By Ann Katherine Reimers
From March 2 through 4 this year, St. Andrew’s Cathedral generously sponsored congregants Beth Young and Ann Reimers to attend a Godly Play Core Training at Church of the Epiphany in Kaimukī. It was a wonderful, intensive experience that included a study of the “Spirituality of the Child Plenary,” opening and closing worships, learning together, and individually performing Godly Play sacred stories, parables, and liturgical action stories, and learning to configure a Godly Play classroom. Young and her son regularly attend Sunday Loft sessions, where Young has performed Godly Play stories.
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. The trainers for the three-day program were Sally Mancini and Caryl Menkhus Creswell. Jenny Wallace, long involved in Children’s Ministry at St. Andrew’s, coordinated the training, and has since continued to facilitate the maintenance and development of Godly Play skills, organizing storytelling practice sessions and assistance in creating Godly Play spaces in various churches in the Diocese. Wallace, who was recently accepted to be a trainer for trainers of Godly Play, helped facilitate the implementation of Godly Play at Emmanuel, St. James, and, along with Annalise Castro at the Loft, has been working through the summer to get ready to begin these Christian children’s ministry classes in the fall using Godly Play.
Godly Play participants were able to attend two woodworking sessions, courtesy of Clarice Corbett, from Emmanuel in Kailua, to create Godly Play settings, props, and figures. A set of materials was made for each of the churches involved in the training.The 17 participants included congregants of St. Matthew’s, Waimānalo, St. Andrew’s, St. James, Kamuela, Hawai’i, St. Mark’s and St. George’s, Honolulu, and Emannuel, Kailua.
Among the subjects at the training were 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 St. Andrew’s Cathedral.
*Source: Godly Play Core Training material
Posted on Tuesday, July 24, 2012