Children begin with us every Sunday in Celebration, and about ten or fifteen minutes into the service they are dismissed to go upstairs to Godly Play. This is the program in our Sunday Church School for children from Kindergarten through Grade 6. It is more than a curriculum; it is a way to experience worship. Each class is co-led by a storyteller and a greeter. Questions about Godly Play can be directed to the classroom teachers or to Talitha Phillips, our Coordinator for Children, Youth and Family Life.
The goal of Godly Play is to enable children to use sacred story, parable, liturgical action and silence to become more aware of the mystery of God’s presence in their lives and in the community of children gathered together. Every Sunday a Biblical story is followed by a time of open, shared dialogue about the story among children and teachers. The storyteller guides the dialogue. There are wondering questions asked of the children. Some examples are:
I wonder what you like best about this story.
I wonder what is the most important part of the story.
I wonder who you are in this story.
Such questions are always open-ended and allow children to participate in the reflective process without fear of right or wrong answers. Wondering together is the community’s way of remaining open to the Holy Spirit and allowing the story to become part of our lives. This kind of wondering shapes and deepens our knowledge of God and what God expects. The time of reflection is followed by a time of active response. Children choose from a variety of good quality art materials such as watercolors, clay, marker pens or colored pencils. They create their own response to the lesson. Some children prefer to hear another story or will take down a story from the shelves and work with it on their own. Teachers’ primary concern is that work is a result of the child’s own creativity.
Following their work times, the children return to the circle on the floor for a time of prayer and sharing the Feast (an indirect preparation for communion). Children leave the circle one at a time so that the storyteller has an opportunity to share personal words of affirmation and blessing. Godly Play supports children as they find their own place in the Great Story and discover their unique identity as a child of God.
This method was developed by Dr. Jerome Berryman, a Montessori teacher and Episcopal priest. It is used by many churches in the United States and Canada.
When asking children about church school after class, the best question is “How was the story?”
Praying in Color
This summer we offered a great program based on Praying in Color, a book by Sybil MacBeth. Learn more about this new program.