In most religious education children are told who God is. In Godly Play children discover God for themselves. Godly Play for Pre-Kindergarten through the Fourth Grade begins at 9:45 am Sundays.
by Chip Lewis
from St. John’s, Stamford, Connecticut
What is Godly Play?
Godly Play is not simply a Sunday school curriculum. It is an open approach that works through the community of children to give each child the tools they need to identify, name, and understand their individual religious experiences. The philosophy understands that all children have had some experience of the mystery of God but may lack the language, permission, and understanding to integrate their spirituality into the fabric of their lives. Godly Play teaches children the art of using religious language (parable, sacred story, liturgical action, silence, gestures, and so much more) to help interpret what happens in their daily lives.
What exactly happens in the classroom?
Children and adults gather to worship and share in the stories that have guided the people of God for thousands of years. The classroom experience is modeled after the order of the Episcopal liturgy.
Sessions begin with children getting ready for worship. An adult, “the greeter,” is at the door to help the children center their bodies before they enter the classroom slowly and quietly. A second adult, “the storyteller,” welcomes each child to the circle and continues the getting ready process by helping the children center their thoughts using song, prayer, meditation, yoga, or even our own labyrinth.
The Story is shared by the storytellers after they have studied, contemplated, and integrated it. No notes or scripts are used. The lesson is usually a Bible story told with simple wooden figures set in sand if the story happened in the desert or on felt. Parables are ‘gifts’ given to us many generations ago, so they are stored in golden boxes. Sometimes the lesson teaches an aspect of our church’s liturgy; for example, we have a lesson on Baptism and one on “How the Church Tells Time”.
Wondering Together is how we reflect on the story. The storytellers wonders aloud about various aspects of the story. They may ask the children what they found to be the most important part, what part could have been left out leaving the story the same, and to what part they have come closest. The children participate voluntarily and respect all thoughts and opinions in the circle.
Response Time is also called work time by some. Godly Play believes that play is a child’s work and the class allows them space and a place to delve into what they feel called to explore. They may choose an art response from materials available on shelves, or they may choose to retell the story of the day or one they have heard previously. The adults in the classroom help the children to focus but do not interrupt the children’s response time. The children’s work is a form of study and prayer for them.
The Feast occurs after work has been put away on the shelves as it was found and the children have returned to the circle. Prayers are said and a simple snack is offered. This is our time for social conversation and sharing.
The Dismissal closes our worship together as each child is blessed individually by the storyteller. (e.g. “I noticed how hard you were working to recreate the parable of The Good Shepherd. I am so glad you were in the circle today. Go in peace.”) The children will then join their families in the sanctuary church for Holy Communion.
Come observe one Sunday morning!
How can I help?
Help for this program comes in all forms. Jobs range from cutting felt underlays for the stories to helping maintain the classroom to providing our feast to being a ‘Storyteller’ or ‘Doorperson’. Please contact Tiana Wimmer (760-8698) or the Church Office (388-1907) to volunteer or learn more about the program.
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