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.

May 14 Knowing Jesus in a New Way (part 2)
After Jesus had risen on Easter, he appeared among his followers in different ways until the time of his Ascension. Two men were walking the road to Emmaus and deeply troubled by the crucifixion of Jesus. A fellow traveler joined them and when they reached their destination, the two invited the third to share a meal. It was not until then that they recognized the third man was Jesus. We also wondered about Thomas, ‘the doubter.’ Jesus had appeared to the some of his disciples but Thomas could not believe because he did not see. Later Jesus came to the disciples again while they were all sharing a meal and Thomas upon seeing Jesus, fell to his knees. Jesus’ response was, “Blessed are those who have not seen and still believe.”

May 21 Knowing Jesus in a New Way (part 3)
The Eastertide journey continues and we are still hearing that Jesus keeps appearing unexpectedly. He had risen on Easter – Alleluia! – but he just kept showing up in surprising ways before his ascension. John’s gospel tells us that Jesus’ disciples made the long trip to Galilee as Jesus had instructed them and stopped at the Sea of Galilee. Fishing was unsuccessful until someone tending a fire onshore called out to them to throw their nets to the other side. John recognized that the man on shore was the Lord and Peter had hopped out of the boat to greet Jesus! Jesus gave Peter special instructions, “Feed my lambs… tend my sheep… feed my sheep.” Wonder at home together what Jesus might have meant. How do you tend or feed any of Jesus’ sheep? How do your children?

May 28 Knowing Jesus in a New Way (part 4)
Jesus told his disciples to return to Jerusalem. They gathered again in their familiar room and Jesus was there.  And then he was gone, withdrawn in a way that is hard to understand or imagine. The disciples waited – what was to happen next? While they waited they found someone to replace Judas. They waited some more. Suddenly, the waiting was over and everything changed for the disciples when the Holy Spirit came to them – they could speak languages they never learned… it must have been a crazy scene in Jerusalem! The Holy Spirit descended to the disciples like tongues of flame!  For us in the Godly Play classroom, we usually describe the Holy Spirit as being like a fragrant scent or a candle whose flame is out but the essence lingers in the trailing smoke – you cannot see these things but still, somehow, you know they are there. We use gentle words for a raging fire. Why might that be? Blessings on your time of wondering, this is a truly big question.
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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