Children’s Formation

Godly Play – The Children’s Gathering on the Square

St Peter’s Parish Hall

The Children’s Gathering on the Square meets in rooms at the back of St Peter’s Parish Hall from approximately 9 am to 10 am on Sunday mornings. The Godly Play program takes place in “The Loft” and is appropriate for children who are curious about the bible stories that they hear in church, enrolled in pre-school through the 4th grade of school. Children in grades 5 and up are invited to participate in The Rock program located below in “Son Room.” Older children are welcome to assist as teachers’ aides with either group.

Here is the schedule for September:

Sept. 3 The Story of the Holy Family and an opening celebration with The Rock and the Godly Play classes combined to start us off well. Our lesson today focuses on the story of the Christ’s birth. We learn in the lesson of the Holy Family, that, in both forms, Jesus was, as he has been since, “reaching out to give the whole world a hug.”

Sept. 10 Timeline of the apostles and saints. Our lesson today focuses on how Christ’s message lives on through the actions of apostles and saints. By looking at the lives of apostles and saints over the centuries, we see how people like you and I can help others feel Christ’s presence in our actions.

Sept. 17 Jesus and the Twelve. We learn more about the twelve disciples of Jesus, the first apostles to spread Christ’s message to the world. We hear their names and learn a little about their lives and the symbols used to represent them. If you had a symbol to represent the essence of your life, what might it be?

Sept. 24 The All Saints Lesson. In our Episcopal/Anglican tradition we trust that each of us is a member of the Communion of Saints just by virtue of being one of God’s children. The symbol in the story is a mirror, an invitation to remember that God loves each of us just the way we are. And yet, we are called to try to be our best selves in everyday life. Saints in our tradition, St. Augustine, St. Theresa, St. Damien and so many more, are only part of the story. We will wonder with your children who are the saints they know personally…who do they see as saints?

Beth Young

An In-Depth Look at Godly Play

Godly Play is based on the teachings and writings of Jerome W. Berryman, including Godly Play: An Imaginative Approach to Religious Education and other works.

Among the subjects at the training are the four genres of Godly Play language:

  • the Language of the Sacred Story, usually three-dimensional, in which God is the main character and the People of God encounter God’s “elusive presence”;
  • the Language of the Parable, generally two-dimensional, “supporting the timeless quality of Jesus’ words to us”;
  • the Language of the Liturgical Action story, usually both two- and three-dimensional, “supporting a deeper understanding of the liturgical focus.” Liturgy “helps express inner and outer existential realities in a way that allows others to participate”; and
  • the Language of Silence, which is assumed to be full, rather than empty.

Each language genre teaches us something about children and their faith journey. In the Language of the Sacred Story, “we understand that children have already experienced the mystery of God. What they need is an appropriate language by which to identify, name, value and express in community what such an event means.”

The “very different and curious kind of communication of the Language of the Parable gives us the “best approximation of the voice of Jesus,” which children need to hear during their language formation.*  In the Language of Liturgical Action, we learn that “Children need meaning and companions to share their faith journey. Like any art, to learn to worship, one must worship.” The Liturgical Action Lessons help show us how.The Language of Silence is especially important in a world in which children (and adults, I believe) “have a growing inability to listen.” Beyond being silent, children need “stillness (from within) . . . if they are going to learn.”

There is a theology to the Godly Play room. It is a sacred space, set up carefully for children, the way the church sanctuary is set up. (Children in the Episcopal Church, we learned, are entitled to equal money, space and time as the adults.) The core story is that of the Holy Family:  “God so loved the world he sent the Christ Child to us as a human, always with his arms outstretched, ready to give us a hug.” Godly Play provides the tools for children’s journeys of faith: its space is inviting, and creates mystery and wonder. We are visually reminded it is a holy space. It invites touching things, yet it is clear there is something reverential about them. It is a quiet space that facilitates prayer and contemplation.

Godly Play can be a trans-formative experience for everyone involved, whatever their ages. We are lucky to have this program in partnership with St. Peter’s as the foundation of our Children’s Ministries at The Cathedral of St. Andrew.
*Source: Godly Play Core Training material

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