Friday, August 05, 2011
I was feeling pretty tired after taking part in a week-long children's programme at the beginning of July. Then I was one of the speakers at an all-age holiday weekend from 22nd to 25th. So when the third summer event took place at my church in Castiñeiras (Galicia) --a weekend for young adults, called RenovAcción (28th-31st July)-- I wasn't intending to actually DO anything! The coordinator of the event had invited me to attend "simply to observe".
Hmm! Well, it wasn't long before I was fully involved again in yet another project! One reason was that the pile of stones left over from the all-age weekend were very inviting... and soon I began designing and organizing for the first time in my life an open-air Prayer and Bible Labyrinth, as well as several prayer and meditation stations inside the church building.
I found some resources for this from www.labyrinth.org.uk. With help from a few volunteers, it took us a full day to set up.
Based on the three phases of devotional Bible engagement: (i) entering (getting ready, shedding, openness, confession...); (ii) centring (engagement with the Bible text, lectio divina, meditation...; (iii) leaving (response, commitment, intercession, witness, integration, incarnation...), the labyrinth invites participants to get deeply involved in a dynamic and creative experience of encountering God through the Bible and prayer.
Each of the 'pilgrims' walked the labyrinth at their own pace - most spent at least 20 minutes, some over an hour, in the process. Before leaving the labyrinth, they wrote their comments in the 'Pilgrim's Journal'. In the end, the labyrinth experience was rated very highly by the young people in their overall evaluation of the weekend. Here's a selection of their comments (translated from the original Spanish):
"How time flies when walking these paths... just like life itself!"
"My life is like a labyrinth, but God knows perfectly well where I am."
"I need to learn how to be in silence and to enjoy it. It's not a waste of time!"
"I ask the Lord to help me find God's peace."
"A necessary spiritual exercise... a 'way' to purify your soul."
"The labyrinth has been a haven of peace."
"A time and place of quietness and thought."
"Thanks for helping me to speak to God in such a dynamic way."
"The labyrinth is a precious moment to spend with the Lord."
"Peace for the soul comes from God alone, who is the only one that can cover you like soothing ointment. This is what I discovered in this labyrinth."
"The labyrinth has helped me realise that I do not listen to God like I really should. It has given me a chance to be still and to spend time with God."
"I know that God is here speaking to me."
"Being in the centre of the labyrinth is fixing your gaze on God."
"Thank you, God, for being with me each step of the way. Great is your faithfulness!"
"I need to come back to You... The labyrinth reminds me of the place where I should be, where I am meant to be... I'm so sorry!"
"God is the active principle in our lives... in my life. Thank you!"
More photos can be found HERE
Thursday, June 23, 2011
As I travel around Spain (and beyond) leading training sessions on Godly Play, invariably my Holy Family set of figures journeys with me.
I am particularly fond of these materials. They were given to me in compensation for all the hard work I had put in organising the second European Godly Play Conference three years ago in Madrid. The set can be purchased from GP Finland (http://www.godlyplay.fi).
This time the figures ended up on the focal shelf at a church in Valencia (the First Evangelical Baptist Church), where they are in the process of setting up a new Godly Play classroom, but have still to make or buy their own material for the Holy Family.
It coincided with Pentecost Sunday, and the liturgical colour changed from Easter white to the red-hot underlay used on this special Sunday. I think the wooden figures look wonderful against the red cloth and the sky blue wall of the classroom!
More pictures are displayed here.
Thursday, March 03, 2011
Here are some of the comments received from participants at a recent Godly Play introduction:
- Thanks for your careful attention and time. I will surely incorporate several aspects of this method even if I am not able to use it in its entirety.
- Wonderful. I will certainly attend the next event. Yes, indeed. Amen!
- Thank you, it's been very enriching.
- It's an excellent method. I will do my best to start using it at my church with the children.
- It has been a blessing to me and I hope to be able to make good use of this method.
- Thank you for your work and the time devoted to teaching others.
- I loved the way the storyteller spoke in such a hushed voice - it really drew me into the story.
- I would like to sign up for the next workshop in Madrid.
- Thanks for your time and willingness. God bless you!
- As in everything we do, we need God's help to put this into practice. I liked the presentation very much - it was elegant and charming. Thanks for your hard work!
- Thank you for sharing with us, and for the good will, enthusiasm and effort which lay behind it all.
- There are many things which seem fantastic to me, but I still have doubts about some aspects. I need to see more.
- Thank you for a wonderful day with so much information. We felt really welcomed.
- Many thanks for this demonstration. It is edifying for both children and adults too.
- I feel fascinated and surprised by this kind of storytelling. I would like to be used in the same way - to really know God's word.
- I believe it's an incredible method that needs to be translated more and made available for Spanish speakers. Thanks for everything!
I was invited to lead the introduction day by the Tres Cantos Christian Community, which organized the event in partnership with Unión Bíblica / Scripture Union Spain.
More photos here
Thursday, February 03, 2011
On Sunday 3 October 2010, Godly Play classes began for a group of 3 to 7 year-olds, at the Evangelical Church in Castiñeiras, a small fishing town in the Galician province of La Coruña. They have continued uninterrupted every morning Sunday since. Throughout the first term (Oct-Dec 2010), detailed monitoring of the classes was carried out, with special emphasis on observing the responses made by the children through their wondering, expressive art and play. Open-ended response is encouraged by this imaginative approach to engaging with Bible stories. This brief report provides only general information on a few of these observations. For a more detailed explanation on how Godly Play has been implemented in the Castiñeiras Sunday school, we hope that local inquirers, or indeed visitors to Galicia, will feel free to speak to one of our Godly Play teachers about it, ideally in our specially prepared classroom. Alternatively, they can contact me (David Pritchard) by email.
GODLY PLAY CLASSROOM, FURNITURE & TEACHING MATERIALS
The Godly Play sessions took place initially (from October to December 2010) on the 1st floor of the chapel in Castiñeiras, in one of the small classrooms. Following the pastor's recommendation, we later moved to a more spacious classroom (since January 2011). In both cases, careful analysis of the available space was made so that the furniture could be arranged and the teaching materials displayed in the most suitable way possible, taking into account the nature of Godly Play and its cyclical curriculum. It is important for its development that a safe and stimulating environment is created which is conducive to learning Bible stories and reflecting on existential matters. Furthermore, the teaching materials need to be attractive for children of all ages. They must also be sufficiently robust and durable, and their simple design should evoke the imagination of boys and girls as they use them in free play to draw meaning from the Biblical narratives.
Shelves were constructed before the summer of 2010 to house the teaching materials and art supplies. At around this time, too, the task of crafting our own resources was begun, and this is a work still in progress. Our do-it-yourself resourcing has advanced very rapidly thanks to the collaboration of a large group of volunteers, including church members, young people and other folk who are not themselves churchgoers, but offered to lend a hand. The result has been materials of excellent quality and beauty. The team of Sunday school teachers, who represent the children attending the class -- and these youngsters are surely the real beneficiaries of these resource materials! -- feel tremendously grateful for this collaboration.
As of today, most of the basic resource materials have been created. This is the stuff necessary for teaching the core lessons in the Godly Play curriculum. We reckon that the task of crafting the remaining basic materials will be completed by the end of this term (January-April 2011). Following that, it is hoped that materials for the enrichment lessons will be added bit by bit.
By making our own materials, a substantial amount of money has been saved. We reckon that, had we purchased the equivalent materials from one of the official Godly Play resource suppliers, the bill would have come to at least 1,600 euros, plus additional costs of post & packaging from abroad. Taking into account the stuff that is still being made, the amount needed to equip a Godly Play classroom with the essential materials for the core curriculum would come to around 2,700 euros, plus p&p. That is the overall amount that we would have saved. Obviously, money has been spent: the main expense was the shelving. However, thanks to the collaboration mentioned above, other expenditure has been limited to the purchase of supplies (wood, felt, paint...) needed to make the resources, as well as accessories such as trays, rugs, art materials, etc.
A series of workshops have been organised in order to present the Godly Play method and to train teachers in its techniques, as well as to promote a deeper grasp of its theological and pedagogical underpinnings. These workshops have been run by Castiñeiras Evangelical Church in collaboration with Unión Bíblica (Scripture Union Spain). Registration has been open to anyone interested in attending from any church. The training events have taken place on Saturdays (8 hours each workshop):
- 8 May 2010… ‘How to Share Parables with Children Using the Godly Play Method’ - 13 members of churches in Castiñeiras-Ribeira, Ferrol and Santiago de Compostela attended this training event.
- 12 June 2010… ‘How to Tell Children Sacred Stories through Godly Play’ - There were 9 trainees from churches in Castiñeiras and Ferrol.
- 11 September 2010… ‘Godly Play Space and Materials’ - 7 trainees attended from Castiñeiras and Ferrol.
- 29 January 2011… ‘Children and Liturgical Action in the Godly Play method’ - There were 13 trainees from churches in Castiñeiras, Ferrol, Moaña and Ramallosa.
CHILDREN'S RESPONSE TO THE METHOD
Without a doubt, the most thrilling and satisfying aspect in this process of implementing Godly Play has been the entirely favourable response of the children. We have observed the following features, amongst others:
- Their eagerness and ease in learning the different routines and phases of a typical Godly Play lesson: (i) THRESHOLD – getting ready at the door; picking up their individual rug; quietly joining other children on the floor as together they form the Godly Play circle; greeting the storyteller…; (ii) BIBLE STORY – observing and listening to the storyteller as s/he presents the lesson; wondering out loud as the storyteller leads the group in active reflection; listening to and respecting the opinions of the other children in the group…; RESPONSE – though expressive art or by means of free play and interaction with the story materials; working individually or in small groups; finding a place for their work and respecting the space of others…; FEAST – taking turns in serving the rest of the group, bringing napkins, glasses, fruit, water, etc.; passing the offering; praying and hearing the Bible reading; watering the plant…; DISMISSAL – waiting their turn to approach the storyteller to say goodbye and receive their blessing; collecting their rug and depositing it in the rug box; leaving the room…
- Their progressive asimilation of the implicit values in a Godly Play session: silence and slowing down, active listening, wondering, respect shown to others and their work space, respect in taking turns, serving others, care for the environment and the materials, freedom/responsibility, sharing, blessing, awe at life's mysteries and the presence of God…
- The enthusiasm with which the children receive the Bible stories and their level of engagement with the stories; their curiosity and openess to ongoing discovery; their ability to draw connections between one story and another, and with their own life experiences…
- The gratitude that the children have displayed at the opportunity to freely choose their work and means of response, that they can engage playfully with the lesson materials without undue teacher interference, and for the attractive range and quality of the art materials.
- The creativity displayed in the children's expressive art and play.
A 6 year-old girl was observed during the work time, as she began to take out several lessons and lay out the materials on the floor. First the green underlay of the Good Shepherd parable. Then, at its side, the brown felt cloth of the Parable of the Deep Well. She then placed the figures of each of these stories on their respective underlay. Then she began to move the Good Shepherd and the sheep through the green pastures towards a small piece of blue felt representing the quiet waters. She then broke with the 'normal' Good Shepherd parable as, instead of leading his sheep towards the 'dangerous places' on the green felt, the figure of the shepherd led his sheep over to the second story, across the 'desert' towards the deep well. The girl then asked the door person to help her tie together the 6 golden threads and miniature bucket. She then proceeded to lower the bucket into the well, draw out the refreshing water and hand it to the sheep to drink. Finally, she took out the Baptism lesson and proceeded to baptize a little wooden figure in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit... This 6-year-old had never witnessed a Godly Play 'side-by-side' presentation. However, she was already intuitively anticipating such presentations (normally reserved for older children) and playfully making hermeneutical connections through her project on water.OTHER COMMENTS
- Our classroom has already served as a reference and a source of inspiration for visitors from other churches. They have expressed curiosity and interest in learning more about Godly Play, and some have attended workshop trainings as a result.
- There are already plans for extending the Godly Play classes to the groups of older children in our Sunday school. This will probably start in the 3rd term of this school year, as well as enjoy periodic sessions during the summer holidays.
- There are also plans for offering parents the chance to take part in a number of Godly Play sessions so that they can get a first-hand grasp of the type and style of teaching that their children are receiving on Sunday mornings.