“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!)

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“Needed: A Theology of Children”

At our church, the church, the main parish hall, and parish office are on one level. The nursery and Sunday School classrooms through 12th grade are on the basement level. We have three services each Sunday in our church, and as our town is known as a retirement area, we have a large number of retired folks. A new vestry member who was specifically asked to come see the classrooms on a Sunday morning was flabbergasted at the hustle and bustle and exclaimed, “It’s a whole ‘nother world down here!”

Sigh. On any given Sunday there are 30-40 children of all ages attending Sunday School, and many people are not even aware of this.

The Episcopal Church recently announced its intention to cut the national budget for children and youth by 90%. (On the local level, our parish continues to support children and youth.)

Jerome Berryman created the methodology and shared the stories that make up the “curriculum” that is Godly Play. In response to the national budget cut, he wrote “Needed: A Theology of Children.” He shares a simple way that ANYONE can minister to children – and change their parish – without spending a penny!

Posted in Godly Play, Jerome Berryman, The Episcopal Church | Tagged , | 3 Comments