18 August 2015

on worship and play

High up on the list of things that hinder worship is the idea that there's some particular way to be good at it, that one can be more or less effective... 

(licensed photo)

Worship is simply the Christian word for the joy of existence.

(Giles Fraser, on "Thought for the Day")

31 July 2015

Wonder of the week

One gift that Godly Play gives to adults can be to reconnect them with a sense of wonder. What gives you a sense of wonder? From time to time I am freshly awed by the way bodies can heal themselves.

I had a blood test a week or so ago, and have a colorful bruise as a result. Then I walked too close past a neighbor's shrub and got two parallel scratches across my lower arm. But they are fading, and the lower one would already be very difficult to see without the first one. Soon there will be no trace of either scratch, nor of the bruise.

Sometimes I imagine what it would be like if we were like dolls or other objects that chip and get stained and cracked. Of course, I know that some things don't heal to the point that they are like new again, and we carry scars. But the fact that we heal at all is a source of wonder to me.

22 May 2015

excitement about things to come

Vandriver and I moved house this week. This is our sixth move in three years and not one we were expecting. So, although we are very happy to be here, the move has been both physically and emotionally grueling.

But here is one of the reasons I am happy to be here: we looked at the layout of our new house and the ways we used our most recent house, and decided that here we'd use one of the upstairs bedrooms as our sitting room, and the ground floor "living room" as a theological library and Godly Play room!

I am so excited by this prospect! So much so that it's the room I most want to unpack and set up. Here's where I'm up to so far. (Nothing is yet organised; I'm still just getting things out of boxes and onto shelves.)

10 April 2015


I am feeling a little sorry for myself today. Lovely pictures of this weekend's Godly Play® UK annual conference keep appearing in my Facebook feed, and I am not there. I would so much have loved to put myself forward as a potential Godly Play Advocate (for which they were doing training today)!

But for various reasons, all related to being a curate (a trainee minister), I was unable to attend.

However, I did have a nice Godly Play® encounter today and I am trying to tell myself I should focus on that (rather than dwelling on feeling sorry for myself missing the conference and Advocate training).

Today, for the first time, I made a "baptism visit". That is to say, I met with a young family who will have their 8-month-old baptised in our church. They have an older child, a girl who is in "Reception" (similar to American Kindergarden), who has already been baptised. However, as is the case with many families seeking baptism in the Church of England, they do not regularly attend our church. I decided that what I would do at this meeting was to present the Godly Play baptism lesson.

I explained to the mother (the father was at work) that this was aimed at the older daughter, but that it was also for her (the mother) and that at the end of it I would ask her about whether there was a particular hymn she'd like at the baptism. And we sat down on the living room floor.

I didn't feel there was really time to settle down, but trusted that the lesson itself would gradually settle us. It did, although it took a while. The mother interrupted near the beginning to ask, "Is this how the baptism itself is going to be?" and I explained that no, this was just to lay the groundwork for them. With the baby crawling about, I didn't leave all the symbols on all the circles, but put them down one at a time, and then once I'd used each one I removed it to the coffee table.

it never looked like this today

But by the time I got the doll out, we were still and focussed. Mum had corralled the baby into her lap when I lit the Christ candle, and the older sister had settled into the mode of watching a presentation or hearing a story.

I asked what we should name the baby and looked at them, and the girl suggested, "Rosie". She looked ever so pleased when I said (straight from the script), "Rosie. That's a good name." And I showed how I would baptise the baby, and lit tea lights for each of us, and then we changed the light and spent a long time watching the smoke (the invisible light of Christ!) rising into the air.

What have I taken away from this? And what have they? In addition to the little lesson or reminder about our Trinitarian God, I believe I gave the sister a framework from which to follow the baby's baptism service, and I think the gentle demonstration prepared both Mum and sister to expect something reverent. And it's made me realise how much I want to try to carve out the time at the font (the baptism and then an anointing with oil) as a reverent time within any baptism service. I don't feel that's something I've done as well (or as consciously) as I'd like at baptisms I've done previously.

04 April 2015

Wondering about the Way of the Cross

Yesterday evening I attended a Way of the Cross service. We were invited to gaze upon modern paintings of the traditional stations of the cross, while two ministers read descriptions of the paintings, verses from Scripture, meditations, and short prayers (from A Journey to the Cross by Maureen Pamphilon).

paintings by the Benedictine Sisters of Turvey Abbey

It was nicely done, and I found it a helpful Good Friday devotion. But I did find myself wishing that we might be asked, I wonder which painting you liked best? and What do you need to do now as your response to this? That just shows how steeped in Godly Play®  I am!

21 March 2015

paying attention

David Pritchard shared a quote on Facebook last month, illustrating an important difference between "conventional" education and Montessori education.

Conventional education: the child pays attention to the teacher.
Montessori education: the teacher pays attention to the child.
via the Maria Montessori Facebook page

Berlin-Dahlem, Montessori-Kinderheim, Deutsches Bundesarchiv (source)

14 March 2015

holding space

Today, two very different Facebook friends have linked to a beautiful blog post by Heather Plett, about how to "hold space" for people. Although the original post is about palliative care and the care of families in that situation, Heather goes on to say that it's a task for all of us (see the quote below).

Heather Plett: What it means to “hold space” for people, plus eight tips on how to do it wellTo truly support people ... [we] have to be prepared to step to the side so that they can make their own choices, offer them unconditional love and support, give gentle guidance when it’s needed, and make them feel safe even when they make mistakes. ... It is something that ALL of us can do for each other – for our partners, children, friends, neighbours, and even strangers who strike up conversations as we’re riding the bus to work. 

(licensed photo by Auztrel, used with permission)
It's a beautiful and challenging post. I'd encourage you to read it all, not least because this is what Godly Play doorkeepers and storytellers do for the members of the circle.

24 February 2015

recreating ("playing") church at home

I'm grateful to Carolyn Pritchard for sharing this video on Facebook, and wanted to share it with my blog readers, too. It has already been blogged about at Pastoral Meanderings, who calls it a testament to what children see, hear, and learn, and Ex occidente ad orientem, who gives "Kudos" to their mother who probably took them to the vigils and the Divine Liturgy. 

The video shows two Orthodox Christian children repeating what they have seen at church: crossing themselves, anointing each other, carrying a Gospel book, swinging a thurible (incense), chanting Alleluia, and kissing the hands of the priest. Their mother, while filming, sings.

21 February 2015

not just cute, but members of the church

Today Vandriver and I were in Denmark for a very special service- the licensing and institution of the new Anglican chaplain at St Alban's Church, Copenhagen. [This chaplaincy is part of the Church of England's Diocese in Europe.]

Within the service was a "Rededication of the Ministry of the People of God". The archdeacon (leading the service, representing the bishop) invited representative members of the congregation to come forward and, one by one, offer their new priest an object symbolizing one aspect of ministry and ask him to take that on. 

For example, the organist presented the priest with a hymnal and said, Be among us as a priest using the power of music to deepen our understanding of God's Word. And then the whole congregation affirmed, Together, by God's grace, we will worship the Lird in the beauty of Holiness. 

I was pleased to see that one symbol was to be of "ministry with young people", and that the congregation was to affirm, Together, by God's grace, we will value the vision of our young people and nurture the faith of our children. I was also pleased that the person presenting this symbol and speaking the invitation to the new priest was indeed a child. And I almost jumped with glee when I saw that the "symbol" chosen was a Godly Play object! 

[The symbolic objects: water (representing baptism), oil (for healing), a Bible, a scroll containing the text of the Porvoo Agreement (an ecumenical agreement between, amongst others, the Church of Denmark and the Church of England), a stole, the City of Bethlehem (Godly Play / children's work), a hymnal, a chalice and paten (for Holy Communion), and a booklet about this church in its local context.]

I later reflected on the fact that the child was treated no differently than the organist or any other of the congregational representatives. He was not treated as cute or amusing, not merely tolerated or indulged, but he was acknowledged as someone of equal worth and accorded the same respect and responsibility (a responsibility within his range of competence) as others. 

And you know what? He wasn't the only young person being taken seriously at that church. Not by a long shot. Because the 'server', who poured water for the priest to wash his hands with, who accepted the offerings brought to the front of the church and then presented them to the priest, who held the Gospel book as it was read from - the server was a fourteen-year-old. 

Again, though, this was not highlighted in any way. She was treated (and acted) just like servers I've known in other churches, servers aged 28 or 55 or 74. I thought of 1 Timothy 4:12- Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers.

I spoke with her briefly after the service (which is how I learned her age). She said she'd been doing this for some years already. It certainly had been clear during the service that she was very used to these tasks, acting with a quiet confidence, unobtrusively anticipating where she needed to be and when. She then said to me, I'm not just the server; I'm the assistant sacristan (!).

And yes, as we spoke she was gathering the chalices and ciborium and other "silverware" into a basket to carry back from the chancel to the sacristy for cleaning and putting away. I showed her this photo and asked if I could post it on the internet. Of course! she said, and explained, I do this for God

What a joy to see her serving in this way, with her gifts recognised and put to use, affirming her worth within the Church.

12 February 2015

decorating the paschal candle by hand

Last year, I heard one priest from the Diocese in Europe comment that his church budget would not stretch to a paschal candle with the year on it, and that even the purchase of the paschal candle he did have was something he'd had to defend.

store display of paschal candles
(licensed photo by Gagorski, cropped by Storyteller)

Just a few days later, I came across a lovely blog post, also from the Diocese in Europe, and I thought, Here is a possible solution to those financial concerns. Bishop David Hamid wrote that in St Margaret's Anglican Episcopal Church in Budapest, they have a tradition of buying a large, plain candle and having the children decorate it.

Eurobishop: Children of St Margaret's Budapest prepare the paschal candle: Krisztus feltámadt! ... These photos show them hard at work in Sunday School on Palm Sunday and presenting the finished product to the congregation.

Decorating actual candles, or doing paper-crafts of gluing bits of paper to reflect the way a paschal candle is decorated - this kind of work is often found in a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium. Leslie Swaim-Fox is one of a number of bloggers who have posted about this:

Thoughts from the Sheepfold: The Paschal Candle: The paschal candle is a symbol of the Risen Christ which speaks very powerfully to children. ... I love the words that we say with the children while they press the wax pieces onto the candle.

Leslie explains in the comments to another post that she uses thin sheets of colored wax, cutting out the shapes they will need with a craft knife. Jessica, at the Shower of Roses blog, made a more elaborate candle by using not only colored wax but also acrylic gems and gold metallic cord. Jessica has also listed several other ways of decorating a plain candle here (scroll down to "Easter Paschal Candle"). If you're not up to doing this craft but would like a paschal candle for the home, you can simply print out a design and wrap it around a candle (Jennifer at Family in Feast and Feria offers a free printable every year).

Depending on the age of the children who do this, your candle may not be as "perfect" as a store-bought one, but you will have saved money AND involved the children in a useful and meaningful way in the liturgical life of your church.

(public domain photo by Rabanus Flavus, cropped by Storyteller)