Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I wonder if there is any part we can leave out...

One of the wondering questions often used in Godly Play after presenting a Bible story is the following: "I wonder if there is any part we can leave out and still have all the story we need".

The challenge in our storytelling is to grasp what is essential and to omit the superfluous. Scripture itself is selective and often the biblical narratives use the bare minimum of language to convey the essence of the story. Too often when we tell these stories to children (or adults) we tend to elaborate on them and fill in the gaps, instead of allowing the children to thoughtfully read between the lines themselves. Godly Play seeks to employ the same economy of language as Jesus did, for example, in his parables. But there may be even more that we can leave out - hence the question for the children to ponder with us as, together, we seek to grasp the essential.

A couple of volunteers from my church congregation in Galicia have offered to carve some of the wooden figures used in Godly Play as we prepare the new classroom for the coming school year. I guess sculptors continually ask themselves the same wondering question: what more can be chiselled away before getting to the imagined object they have in mind? So throughout the creative process, the craftsman who produced, say, the beautiful donkey in the Holy Family set of figures (see illustration) will be wondering what else that is NOT a donkey can be carved away before finally reaching that which is essentially the donkey we need! The art is leaving out the unessential in order to focus on what really counts.

My church is currently celebrating the centenary of the construction of the rural chapel where we meet. A hundred years of tradition is something to celebrate! However, the leaders of the congregation are also aware that changes need to be made as the church faces the challenges of the twenty-first century. They need wisdom to balance tradition and renewal. "I wonder if there is anything we can leave out (or, perhaps, even add) and still have everything we need" was essentially the question that was in the air during the Reformation!

In October, my wife and I are moving house (again!) to be closer to the church and thus enhance our process of integration. There will not be as much space for all my stuff in the new house. "I wonder what I need to leave out (throw or give away) and still have everything I need" will be the question on my mind as I prepare boxes and attempt to de-clutter. Hmmm!


Rosemary said...

Beautiful meditation, David, and one that I constantly ask myself. Going through "stuff" now to make donations to Salvation Army and/or Goodwill. "For life does not consist in an abundance of possessions." And in some ways, possessions can be an obstacle to abundant life.

Enjoy the cleansing! :) Hope we get to meet one day.

David said...

Many thanks, Rosemary. The hope is mutual!