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

Planning for Advent 2012

What’s up at our place for Advent 2012? We’re traveling new paths to Bethlehem this year! Our young parents have asked, and we’re trying some new things.

Some things will remain the same. As we did last year, we bought 50 of these “Slow Down. Quiet. It’s Advent!” posters to hand out to our young families (and we have extra for those who don’t consider themselves young any more). And, this year I hope to have the print shop print up some of the liturgical calendars seen in the upper left of this post for the parents. Jenifer Gamber created this wonderful tool, and you can find it on her website here. Our children understand the “Circle of the Church Year,” but some of our parents confess the parade of liturgical colors and seasons mystifies them a little. (Some moms have suggested a Godly Play Mom’s Night Out, with wine, to keep up with their children. Now that will be FUN to plan!)

We had an evening Advent wreath craft for children in 2011 (you can find the planning and follow through here, here, here, and here). This year, the young families suggested a new path to Bethlehem.

On Sunday, December 2, 2012 we’re having an Advent Wreath Workshop after Sunday School and church for anyone who wants to participate (one per family, please!). We’ll provide greenery, candles (we chose 10″ patriot blue and pink tapers from and 8 1/2″ oasis rings for the wreath.

Instead of our usual fellowship dinner and Advent craft on the first Wednesday in Advent, we’re changing it up to have the dinner and a short service (in the church) for the celebration of the feast day of St. Nicholas of Myra. A parishioner is set to dress as the good bishop. We’ll have candy canes to bless and pass out. And,, any child who leaves his shoes in the hallway outside the church will perhaps find that St. Nicholas has left an orange and some chocolate coins and a bookmark from the St. Nicholas Center during the service.

It’s a bit scary – and fun – to change things around. When my children were small, most of us used an advent wreath made by a local potter that we used with evergreens, so we never considered a wreath-making event.

And while we don’t use children’s sermons quite like this, I highly recommend checking out my dear friend Fran’s blog on the chancel steps for her series of RCL lectionary-based children’s sermons for Advent and Christmas Eve/Day. I think they’re great! I am including them in the booklet “Celebrating Advent in the Home” that we’ll hand out at the Wreath Making Workshop on December 2, 2012.

Posted in Advent, Lectionary, Parish Traditions, Seasons of the Church Year | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

The Job Maze

We all know I struggle with managing the response time.

On Sunday, October 21, our talented storyteller told the story of Job from Vol. 6. It was a WONDERFUL wondering period; the five children compared the story of Job to Jesus’ telling his friends that they should follow Him. After such a lengthy wondering period and a short time of prayer, we left the children to their work time.

We had a 3rd grader who attends rarely who brought a friend, which can be a poisonous combination – “work” turns into “continuation of the sleepover”! Sure enough, in nothing flat they were marking on the white board creating “Bunny Mazes.”

As the doorkeeper, I thought carefully, and decided humor would work best. I’m not often right…but I tried. I  explained that this part of the class was to give them time to think more deeply about the story in some way. I also said that there’s 168 hours in the week, which left them 167 hours to draw bunny mazes, but I had only 1 hour to encourage them to think about Job. And so I left them.

At the end of class, they proudly showed me their “Job Maze.” Sheep figured as the center “prize” of the maze; the “danger zones” around the edges featured “Job’s angry friends.” They pointed out their well-thought-out maze, and wondered if I would get after them for finding a loophole.

Nope. That loophole worked fine for me!

Posted in Godly Play, Materials for Work Time, Response Time | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Stations of the Cross for Children

When I reported here on our first go at doing a Stations of the Cross for our Godly Play children (ages 4 through 5th grade), several people asked me where they could find the “script” that she used.

Diane, our leader, gave me the photocopied pages she had been using for some time. It is entitled, “Stations of the Cross, Adapted from The Way of the Cross.” The final page ends with “Created by The Rev. Raymond J. Potter, Good Friday, 1980. Adapted by Kathleen and Michael Russell.”

I have the highest respect for copyrighted material, and if this is for sale somewhere and I am violating your rights of ownership, please contact me immediately so that I can remove this post. My intent is not to violate copyright but to share God’s love with this beautifully crafted script. It was a very powerful activity with our children and adults who  participated. I spent some time doing internet searches and inquiring, but I haven’t been able to unearth any information on the authors.

Here is the version we used: Stations of the Cross for Children.


Posted in Finding Stories Outside the Classroom, Lent, Parish Traditions, Seasons of the Church Year, Stations of the Cross | Tagged , | Leave a comment

“Blowing Up” Pentecost

It is our parish tradition to hold “Sunday School Recognition” on the last day of Sunday School in May (we resume – or begin a new “year” the first Sunday after Labor Day in September in the US).

We encourage the entire parish to come, but realistically we just get children, youth, parents, and perhaps a few grandparents.*

If possible, we like to have a very short presentation as we gather together. One struggle we have is to gather adults into the circle – coffee and fellowship is a bigger draw than anything we might offer.

This year we had the idea to “blow up” the Mystery of Pentecost story from The Complete Guide to Godly Play, Volume 4.

To prepare the materials, I cut four long strips of brown felt (we decided that having many strips would bump those unfamiliar with Godly Play out of the story). We found 12″ boxes from packaging store for the blocks (shown here with the small blocks from the story).

I actually scanned the tiny shields from the original materials from Godly Play Resources.

And, oh! the frustration ensued. Once enlarged, the shields were far too pixellated to be useful.

I tried scanning, photography, studied my camera’s instruction manual for macro settings, sent frantic e-mails to friends, and ultimately decided that what I could leave out was this drive for perfection for a one time event for a large group.  A friend suggested using a black marker to outline and define the pixellated prints (on card stock from my printer). This took just a few minutes and did the job perfectly – even a few teachers commented on how nice the shields looked!

We began with a prayer and then explained we were doing the Pentecost story a week early (on May 20, 2012 this year). I began showing the red box of the Mystery of Pentecost story and said, ”

Next Sunday, May 27, is one of the three great times in the Circle of the Church Year. It’s Pentecost – and ow! It’s hot! But why?

This story is the Mystery of Pentecost. This is the version we use in our classrooms downstairs, but this one is too small for all of us today. So today we have a big version! And Anne and Belinda are going to help me tell the story.

Since we don’t have a big red box to peek into, the only thing we can do is just begin!

I acted as narrator, reading aloud the script for the story while two of our Godly Play teachers manipulated our larger props.

During Sunday School Recognition we call each class to the front, introduce the children that are present and their teachers, and allow them to say or do something if the Spirit moves them (usually it doesn’t, but we do leave that option in). Each teacher and child present is given a small token. The Youth Director does the same for the middle and high school youth. (Usually their “token” is candy – a privilege of their advanced years!) This year we presented the same gift to all those involved with Godly Play: a Good Shepherd medal pinned to a simple card we made.

We offered ribbon (collected from many past projects) for anyone who chose to make a necklace or bracelet for the medal.

We ended with cake and punch, and sometime egg salad finger sandwiches. (We have a loyal supporter of children who makes the most delicious egg salad sandwiches that anyone has ever tasted. You can’t imagine how much everyone looks forward to her egg salad sandwiches!)

Of course, I have no pictures of the actual event. However, I hope these few pictures may help someone who wants to try a similar “blown up” version of the story. It was a fairly simple thing to pull together quickly (if you don’t get bogged down in reproducing the shields perfectly as I did!).

*This year our vestry member who serves as liaison to children and youth campaigned and had 7 out of 9 vestry members present for the entire presentation. What a boost to our ministry! The children were proud, and we felt uplifted to have our ministry acknowledged! Thank you, Billie!

Posted in Feasts, Godly Play, Godly Play Story Materials, Parish Traditions, Pentecost, Seasons of the Church Year | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Pentecost – It’s Time to Eat Flame Food!

Pentecost is one of the three great mysteries, and yet it seems to get very little notice. In our case, Pentecost usually comes after we have finished Sunday School for the academic year. In fact, this year the county schools let out for summer vacation before Pentecost. Pentecost also shares the Memorial Day Weekend this particular year in the US.

(Read the story of Pentecost here in Acts 2:1-21.)

Last year, some dear friends took some time and prepared as many flame foods as they could think of. They were very ingenious! Click here to read an earlier post about their Pentecost food preparations.

Posted in Feasts, Finding Stories Outside the Classroom, Pentecost, Seasons of the Church Year | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Why do you do it THAT way?

By my best recollection, we started Godly Play at our church the year my almost 21 year old daughter would have been in 4 year old preschool. Since about that time, children ages 3 through fifth grade use Godly Play in Sunday School September through May each year.

So, here’s a few of the questions that I’ve answered over the years:

Q: Why do you do it THAT way?

A: Because when we started it was the only way we knew. Right or wrong, we jumped in. 16 years ago there wasn’t much floating around and not a whole lot of internet usage in the “Mommies Doing Sunday School” world.

Q: Why do you use big chunky wooden figures instead of the small wooden thin ones or painted ones sold by Godly Play Resources?

A: Back in the day, the “bible” for creating a Godly Play Program was “Young Children and Worship” by Sonja Stewart and Jerome Berryman (we all called it “The Orange Book” because the cover of that edition was orange). The first part of the book has instructions and scripts; the second part has patterns for creating the “manipulatives.” In the beginning, men in our church cut out hundreds of the big chunky wooden figures. They did it with love, for our children. We don’t want to replace them with the “right” kind now that we see what “everyone else” is using. Occasionally a child will ask, “Where did this all come from?” When we establish he or she doesn’t mean “from the Bible,” we explain that almost everything in the room was made for them to use in this place. It is a meaningful moment.

Q: Why do you use baskets instead of trays or boxes?

A: During the summers, I have easy access to a Ten Thousand Villages shop in Montreat, NC. I appreciate that the baskets are handmade and Fair Trade. I am also a bit of a control freak (not a good attribute for a Godly Play teacher), so I like that the stories are all in the same baskets. (Originally, the baskets were $3-5 each! I am thankful for the inventory I now have!)

Q: Do you make all your stuff?

A: Heavens, NO! We have a generous budget, but we try to buy only the things that are very difficult to reproduce. The Circle of the Church Year and the Synagogue and the Upper Room are the first two I’d put on my wish list to buy if I were starting out. My husband has access to a woodworking shop but is not a craftsman like the people at Godly Play Resources (or the ones in your congregation). I always try to find someone in the congregation who would be willing to make something first. Storyteller at “Wonderful in an Easter Kind of Way” has several places on her blog that gently remind us that it’s NOT about the materials, and she says it beautifully each time. Read this, and this, and this – and that’s just a few of her many words of wisdom.

Q: What if our stuff isn’t the RIGHT stuff? I don’t want to do it wrong.

A: I’m not sure who told us or where we read it, but we still say – almost weekly – “There is no Godly Play Police.” The simpler, the better. It always turns out that the simplest items make the best manipulatives, and I usually have to find that out for myself every single time I collect items for a story.

When I was assembling the materials for the “Samuel” story in Volume 6, I needed a baby – a nice wooden baby. I could find plastic tiny babies (I believe they were meant for baby showers). I considered buying wooden dollhouse nursery “sets” and using just the baby (prohibitive cost, and who wants the leftover dollhouse nursery set without the baby?). Nothing suited until I mentioned it to an employee at the craft store, who suggested a clothespin. How simple and elegant! Just what is best for Godly Play! (Note: the spoon gives me an idea of the scale. My spoon is a hard worker and shows up frequently in my “inventory” photographs, below.)

And what can we leave out, and still have all the story we need? Much more than we think we can. I love stuff. I REALLY love Godly Play stuff! However, more often than not it bumps someone out of the story, and I, again, have to keep learning that over and over.


Posted in Godly Play, Godly Play Story Materials, Jerome Berryman | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Easter is 50 Days / Holy Humor Sunday (April 15, 2012)

[I wear another hat in our parish – the editor of the weekly e-newsletter. This blurb appeared in this week’s edition, and I was sure everyone needed a good groan (my apologies).]

Easter is 50 Days / Holy Humor Sunday Apr. 15 

If you catch yourself saying, “Last Sunday, on Easter…” – STOP! Easter is 50 days! You can click here to read more about it, including links to the “Easter is 50 Days” Facebook invitation. So, get back out those decorations! Hide some more eggs for the children to find! The Easter season draws to a close with the celebration of Pentecost on May 27, 2012.

Some churches celebrate the second Sunday of Easter with jokes and laughter in a tradition of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, calling it “Holy Humor Sunday.”

In the spirit of these two great events, The E-pistle to the Philippians would like to present this very special digital joke!

(h/t to Fran at on the chancel steps.)

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The Labyrinth and Stations of the Cross

Some time ago I published this picture of two boys in our 3rd-5th grade class using two labyrinths we have. I am not a labyrinth person (caution would make me add “yet” to that sentence…) but I have many devotees of labyrinths among my friends and family (namely my 20-year-old daughter, away at college).

We have the two labyrinths in our classroom. One is the sand labyrinth, and one is a quilted lap labyrinth I bought in the bookstore at Kanuga Conference Center several years ago.

Our church is fortunate to have a canvas labyrinth that fits in our parish hall. I was allowed to help put it out for a few days on Lent 5, as well as to reserve a time for our children to use it. Unfortunately, while I hoped for swarms of children, I got several friendly adults, a teen, and a mother, and one child in “our” age group. Next year, perhaps, we can do more research to find a time when more can participate.

Early that day during our Sunday School class, we had the gift of a new (to us) parishioner sharing a Stations of the Cross suitable for children ages 4 through 5th grade. Although our parish does a Stations of the Cross at our 7:00 p.m. Good Friday service, we had never done anything with young children. We were able to use our parish hall that day to have a different space for this experience.

Diane had 10 stations set up. We had pictures for 7 of the Stations from an old set that had been used in church until they upgraded. We also had a cross (made with 2 x 4s) that we use in our annual Holy Week Walk during the Sunday School hour on Palm Sunday. Beyond that, Diane promised to bring all the necessary supplies. I had no idea what to expect!

She managed to slowly move through 10 stations in our allotted 50 minutes. Each station had some sort of brief activity (one involved tying two sticks together to make a simple cross; this was the only activity that required help from the adults present).

I thought the activities were perfect for meditation for this age group. At one station, she invited the children to dip a Q-tip into vinegar to taste the vinegar Jesus was given on the cross.

At the station depicting Jesus being nailed to the cross, she invited the children to write their names on a piece of ripped cloth (as Jesus’s clothes had been ripped) and “nail” this cloth to the cross with pins. No one made a sound during this activity.

In the final station, when Jesus is taken from the cross and laid in the tomb, she had each child dip a finger into olive oil and make the sign of a cross on the palm of the person next to them. One first grader told me later that this was the “best” station.

Posted in Finding Stories Outside the Classroom, Lent, Seasons of the Church Year, Stations of the Cross | Tagged , | 7 Comments

“We are very much the ‘present’!”

In my post “Needed: A Theology of Children,” my friend Fran mentioned in her comment a cartoon I had shown her:

The cartoon comes from ASBO Jesus, and I share it with the artist’s permission.

We also use it each week in an e-mail that is sent to all families with children in “our” age group – children ages 3 through fifth grade. (And, at the suggestion of our vestry liaison, we now send out copies of all e-mails targeted to children and youth and their families to EVERY vestry member. What a wonderful idea!)

Posted in The Episcopal Church | Tagged | Leave a comment