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.