Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Eastertide Guest Post #2: 'Jesus the King' materials

Welcome to the second installment of our Eastertide guest post series! This week, Storyteller from Wonderful in an Easter kind of Way is up to share with us. If you aren't familiar with her blog, please check it out. She writes all kinds of thought-provoking things about Godly Play, children's spirituality and her own experiences in training for the ministry.

I've met many people who think that Godly Play is all about expensive wooden figures. It's not true. Godly Play is about treating children with dignity and creating holy space. I own a few Godly Play materials that were made by official sourcers, but others that were cobbled together from flea market finds. Some I do plan to replace eventually with something more beautiful. But some of my quirky materials I would never want to replace! My Jesus the King materials illustrate this well, I think.

Sorry, Sheila. Jesus the King isn't really an Easter story, but the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem is just so... triumphal that I think of it as more Easter than Lent.

[In Godly Play proper the triumphal entry is almost relegated to part of the background to the Last Supper, as in the Anglican lectionary it's observed within a short Liturgy of the Palms celebrated outside before we enter the church for a congregational reading of the Passion. But Berryman's earlier Young Children and Worship script, written up by Sonja Stewart, has a dedicated script for the Triumphal Entry, called "Jesus the King".]

This was the first Godly Play -style story I ever told in my church. It's excellent for children who are new to this style of storytelling and/or very young. It's short and interactive and includes that wonderful feature of  Godly Play (and YCW) - it brings together Bible and liturgy. As we lay cloaks and leaves upon the road to Jerusalem we repeat the refrain that we sing every Sunday: Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! 

The first time I told it I had assembled the materials in a great rush. Our "cloaks" were cut out of wrapping paper and Jerusalem was a Sunday School coloring-page. Jesus was merely a small bit of printed paper  pasted onto thin cardboard for extra durability. It was a comfort to know that Berryman himself started out using construction paper! I made several copies of that Jesus and sent one home with each child. When I pulled out the materials again the following year one child cried out, "We have that Jesus on our bulletin board!"

Since then, I've replaced several of the materials:

  • We are still using the cardboard-and-paper Jesus. I look forward to the day when I buy a wooden Jesus-on-a-donkey, but it hasn't come yet. 
  • My "road to Jerusalem" is made of a thin fleece-like material. It was cut from a gray poncho which I bought for that purpose at a flea market. I have a second underlay which goes beneath that - a purple tablecloth which I smooth out while talking about being in the season of Lent.
  • My cloaks and leaves are cut from a fabulous flea market find - upholstery swatch/sample books. Sonja Stewart's model cloaks are mere rectangles, but before realizing that I'd cut mine with sleeves. Similarly, I'm afraid my leaves don't look at all like palms, but they do look like the sort of leaves we find in Finland.
  • For several years we continued using the coloring-page Jerusalem. I had it laminated and it worked reasonably well. But then I stumbled across another flea market prize: a tourist plate from Jerusalem. 

It's certainly not the "prescribed" object, and it's a little battered, but I am very pleased with it. It shows a panorama view of the city, and has the word Jerusalem written in both English and Hebrew. I hold it in my left hand (I am right-handed), and with my right hand I trace the word Jerusalem as I say that God's people went up to Jerusalem. Then I continue around the circle, so that when I reach the word in Hebrew I am moving from right to left, and I repeat it as best I can in Hebrew (here's one model pronunciation). 

Do you have any beloved but unusual materials? I'd love to hear about them!


  1. By the way, that top photo shows a paper script. I do NOT use a script and I do NOT recommend that anyone else does either! It's better to tell the story from your heart, even if you make a few mistakes.

    But that Palm Sunday I wanted to tell the story bilingually, and my Finnish was just not good enough to do so without a script. I told the story in English by heart, and then repeated each bit in Finnish relying on the script where necessary. The children understood that I needed the script because I am not a Finnish-speaker, but that this is a story that I don't need a script for in English.

    1. Thanks for clarifying, Storyteller! However, I did not notice the script until you said something.: )

  2. How wonderful to see this post. Thank you, Storyteller. I actually recently asked Sheila a question regarding the cost of the pieces and how Godly Play could be applied in nations where resources are limited. I am hoping to bring Godly Play to Mongolia, and from there to other Asian nations. I knew the story-telling method would be so well adapted for these cultures, but couldn't figure out how sustainable it would be to purchase the wooden sets. Don't know why I wasn't thinking outside of the box. I've made a number of my own stories suited for our upper elementary children in Dallas, TX simply using felt, and they all enjoy it. And I have found in the process that I have a knack and love for cutting out little felt people and props. :)