Monday, August 10, 2009

I National Godly Play Meeting, Madrid

Next October, the first Godly Play national meeting will be held in Madrid. It is aimed at teachers who are already practising Godly Play, a way of helping children engage imaginatively with Bible stories.

This gathering is being convened by David Pritchard, children's ministry coordinator of Scripture Union Spain and an accredited trainer of Godly Play. David started introducing this approach into Spain (with initial help from Peter Privett) in 2004, and throughout these last 5 years, churches and other groups throughout most of Spain have been offered introductory Godly Play days or taster sessions, as well as different workshops aimed at helping the participants get started in the method and training them in basic skills.

The result of this work is that Godly Play has now taken root in the educational practice of several local churches belonging to a range of denominations and languages (Spanish, Catalan & English speaking). Some churches are now using the method every week in their Sunday schools, whilst others more sporadically. In some places, dedicated Godly Play classrooms have been established. Other people have seen that Godly Play is useful to them in contexts beyond the church doors, and not only in their work with children.

As such rich and varied experiences have built up, David Pritchard believes that the time is right to make a stop along the way and to take a breather, so as to ponder and reflect on what has been learned so far and to share that with others. This is the reason behind this first national meeting.

The slogan for the gathering, '¡Ultreya!', means 'Onwards!', 'Press on!' or 'Keep on going!'. This word of encouragement comes from Latin –- ultra (beyond) and eia (an interjection for 'to move') -- and it was used by the Compostelan pilgrims whenever they met along the way to greet one another and to be encouraged to press on towards their destination. So, the purpose of this first national Godly Play meeting is precisely so that the participants can encourage one another mutually to carry on with their use of Godly Play.

As the next stage of the journey is considered, there will also be attention paid to the contents, structures and models of partnership and cooperation for the development of Godly Play in Spain over the next few years. One of the people attending the meeting will be Ulrike Labuhn, an accredited Godly Play teacher and trainer from Germany, who will give input regarding the growth and development of the method in that particular European country, so as to offer the gathering an element of comparison. It is hoped that other participants will also take responsibility for different aspects of the programme.

So, the meeting will be more of a consultation or discussion forum, rather than a 'conference' or 'training event' per se. It is intended mainly for practitioners of Godly Play in Spain.

The sessions will take place in both Spanish and English, and translation will be provided according to the needs of those attending.

For more information about the event, the brochure can be downloaded in Spanish or in English.

Godly Play in Malaysia

I won't be returning home for some time after my trip to Germany (see previous post). The very day I get back from Cologne, I am due to lead a residential weekend training event (25-27 September) near Madrid which aims to help Godly Play practitioners become more familiar with the parable stories (details here, in Spanish, and in the Agenda on this page).

Then, a few days later, I'm off to Malaysia!

The initial encouragement to make this very long journey came from Pauline Hoggarth & Wendy Strachan, members of the Scripture Union International team, who are both involved in the Forum of Bible Agencies International (FOBAI) and in the planning group behind the upcoming World Wide Scripture Engagement Consultation, which will take place in Melaka (or Malacca), Malaysia, from 4 to 9 October. The theme for the Consultation is 'Hearts Burning: Exploring Scripture Engagement for the 21st Century'. "The aim is to gather 150 – 200 people from around the globe into a community of practitioners who together create a compelling experience of Scripture engagement. And, who go on to collaborate in the future." There will be 4 'tracks' in the Consultation, one of which is 'Scripture Engagement among Children and Youth', coordinated by Wendy Strachan. This will consist primarily of 8 workshops, including one on Godly Play. Here's some background information related to it:
Ready to Play?
Godly Play® is a way of encouraging children to engage imaginatively with Bible stories. This method is being used in many different countries, denominations, contexts and age groups. Following an 'action-reflection' approach, the workshop allows participants a hands-on experience of Godly Play® and a chance to reflect on its implications about how we 'are' with children and how we offer them a 'language' in order to help them meet God through Scripture.
So, I was asked to consider leading this particular workshop.

However, I confess that my first reaction was one of reluctance. For two main reasons:
    1. It seemed an awful long way to go for the sake of a single 90-minute workshop, and
    2. The very day that the Consultation in Malaysia finished a strategic 3-day Godly Play meeting would be starting in Madrid - for which I was responsible! So, how could I possibly do both within such a short span of time?
It was, therefore, very helpful that the organizers were willing to move the Godly Play workshop up to the first full day in the programme and thus allow me to book a return flight back to Spain a couple of days before the Consultation officially finished. This will now give me a whole day to recover from jet lag before the start of the event in Madrid.

However, what has especially changed my reaction from initial reticence to one of sheer delight about the prospect of the trip to Malaysia has been the outcome of correspondence I have had with Dr Sunny Tan, dean of the Malaysia Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS), and his wife Rosalind Lim, who directs the Holistic Child Development Institute (HCD) in Penang. Both the MBTS and the HCD are connected to the Child Theology Movement, Sunny being one of its directors.

The result is that I now have further opportunities to present Godly Play in Malaysia, through two separate 4-hour seminars. These seminars will take place on the days immediately before the World Wide Scripture Engagement Consultation starts in Malacca, and the venues are the main MBTS campus, in Penang, and an extension centre they have near the capital, Kuala Lumpur. Click on the poster for full details.

So, I am now very excited about where all this may lead to, and I'm looking forward very much to learning a lot from my first visit to Asia!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

'Entertaining Angels: Hospitality as Mission'

A few weeks ago, I received a phone call from the Revd. Canon Ian Hutchinson Cervantes, Chaplain of St George's Anglican Church in Madrid. As we spoke, Father Ian first informed me that he was a member of the organizing committee of the Church of England Diocese in Europe Pastoral Conference, which would take place in Cologne (Germany) on 21-25 September. Given the theme of the conference, "Entertaining Angels: Hospitality as Mission", he said that he had pressed hard for a workshop on Godly Play as a way of welcoming children to be included in the conference programme. This had been accepted by the rest of the planning committee and an invitation had been extended to a Godly Play trainer in Germany to lead the workshop. All this had been carefully prepared months ago. However, just before Father Ian was about to leave for his summer holiday, he told me that he had just been informed by the trainer that she would not be able to make it after all. So, rather desperately I guess, he wondered if I would be free to step in and lead the workshop myself!

It so happens that the conference will take place just before another Godly Play training event in Madrid which I am also involved in, and travel connections from Madrid to Cologne are much less complicated than they would have been from Santiago de Compostela. So, I have accepted the task of presenting and repeating the same workshop to 3 groups of approximately 15 participants in each - i.e. Anglican clergy from all over Europe.

The workshop will be a practical introduction to Godly Play. It aims to offer the participants the chance to experience Godly Play and to assist them in discovering the potential of this method as a means of welcoming children, thereby enabling them to explore children's experience of cultural displacement and God's Spirit present and at work in their lives and in their experience of 'journeying'.

Here is some further information about the Pastoral Conference:
The Diocesan Pastoral Conference “Entertaining Angels: Hospitality as Mission.” This is the theme of the upcoming pastoral conference, the 2nd in the 30 year history of the Diocese in Europe. All the diocesan clergy, from Madeira to Moscow, Tangier to Trondheim, will meet at the Cardinal Schulte House near Cologne for worship, bible study, teaching, and continuing education workshops, to equip them further for their work of ministry and mission in Europe.

Their work will be supported by two keynote speakers: Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP and Professor Brian Thorne.

Fr Radcliffe is the former Master of the Dominicans, a widely read author on pastoral Christianity with a prophetic edge, whose latest book, following on the best-selling What Is the Point of Being a Christian?, entitled Why Go to Church? was the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book for 2009.

Professor Thorne is Emeritus Professor of Counselling at the University of East Anglia, founder of Norwich Centre for Counselling Studies, and an expert in mediation and person-centred counselling. His books include Behold the Man: A Therapist's Meditations on the Passion of Jesus Christ and most recently, Infinitely Beloved.

Bible studies will be led by Dr Musa Dube, Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Botswana and a New Testament scholar. Dr Dube is a highly sought international speaker in academic and ecumenical circles and will bring fresh and challenging readings of the scriptures from outside the traditional European context.

At least 10 workshops will be offered covering a wide range of topics: Liturgy, reconciliation, welcoming different cultures, Godly Play, expatriate ministry, ecumenical ministry, interfaith dialogue, leading bible study in a multicultural context, ministry with the marginalized, environmental and ecology concerns in ministry.
The Revd. Hutchinson had called on me to help out at the conference as the result of the 5-year association I have had with St George's Church in Madrid, facilitating their development of Godly Play through a series of regular on-site training events. If you wish to read more about how St George's Sunday school embraced Godly Play, here is a short article about it from The European Anglican magazine.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Back to blogging here!

It has been quite awhile (2 whole years, in fact!!!) since I last updated this blog. Meanwhile, the main item of news has been the move Cilla and I made last summer to Galicia, the northwestern region of Spain.

We now live on the sea coast in a small fishing town called Portosín. Most of the year is very quiet, the town and nearby beaches being practically deserted from September through to the following June. However, in July and August tourists come from many parts of Spain and beyond to enjoy the cooler weather and excellent cuisine of this holiday resort. As well as its beaches, Portosín also boasts a well equipped nautical dock. Here are some pictures from my Flickr site.

Although we are quite a distance away from our provincial capital, A Coruña, the regional capital and important pilgrimage site of Santiago de Compostela is only a 45-minute drive away - and that's also our nearest international airport.

One of the reasons why I have not kept up regular updates on this blog is that most of the immediate day-to-day news and personal stuff can now be found on my Facebook and Twitter sites. If you have not discovered those yet, please take a look.

I also manage the Unión Bíblica / Scripture Union Spain's blog, their Facebook page and Twitter site, as well as their Children's Ministry blog... all in Spanish. Furthermore, I continue to administer the Godly Play Spain blog in English and the equivalent Spanish language blog, as well as the Godly Play España Facebook group (in both languages) and a Yahoo! discussion group (in Spanish). All this keeps me quite busy, apart from the regular travelling involved in leading training events and other activities with SU Spain.

I have now decided that this English-language blog will be updated periodically (as time permits), but only for fairly major news and details focusing mainly on ministry matters, rather than on family items. For the latter, both Cilla and I have our own Facebook sites.