisions were easy. I brought the priest from the World Communion materials, and carefully placed it next to the disciples. 

23 April 2014

two children and Our Story

I'm a little nervous about sharing this first story. I don't want to shame anyone, but perhaps to criticize the way Facebook chooses what stories to prioritize for us...

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licensed photo by williac
On Sunday one of my Facebook friends posted a montage of four photographs with an Easter greeting written across the whole. Two pictures were family groupings, one showed their Easter eggs, and one showed the oldest son reading. Alas, what Facebook showed his grandmother was his mother's teasing comments about the boy's father "boozing" it up, beside a photograph of the Bloody Mary the man had ordered with his Easter brunch.

But, I said, did you see the photograph of N? 

--I saw the picture of him posing with his uncle and the Easter Bunny after brunch ...

No. The picture of him reading, in his father's Easter montage. The reflective finish on the top edges of the pages, the black leather binding, the two-column layout, and the glimpse of a marker ribbon all signal - this is a Bible. Even just a second glance reveals that he is reading the end of a book within this Bible. The resolution of the picture won't permit me to see which the following book's title is, but I can see that he's about three-quarters of the way through the Bible. As if I hadn't already surmised that he was reading the Resurrection narrative from one of the Gospels!

It's a story important to his father, important to his grandmother, important to the holiday. And the boy read it out to his family before brunch.

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Our godson's little sister knows that I am pleased to see children enjoying spiritual things, so when we dropped by their house on Easter Day to deliver an Easter basket (really a small gift bag) to her big brother, she ran and met me at the door with the Jesus Storybook Bible.

She opened it to show me the page with Jesus carrying the cross.

from The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones & Jago

I said, That looks like a Good Friday picture! What's today? And she excitedly flipped forward a few pages until she found the first page of the Resurrection story, with a picture of three women carrying jars and cloths towards tomb, which we see in the distance with the stone already rolled away. 

I don't really know whether she showed me these pictures because they are important to her, or because she knows they are important to me. In one sense it doesn't matter, because I think for her what "church" is - is interaction with the family of God. In showing me the book she was maintaining our relationship as much as she was affirming our shared faith. Maybe for her the two are inseparable: the relationships within the body of Christ and the relationship of all those parts with the head. 

04 April 2014

slow progress on the Bible cards

I ran into a snag with the Bible cards - I was unable to figure out what the print settings had been the first time and so I seemed unable to print out the same size again. Today, though, our godson came for a visit and asked whether I had "the rest" of the cards ready yet. Not by a long shot! But that did prompt a long printing session, at the end of which, by trial and error, we managed to print out cards which were only about 5% bigger than the originals. 

So that's Hebrews and Jeremiah added. I chose those books because the Church of England lectionary has us working through Hebrews at the moment in Morning Prayer, and Jeremiah at Evening Prayer. And I'm pleased to say that doing this little project has helped me with that! 

25 March 2014

Happy Annunciation Day

As I mentioned in my last blog post, today is Annunciation Day - when we remember the Angel Gabriel's visit to Mary and Mary's acceptance of God's call on her.

Yesterday I made a brief visit to an after-school centre run for first- and second-graders so they won't be at home alone while their parents are at work. I noticed that they seemed to have a little worship area!

It looked similar to a prayer table in a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium. I was also interested because in my Church of England theological studies we just recently been learning about the requirements for "collective worship" in English schools. I asked a few questions of the child I was visiting, but in my excitement I asked too many yes/no questions and too few open-ended questions. *sigh* Still, what I've understood is that they have a little worship time almost every day. It includes a Bible story and a prayer (at least).

The current theme clearly was the Annunciation.

The whole wall above this table was covered with angels. This one was made by the boy I was visiting:

23 March 2014

storybook Sunday

In the sermon slot today, I read a story to the congregation. Do any of you recognize the book? Or can you guess what I might have been reading today?

Tuesday will be the 25th, nine months before Christmas, which makes it Annunciation Day. The Finnish Lutherans celebrate it on the nearest Sunday. It's a six-candle day! I read the story of the Annunciation (and Mary's Visitation to Elizabeth) as told by Madeleine L'Engle in The Glorious Impossible, with illustrations by Giotto. Any fully-equipped Godly Play classroom will have at least some of the illustrations from this book among the materials for The Mystery of Christmas, and some also have a copy of the full book as well.

It was a little clumsier than I expected to try to hold the book so people could see it and read at the same time... especially to swivel back and forth so everyone had the opportunity to see! But it was fun to glance up at the congregation from time to time (something I do not do as a Godly Play storyteller) and see how people were responding. One woman leant over and rested her head on her husband's shoulder as she listened.

*     *     *     *     *

Also today, I was given another storybook by a member of our congregation who is getting ready to move house and having a clear-out. It is called The Splendour Book of Bible Stories reinterpreted by Shirley Goulden. It is interestingly similar to L'Engle's book in being an illustrated retelling of Biblical narrative. In this case, the illustrations are contemporary with the retelling (1970), and not all in the same style, being by four different artists: Nicole Claveloux, Charles-Louis LaSalle, Loup, and Jean-Claude Perrouin. Here is a part of the illustration for the Tower of Babel

What fun! Thank you! 

16 March 2014

Bible cards

A project I have underway is the creation of a set of cards for the books of the Bible. I am making this for one of our godsons, since he is at an age where he is very interested in collecting cards with bits of information on them - cards for the Magic game, for example (or baseball cards, to use an example I find easier to relate to!). 

I plan to use a second set as part of the materials for the Godly Play enrichment lesson about the Books of the Bible. I used the Keynote software (similar to Powerpoint) to design them, then printed and laminated them. The face of each card shows two pictures representing stories from the book (using the wonderful resource of Bible illustrations from Sweet Publishing), and the Gospels also show the symbols associated with each evangelist (with Luke's symbol repeated on the Acts card). Each card also has a quote from the book, a single phrase which sums up something distinctive or important about the contents.

Today I delivered the first batch - just six: four Gospel cards, one for the book of Acts, and one Old Testament book. All six are green, for narrative history. I tried to make the Gospel cards a different shade of green but that didn't show up as well as I'd hoped.

We looked together at the tables of contents of two complete Bibles (of very different sizes and layouts), and one which contained only the New Testament and Psalms. One Bible listed the books twice, once by the order in which they appear in the Bible and once in alphabetical order. My godson then went off by himself. He laid the cards out and organised them by their numbers (the order of the books of the Bible). Then he attempted to re-order them into alphabetical order. Later, using information on the backs of the cards, he might try ordering them by date of [estimated] composition, or the relative chronology of the events they describe (his parents will probably have to explain BC dating again!). 
What I also wanted to do, though, was to tie these cards firmly to the Bible and its contents. So I showed him that in his Jesus Storybook Bible there is a note at the beginning of each story saying which book (and chapter(s)) the story is taken from. And then, without him looking, I slid the cards into a Bible so that each card marked the place its book began. When he searched for them it reinforced the fact that the Gospels are found all together, three quarters of the way through the volume, while the Old Testament histories are much further toward the front. 

I'm providing several extra bits of information on the backs (which is why I've only finished six so far). But the description of the Godly Play cards by Jerome W. Berryman (in vol 2 of The Complete Guide to Godly Play) is that there's relatively little information on each card - just "one or two sentences about the content of each book", and a color-coding to show which genre the book belongs to. So if you set out to make your own, they needn't be as elaborate or time-consuming as mine. 

03 March 2014

lessons learned (Lent)

Yesterday it struck me that the pastor and I hadn't discussed which of us might provide a children's sermon, if needed, for our service that afternoon. Inspired by Sheila's good reports of The Mystery of Easter, I rushed a cross puzzle into production.

Before I began, I read the script (from The Complete Guide to Godly Play, Vol. 4) onto a recording which I then listened to as I worked. Once I'd finished, I listened once or twice more while I physically acted out the lesson, moving the pieces around, and finally tried it without the recording, speaking the script myself. Way back in training we tried that, having one person read the script while another moved the pieces, but I'd never tried using a recording of myself for practice before!

The materials were far from ideal. I cut a cross out of cardboard packing material from our recycling pile. Having no paint to hand, I used magazine clippings of purple on one side, and white felt on the other.

Lessons learned? I liked this method of practicing the script. But I would not use felt as a covering for this cross again. You can see the white puffing out from underneath even when the purple sides are turned up. Moreover, it prevented the pieces from slotting together as nicely as I'd have liked them to.

In the end, we had no children at church and I didn't present the lesson. But you know what? For one-time use, in a pinch, I was much happier to have far-less-than-perfect materials than not to have had any at all. I enjoyed this little project as a Sunday task, and I felt good having something to offer children if any had come along.

I've heard it said, "Perfect" is the enemy of "Done". Godly Play materials should always be made with love, as beautifully as you can. Really, they should be as good in quality as the objects you use for liturgical purposes for adults (as nice as your chalice or communion trays, as nice as the Bible on your lectern). But don't let that ideal prevent you from doing the best you can.

09 February 2014

an update, at long last

Thank you, Nicky, for your kind comment asking after me. I'm sorry to have neglected the blog. It's not for lack of photos!

The boy who used to attend our sessions sometimes as a sort of gentle giant (a good-natured 13-year-old among 4-year-olds because our congregation had nothing to offer teens) is now a young man of 16, and agreed to photograph my lesson about the Magi (complete with burning frankincense and myrrh). He took about 100 photos, or more! So I was a bit overwhelmed with trying to choose a mere three or so to put on the blog.

And when I forgot my i-pad at Candlemas, a mother snapped some photos with her camera phone and sent them to me afterwards:

Meanwhile, I have accepted a post as curate (assistant minister, on-the-job training) for next year. It will mean moving to England, which Vandriver and I are very excited about but also a bit overwhelmed by how much there is to do between now and then. 

But today I am about to drive to Helsinki, because tomorrow and Tuesday there is a Godly Play symposium in Finland in the town of Järvenpää, with special guest Carolyn Pritchard. Sounds like I could well be inspired to write another couple of blog posts this week already, eh?