September 7, 2014 Story Update

family newsletterEach week we write a Constant Contact e-mail targeted to young families (and our elected vestry members! We’re sneaky that way…) At first we just listed upcoming schedule changes and that sort of thing, but we decided it was a good forum for opening a window into our classrooms for the parents. So each week I’d send a little e-mail off to the storytellers (we have two Godly Play classrooms) and ask what story they told, etc.

And each week I’d get a lovely paragraph back describing what happened that day! It’s really the best part of my week, and I am thankful that the storytellers are excited enough to write in such detail. These descriptions below are just as we send them. I edit them very slightly (to remove a child’s name or to edit out some housekeeping comment the storyteller might be sending my way) but otherwise they’re exactly as the storyteller reports. I hope you enjoy!

Woohoo! We’ve started! It was great to see everyone back together – our teachers enjoy starting back just as much as the children do!

The younger Godly Play class started out with “The Circle of the Church Year,” so that they will know how the church tells time. Sometimes Time is in a line, and sometimes it is in a circle. This story has one of our favorite lines in Godly Play: “For every beginning there is an ending, and for every ending there is a beginning. It goes on and on, forever and ever.”


 Many of the stories that we tell have a “Parent Page” that describes the story and offers some insights for sharing the story with your child. “The Circle of the Church Year” is one of those stories, so ask one of the Godly Play team for a copy. They are really well done, and we wish we had them for EVERY story!

The older Godly Play class is trying out a new frame for the fall – we are using the stories that often are part of the Jesse Tree, usually used during Advent. On Sunday, September 7, we talked about Jesse; we remember not only the family of Jesse, which begins a lineage that leads to Jesus, but the many people of the Hebrew scriptures who prepared God’s people for the coming of Jesus. We talked about foreshadowing – even though our stories will be all from the Old Testament, they offer clues about Jesus, so we’re looking for those clues! We heard the story of “Second Creation: The Falling Apart” – the story of Adam and Eve and the serpent. Our class blew us away with their insights on this rather difficult story. We talked about the differences: God/People; Good/Evil, etc. One student suggested the balance he saw in the story, which gave everyone food for thought. (No Parent Page for this one….)


Posted in Godly Play, Godly Play Classroom, Godly Play Story Materials, Jerome Berryman, Seasons of the Church Year | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Our 2014 Fall Godly Play Schedule

IMG_1873First of all, perhaps you missed me. (I HOPE you missed me!) If you wondered where I’ve been, I’ve been puppy wrangling – so here’s a gratuitous photo of Harvey, the Monster Puppy (he’s a 9 month old border collie mix and was 52 lbs six weeks ago…)

As I usually sit at my computer when Harvey is sleeping, blogging time has been limited…

Back to our scheduling. In early September, all of the Sunday School teachers usually meet for a dinner and time to plan or organize in our classrooms (we have two Godly Play classrooms). In our older class (grades 3-5), we try to schedule out every Sunday with story, storyteller, and doorkeeper up until Advent.

IMG_1917We try to come up with a “frame” for our stories. One season it was all the stories we could think of about coming to the table. This year my co-teachers were kind enough to let me suggest an idea that’s been percolating for some time: we’re using the Jesse Tree.

In December 2010 we had an evening Advent Workshop with various seasonal crafts for children. I worked for days making Shrinky Dink patterns to color and bake, with accompanying verses and explanations. I slightly adapted the Jesse Tree symbols to fit  Godly Play – for example, the red heart represents the Ten Best Ways to Live (the 10 commandments) rather than whatever it was the internet source listed. Of course, the number of children at that workshop who were interested in this craft was ZERO. Not a ONE. But I did secretly admire the sample tree I made, and it’s been sitting around my house and then our Sunday School classroom for four years.

The Shrinky Dink Jesse Tree is turning out to be an interesting frame for our autumn story schedule. At our first meeting we talked about the Isaiah verse about the root of Jesse  (“But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.”  Isaiah 11:1) We’ve been asking the children to look for clues about Jesus in all of our Old Testament stories. For us, it’s been an excellent additional wondering question.

Here is our fall schedule:

9/7/2014 – Second Creation: Falling Apart (and discussion about the root of Jesse)

9/14/2014 – The Flood and the Ark

9/21/2014 – The Great Family

9/28/2014 – Abraham


10/5/2014 – Jacob


10/12/2014 – Joseph


10/19/2014 – Moses


10/26/2014 – The Ten Best Ways

11/2/2014 – Samuel


11/9/2014 – David


11/16/2014 – Jonah

How do you schedule your stories?

Posted in Crafts, Godly Play, Godly Play Classroom, Jerome Berryman, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

And in the other camp …

img_9891What does a good cradle Episcopalian child raised by a Godly Play teacher do when she graduates from college? She volunteers with Young Adult Volunteers in the Presbyterian Church (USA) for a year of service in Belfast, Northern Ireland for beginning in August 2014!

Her blog will no doubt be FAR more exciting than this little old neglected blog, but I hope she will inspire me to return and keep plugging along. So go read up. Perhaps I will send her along with the Godly Play story “The Parable of the Great Pearl,” which is her most favorite story of all the Godly Play stories.

Go here to read a little of how she ended up volunteering … and if you have some extra pennies sitting around, feel free to help her out with her fundraising – that July 1, 2014 deadline is looming!

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“Do I really have to memorize the story?”

When people know I am interested in Godly Play, they always ask me this question. And you know what? Every time I dodge the question and try to be supportive. I don’t want to discourage ANYONE from using Godly Play!


Memorizing “The Twelve” at my desk (I had left the big poster of da Vinci’s Last Supper at the church – and I have to learn it from the teacher’s perspective of looking at the poster upside down!)

However, I do know that I certainly can’t leave out memorizing the story. I’ve always thought that the words were so important that I had to do my best to get them to the children: I only have about 10-15 minutes of a 45 minute Sunday School class for nine months of the year!

(Memorizing the story isn’t the hard part for me; stage fright is. I am terrified, every week, to tell a story, even to children. It fills me with joy, but I am quaking in my boots the entire time. When I tell stories to adults, it’s even worse, with a nice red rash forming on my neck and chest…)

In The Complete Guide to Godly Play, Vol. 1, Jerome Berryman explains it like this:

When I tell a Godly Play story, I don’t read the story, and I don’t even memorize it. I tell it, from my heart. I enter into the story with all the presence and attention I can bring, knowing that each time I tell this story I will discover something new. (…) Our different life experiences, our different developmental stages and different personalities mean that each of us will tell Godly Play stories in a unique way.

Phyllis Tickle hits the nail on the head in her Patheos article “My Six Essentials for Passing on the Faith

Implied in telling is the authenticity of what is being told. The underlying message is that this story matters. It matters because Daddy or Grand-daddy or Uncle Bill knows it all the way through. It matters because Mama or Granny or Aunt Sue loves it enough to know exactly what happens next. Of course, what that also means—and this is the source of the child’s perception of authenticity—is that Daddy and Mama et al. have valued this story enough to know it in detail and have also thought about it before telling it. What telling rather than reading or watching also means, of course, is that the stories of the faith can be pulled out spontaneously when their words and plot lines are apropos of some conversation or situation other than bedtime.

So, I memorize the story. That happens on Saturday night, and I must be diligent. On Sunday morning, I tell the story, leaving what comes out up to the Holy Spirit.

Posted in Books, Godly Play, Jerome Berryman | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

“Civil Rights Sunday” September 15, 2013

Black crucifix stained glassWhat we can leave out in this post is the usual chatter about my musings about Godly Play. This post is about something far more important, and I point you to my friend Fran’s Civil Rights Sunday post on her blog on the chancel steps:

Alright friends, I am on a mission. This September 15th is the 50th Anniversary of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church here in Birmingham. On that Sunday, at 10:22 am, dynamite planted by white supremacists ripped through the side of the church killing four young girls. The church lesson planned for that day was “A Love that Forgives.” Check out this link to learn more and get your church to join congregations across the country to share the message of love and forgiveness interrupted on that fateful day. How cool to have church bells across the globe ring at 10:22, marking how far we have come and pledging to continue overcoming hate and oppression!

Please read her blog post (full of information, ideas, prayers, and resources) and hear how a teacher workshop she attended in her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama turned into something much, much bigger. Can you please pass this on to use in your church and your friends’ churches everywhere, in the US and “across the globe”?

(And, if you do use this in your home church, could you let Fran know at

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2013 Back to School Prayer Vigil

IMG_1172Every church seems to have their own spin on Back to School.

We have a Back to School Prayer Vigil the Sunday before school starts. This year our county schools start on August 19; we’ll have our prayer vigil on Sunday, August 18, at all three worship services. (Yes – mid-August seems early. Here in the South in the US, that’s pretty traditional.)

I’ve described our Back to School Vigil before. We’re following that model, except we’re making a few modifications:

  • This year, we have no Back to School Breakfast. Our former Youth and Family Ministries Coordinator was also a caterer, and it seems the rest of us can’t cook! (That’s not true, but the timing just didn’t work out this year. We hope to return to this great tradition at the beginning of next semester in January.)
  • We need to print out our prayer list on 8 1/2 x 14 paper (legal size). We didn’t take into account just how many names of students, faculty, and staff both here and far away that our church members want to pencil in – and they like to do it at each grade level!
  • A Prayer Card for each student!

The new Prayer Card is an old idea that just didn’t get off the ground until “Back to School Prayer Vigil 5.0.” Sometimes what we can leave out is whatever gives the greatest stress. I think if we find a way to save up the good ideas, in two or three or five years, they’ll still be good ideas – probably even GREAT ideas! (I’m still waiting for great ideas…but maybe if they slow cook long enough, I’ll get there.)

2013 Prayer Card

Three of us worked on this prayer card. One of us wanted a lovely St. Monica prayer, but it didn’t really fit with our Episcopal tradition. Another thought a prayer from our Book of Common Prayer was plenty (and you can’t go wrong with that). A third proposed writing a collect based on a formula, but we were way too tired for that amount of energy. With the miracle of the internet, our fourth friend helped edit it while traveling halfway across the country on vacation. Eventually, we settled on the format below. We already have a template for small credit card size cards, so we can laminate them easily.



We bought rings from an office supply store so that the card could be clipped in or on a purse or backpack.


(I also want to point out that one of my favorite parts of the Prayer Vigil are the new, fresh pencils the Daughters of the King put in the lovely flower arrangements on the chapel altar!)


If you’re looking for “Blessing of the Backpacks,” then rush right over to my friend Fran’s blog on the chancel steps and you’ll find a good one!

Posted in Back to School, Daughters of the King, Parish Traditions | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Pentecost 2013: The Holy Spirit!

IMG_7341-1My co-chairman for Sunday School events and I are an ESTJ and an ISTJ (Myers-Briggs). When we plan for our annual Sunday School Recognition each May to close out the Sunday School year, we start planning in May of the previous year! In 2013, our Sunday School Recognition coincided with Pentecost.

Last summer (in 2012) we “commissioned” a family member to create these simple doves as teacher presents. Check. They were fired, glazed, and put away with a careful note in my nagging software to tell me where I put them.

DovesIn Lent, we started planning for Pentecost. We ordered dove kite kits that we could repackage for a simple gift for each child. Done. And what would our short program be? We did the Blown-Up Pentecost just last year and it seemed too soon to repeat. I wanted something interactive – so a kite liturgy that we found online plus kite gifts were just the ticket! Our nursery chairman wanted to give a gift to the “graduating” kindergartners who were aging out of the nursery, so we ordered copies of Alleluia! Amen. (pictured below with mischievous Milo) and they arrived in plenty of time. Done and done!

IMG_0326 We purchased gift cards at the coffee shop up the street from our church for all teachers, too. I made red envelopes for them (which mischievous Milo promptly scattered in the picture above).

What could go wrong with such meticulous advance planning?

And is it going “wrong” if the Holy Spirit gently nudges us along a different path? Well, NO! But we are results driven people and we apparently need more than gentle nudges.

On Friday before Pentecost, I get a text from my co-chairman asking, “Did the dove kites arrive?” Whoops! I searched my e-mail confirmations, fired off an e-mail and received an answer on Saturday morning: “Oh, we forgot to send them.” (!!!)

I being otherwise overcommitted that Saturday, my fearless friend went out to find appropriate small gifts for the children. She had seen rainbow kites at the right price at the Dollar Store as well as a few other things; these would fit okay with the kite liturgy.

Except the power went off in our town where the Dollar Store was. Suddenly kites became pinwheels after she made a  frantic trip to the side of town with power- and pinwheels don’t fit with the kite liturgy. (Upon reading this over, she says I omitted the part where she was sprawled on the floor of Stuff Mart separating out the orange and red pinwheels from the blue and green pinwheels…)

PinwheelPinwheel bouquet

More searching on the internet found this interactive story, which we slightly rewrote to use some Godly Play language – and pinwheels and a mighty wind fit right in!

IMG_0327Traditionally, the youth (grades 6-12) receive chocolate for a gift. We found Dove chocolates on sale (in keeping with our Pentecost theme) and packaged them up.

IMG_0325And, we finished up by packaging up a few candies (Hot Tamales) for the younger children, to remind them of the Holy Spirit.

Pentecost hot tamalesAt the close of the program, we sang “Happy Birthday” to the Church and had cake and punch. It was a fun day that ran like clockwork, once we co-chairmen managed to get out of the way of the Holy Spirit!

Posted in Books, Feasts, Food, Parish Traditions, Pentecost, Seasons of the Church Year | 4 Comments