Wednesday, November 23, 2005

UK Visit: Godly Play at Roxeth Green Free Church

I have just completed an 18-day visit to the UK (3-21 November). Cilla was able to be with me for the first 10 days, but then had to return to Madrid to resume her work as an English teacher. One of the aims of the trip was to spend time at our 'home' church, Roxeth Green Free Church, in South Harrow (north-west London).

Cilla and I were based at the Roxeth 'manse' (church house), where new core leadership team members, David and Caroline Herbert, live. It was a special joy to get to know David and Caroline - and their hospitality - during our stay with them.

David & Caroline Herbert at a meal out

There were plenty of opportunities to meet new members of the congregation and to renew our friendship with older ones: by sharing meal times, attending and participating in cell groups, mums & toddlers, ladies' meetings...

...children's & youth groups, etc., as well as the more formal invitations to preach and to tell Godly Play stories.

Godly Play was new to Roxeth Green Free Church, and this imaginative approach to being with children and telling Bible stories was clearly the latest development in my own ministry since my last visit to the UK. So, I took advantage of quite a few opportunities to tell Godly Play parables and sacred stories to different church groups: children, teenagers, adults, and all-age groups... first, because the stories are wonderful in themselves, and, second, so that different members of this local congregation could get to know the method and discover why it has lately become important in my work in Spain.

An all-age Godly Play morning at Roxeth Green Free Church

Many of the Godly Play materials were kindly made available to me by the Church of England London Diocesan Children's Advisor, Mary Hawes. I have known Mary for a number of years, as she used to be a Scripture Union children's worker. But it has been in the last couple of years, since my involvement with Godly Play, that we have maintained fairly regular communication. It was good to spend a short time with Mary at London Diocesan House when I went to pick up and later return the Godly Play materials.

Mary Hawes at her office in London Diocesan House

Now, I wonder if Roxeth Green Free Church will itself in time use Godly Play in its own ministry with children. There was certainly great interest in this approach from most of the participants in the Godly Play sessions I was able to lead - especially from parents and Sunday School teachers. At the moment, this local church is facing certain problems with recruitment of leaders to help in its children's work. Perhaps it will be felt that a thorough evaluation of this vital area of ministry is long overdue in the church... and it may be that Godly Play is seen as a way forward. If 'Roxeth' does decide to take it up, it will be one of the first churches in the UK outside the Anglican and Methodist denominations to do so.

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