Monday, June 24, 2013

More Sacred Spaces for Children

Summer vacation finally arrived in Berlin, and we're using it to spend some extra time in the US. We arrived in Houston, TX this week and are enjoying family, friends and great Tex-Mex cuisine! On Saturday, we visited Ecclesia Church where we have some connections through an old college friendship. 

I immediately fell in love with the sacred space that this church has created for their children and just have to share it with you! Inspired by Godly Play, Montessori and Waldorf principles, the space is crafted with a sensitive understanding of how children spend time with God and how it differs from the ways that adults spend time with God.

In the main hall before you even enter the children's areas, there is a "Family Worship" area with stations for children and parents to reflect and worship together in a meditative way. This month's theme was "The Great Family", the family of Abraham and Sarah, from who the Jewish people and the Christian church ultimately came from. 

One of the stations that you can see below was called the "Family Tree". Small square pieces of paper with an outline of a head and shoulders were provided. Children and parents were encouraged to draw themselves and something that makes them special and place it on the table with other members of the family. 

"The Great Family" is, of course, a foundational story in the Godly Play curriculum that deals with the existential question of identity. What a wonderful way to help children consider this question for themselves!

Let's move on to the elementary area, where I spent most of my visit, since my own children are elementary students. Below you can see one of the storytelling areas, which is a tent. When a story is being told, the tent curtains are closed. There are obviously parallels with the "Tent of Meeting" in the Old Testament. Absolutely brilliant! 

We heard the Godly Play story of Jacob, an enrichment story that continues the narrative of "The Great Family". Below you can see the focus table in the tent with a Waldorf-inspired chalk drawing.

The church is located in an old factory, and the children's spaces are very large rooms that are divided into stations. Definitely has a Reggio feel to it. There was no way to take a panoramic view of the room with my iPhone, so hopefully the picture below will give you enough of an idea of what it is like. In the very back of the room are neatly labelled shelves with art supplies and tables for the children to work at. In the foreground, you can see a reading station. The long black strip is a chalk station for making chalk drawings.

Other stations included a Montessori-like work station with tools for constructing things. There were storage bins so that the children could continue their projects over several weeks. 

My daughter is at a prayer station below. She is at a table with wooden figures and wood shavings. A table next to it has colored pencils and paper.

I also made it a point to visit the preschool area which is also a large room divided into three main sections. The children start out in an area designed for free and imaginative play that you can see below.

This is another view of the play area. Notice the play silks and dress-up materials.

The second section is a Response Time area with art supplies and nature materials. Below you can see a tray with soil and then natural objects such as pine cones in baskets to play and create with. 

The third section was the storytelling area which also had a tent just like in the elementary area. I was told that they are also working on shelving, so that the children have more Godly Play stories to work with during Response Time.

This is me with Kathy and Amanda who worked so hard to create these loving and respectful spaces for the children. May God continue to bless their work and the children in their care!


  1. Beautiful! Welcome to the U.S!! My children would love to spend time learning about God in this space. That is a beautiful photo of you and your friends too. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I shall not covet. I shall not covet. I shall not covet. *sigh*

    1. I'm trying to be funny, but it makes my heart ache to compare this to so many churches where provision for children is an after-thought, or where Sunday School teachers are expected to keep the children quiet and fill them with correct knowledge, or worse - children are not expected to show any interest in things spiritual until they are much older.

      Thank you for sharing this, and THANK YOU to Kathy and Amanda!!

    2. I know exactly what you mean!

    3. I was so encouraged by what I saw and so thankful that more churches are starting to re-examine how they view and teach children.

  3. We loved having you! So great to talk about what we love. This is such a beautiful write up. Thank you! Kathy