Godly Play offers a creative, child-honoring way of entering into and experiencing the biblical story. In Godly Play, we play with the language of God and God’s People: our sacred stories, parables, liturgical actions and silence. Through this powerful language, through our wondering, though the community of players gathered together, we hear the deepest invitation of all: an invitation to come play with God.
What Happens in a Godly Play Session?
At the Threshold
A doorkeeper waits by the door to the Godly Play classroom, warmly welcoming children as they arrive from Children’s Chapel at 10:00 am. He or she says, “I’m so glad you’re here. Are you ready to be part of a Godly Play classroom?”
Building the Circle
Children make their way into the room and sit in a circle around the storyteller. He or she talks quietly and easily with the children, building a community where each and every participant is warmly welcomed. The storyteller says, “We need to get ready for the story.” The storyteller then shows how by sitting quietly, legs crossed, hands at the ankles. Conversation yields to silence. He or she smiles and says, “Watch were I go to get this story.”
Presenting the Lesson
The Storyteller goes to get the materials for the day’s presentation –a box, a basket or a tray. He or she brings these materials to the circle. Slowly, deliberately, the storyteller brings out the story figures and objects, gently moving and arranging them as he or she tells the story. The children’s eyes focus where the storyteller’s eyes and hands focus, on the small wooden figures, painted plaques or beautifully finished props moving in the circle. The lesson continues, moves forward… and concludes. The storyteller sits back, but keeps his or her eyes on the figures. “I wonder… I wonder what part of this story you like best?” There is silence for a moment, and then a child answers… and then perhaps another. The storyteller affirms each answer. The storyteller continues, “I wonder what part is the most important?” Children name different parts. Every serious struggle to answer is, again, affirmed. “I wonder where you are in the story or what part of the story is about you?” “I wonder if there is any part of this story we could leave out and still have all the story we need?” The storyteller listens respectfully to every answer, repeating it, never calling one response good or another wrong. It is the child’s effort to speak theologically in a seriously playful way that is being supported.
The wondering sinks into silence. The children watch as the storyteller puts away the lesson. He or she invites them to think about what work they would like to do in response to the lesson. The children have been involved in the story and the wondering. Now that absorbed involvement continues as they, one by one, name what response they choose to make. Some play mindfully with the materials from the presentation or from other presentations. Others want to paint. Still others work with crayons.
The storyteller turns the room lights off: a silent signal (there is still plenty of light coming in from the windows). He or she waits a moment, until all eyes are on the storyteller, then invites the children to put away their work and gather for the feast – juice and a healthy snack. After all have been served, a prayer is said and the feast shared.
When the feast is finished, the storyteller draws the attention of the group to gather for a reading or song as each child waits to be picked up by his or her parent. When a parent arrives at the entrance of the classroom, the doorkeeper quietly escorts their child to the door, looks into their eyes, smiles, and quietly says, “It was a pleasure to have you here today. Thank you for being with us.”
Helpful tips for parents
* Children in the 1st grade and older will join the regular worship service around 10:35 to receive the Eucharist as their “Feast.” Children will remain in the sanctuary to meet up with their parents immediately following the service, at which point the storyteller and doorkeeper will say goodbye to them.
Visit www.godlyplay.com to learn more about Godly Play from Episcopal priest Jerome Berryman’s own website. It is full of excellent resources and background on why this curriculum is so popular and effective.
For more information on Godly Play at the Redeemer, contact Director of Children, Youth and Family Ministries Bobby Outterson-Murphy 617-566-7679 ext. 16.