Friday, January 31, 2014

"The Pearl" with Seniors

On Sunday, I'll once again be leading a worship service at a local retirement home along with one of the facility's staff members. My "sermon" will be the Godly Play version of the Parable of the Great Pearl, also known as the Pearl of Great Price. 

You may recall that I told the Parable of the Good Shepherd to the same group in November. One of the challenges of telling the stories with Seniors is that many of them have poor eyesight. As a result we have to make the materials much larger so that they can easily be seen.

So, today I've been finishing up my figures for the story. I photocopied the wooden figures and enlarged them by 160%. Then, I "upcycled" some Amazon packaging from Christmas by attaching the figures to the cardboard to make them more sturdy.

Here you can see the difference in the size of the wooden figures and the new cardboard ones.

I will not be telling the story on the floor, since that might also prove difficult for the Seniors to see. Instead I'll be kneeling and the figures will be on two large tables stacked on top of each other. Hence the tablecloth. We are opting not to use a white felt circle as the underlay and will be using a white tablecloth instead.

Below you can see my set-up to practice on my kitchen table. The felt houses seem enormous as do the styrofoam pearls. 

It will a bit of an adventure telling the story, since I can't really practice it at the right height beforehand. I'll just have to be spontaneous when the time comes.: ) 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Godly Play 101: The Feast

In Godly Play 101, I explain some of the basic elements and principles of Godly Play. Today, I'd like to talk about the feast. If the Co-Teacher is the most underrated role in the Godly Play classroom, the feast is the most underrated part of the lesson. 

The "feast" is a community snack that happens after the story, response time, and prayer. It consists of (mainly) healthy, simple fare: juice, fruit, sliced veggies, an occasional cookie.

After the response time and subsequent clean-up, the children return to the circle where the story was presented. The Co-Teacher may choose to ask a couple of helpers to serve the other children. Everyone waits until all are served before they begin eating.

More than just a "snack", the feast builds community. During the feast, there is lots of chatting. Time to share how the day or week went. Time to laugh or cry with one another. And sometimes, if everyone is tired, there is just a lot of munching to be heard. It's a time to be together. 

The feast is also an indirect preparation for Holy Communion, introducing children to the idea of everyone coming to the Good Shepherd's table together. 

Adults, including myself, tend to underestimate how important this time is to the children. Many times, when asked what they like best about a Godly Play lesson, they will answer, "The feast!" For most children, it would be unthinkable to leave this part out.

If, perhaps, you only have one hour for your Godly Play session and have to leave something out, don't leave out the feast. Instead, alternate between the story and the response time. Leave the feast in and enjoy coming together. 

Other Godly Play 101 links:

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Russian language and culture posts

I've noticed several links from other blogs lately about my Russian language and culture posts, so I thought I'd put them all in one place to make them easier to find. For those new to my blog, I studied Russian in college and then lived in a region of Siberia for 3 1/2 years. I love the language and culture and have managed to successfully pass this love on to my children. : )

Here are some links you might find interesting:

Art Projects


Fairy Tales


Godly Play in the Russian-speaking world

Also, please check out Asmic's blog, Amazing and Amusing, for first-hand information about life in Moscow and her experiences with Godly Play!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Godly Play: The Ark and the Tent

"Wow, so einen Kindergottesdienst habe ich nie erlebt!" ("Wow, I've never been to a children's service like this before!"), said the 10-year-old boy who was attending our Godly Play brunch for the first time.

It was one of those strange Sundays where almost all of the kids who regularly attend were absent and a new child showed up instead. He wasn't used to "getting ready" and my own kids were definitely pushing the envelope a bit to see what they could get away with. So, we had to start over getting ready  several times before we could even begin the story. It's just like that sometimes . . . : )

This Godly Play story tells a short history of how and why the children of Israel built the tabernacle. It starts off with the people of God deciding that they always want to have the "10 best ways" or 10 commandments near them. God directs them to build the ark of the covenant, but like all like other mysterious and valuable things of God (like Christmas and Easter), you have to be prepared to get close to it. Hence, the people of God build the Tent of Meeting and place certain objects in it to help themselves get ready. 

As I thought about it more and more, this is a great way to explain to children the reasoning behind the elaborate rituals that Israel instituted in the Old Testament. It lays a foundation for understand what the word "holy" means later on. And there are obviously parallels with "The Mystery of Easter" and the Advent story that children with Godly Play experience pick up on right away. 

That having been said, this story must have been painfully boring the first time I told it in 2010. I'm sure the kids found the tabernacle furniture interesting, but I just didn't get back then how to be "playful" when talking about something like the tabernacle. 

This time around, I played around with what to do. Each time a new piece of tabernacle furniture was introduced, the directions said to move the figure slowly towards the object. The text said, "You can't just walk up to something so precious . . . You need some way to get ready." So, at first I let the figure move nonchalantly  towards the ark of the Covenant in a "la-la-la" sort of fashion. Then, I stopped the figure abruptly just before it reached the ark and let it stare at the ark saying, "Hmm . . .?"  And then as I let the figure walk slowly back to its place on the right to emphasize the importance of getting ready. And I repeated this each time with each new object that was added. 

This seemed to make a really big impression on the children and their Wondering was very verbal and animated. When asked what they liked best, one child answered that he thought it was cool that you couldn't just walk up to something so valuable and that you had to think up a way to prepare yourself for it. And when asked what they could leave out and still have everything they need for the story, all answered that we could leave out the part about only the priest going in, adding that they found this "dumb". That, of course, sets them up to make some theological connections about why it was once that way and, at least in our Protestant tradition, no longer is. (Obviously, in Orthodox churches, there are still parts of the church behind the main altarpiece that only men or only the priest can enter.)

Everyone wanted to play with the tabernacle during the Response Time. Towards the end, it got turned into a time portal for a stop-motion film that my son was working on before our children's service began.: ) 

I am going to try and come up with a way to tell the companion story, "The Ark and the Temple", soon. I don't own a wooden temple - they cost almost 200 Euros - but I will try to either make a model out of cardboard or perhaps just show pictures. We'll see!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Creative Goals for 2014 + Folk Nativity

At the beginning of 2013 I tried to set a few creative goals, because I realized that I had been neglecting my own artistic development by only allotting time for children's art projects. I set a simple goal of trying to draw for 10 minutes each day. While I ended up not drawing everyday, I sketched way more often than I had since my children were born! So, it was definitely successful.

So here are a few simple goals for 2014 that I think are realistic:

  • draw or paint 15 minutes or more 3x a week
  • work on a couple of knit and crochet projects in the winter and autumn (it's hard for me to do any of that kind of work in the summer when it's warm)
  • work on the text of the children's book I am writing (yes, one of my dreams is to someday publish a children's book) in the winter and on the illustrations in the summer
One another note, what I experienced with God during Advent and Christmas is still very much on my heart and mind. On Epiphany, I began working on what I call a "folk nativity" to continue meditating on the Incarnation.

Inspired by a 13th century illuminated nativity and the work of Czech illustrator, Daniela Krolupperová, I painted the picture below. I always find it interesting to look at the stages in which an artist works, so here are a couple of pics of the process. It ended up being a truly multi-media collage with acrylic, watercolor, oil pastels, and ink. 

What are your creative goals for 2014?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Sneak Preview: The Ark of the Covenant and the Tent of Meeting

On Sunday, I'll be telling the Godly Play story, "The Ark of the Covenant and the Tent of Meeting". I've  told this story only once before, and back then I used a cardboard tabernacle that I had painted gold. I haven't had the chance to tell it since, because our church doesn't meet every Sunday and there just aren't enough opportunities in autumn when the Old Testament stories are usually told. Having decided that I'll never get to tell all the stories that I want to if I strictly follow the church calendar, I am going to tell a few more important OT stories in January before we move on to the life of Jesus and his parables. 

Since our church plant doesn't have tons of money, sometimes I ask for some of the more expensive Godly Play things for Christmas or my birthday. This Christmas, I was thrilled when my mother sent me a tabernacle! She ordered it from Worship Woodworks, which makes story materials for both Godly Play and Young Children & Worship. WW's materials are lovely and many times more reasonably priced than from other suppliers. I also like that you can just buy part of a set if you want to and not have to buy the entire set. 

While telling the story, one wall of the tabernacle is left open, so that the children can see what is inside. You can see (L to R) the wash basin, the altar of burnt offerings, the table of the shewbread, the menora, the altar of incense and the ark of the covenant. The cloths are the four coverings that were used as the tabernacle's roof.

This is a picture of the tabernacle with all four walls, minus the coverings, of course.

A view from the front with the "roof".

I am looking forward to "rediscoving" this story. When I told it the first time in 2010, I really knew very little about how to make these stories playful, and made everything way too serious. It will be interesting to observe the children's reactions this time around.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Epiphany 2014

Epiphany fell on a Monday this year, so we celebrated quietly at home after school. 

Epiphany helps us to officially close the Christmas season, although the story and meaning of Christmas is still very much present in my thoughts right now. 

We began by dry felting an Epiphany bunting for our nature table window.

Then, we baked our Galette de Rois, a Epiphany cake (you can find a link to the recipe here), and hid a pistachio in it. My son, who ate the piece with the pistachio in it, gets to choose a special family activity to do this weekend.

Then, we read the story of the Magi visiting the Christ Child from the children's Bible. After some "Wondering" about the gifts of the Magi, God's gifts to us and our gifts to him, my daughter arranged the pictures of gold, frankencense and myrrh on the nature table. They'll stay there the rest of this week.

For some lovely other Epiphany celebrations, please read what Hilary and Emily's families did as well: 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Godly Play 101: The Co-Teacher

Continuing my series on the basics of Godly Play, this segment is about the Co-Teacher.

Also known as the "Door Person".

The Co-Teacher is probably the most misunderstood and undervalued role in Godly Play. This teacher is called the "Door Person", because he/she is the first face that the children see when they walk into a Godly Play room. The name, however, does not adequately express what this person does and gives the impression that the "Door Person" is an assistant of sorts, and that the more important role is that of the Storyteller. On the contrary, the Door Person is a bonified Co-Teacher and spiritual mentor who complements the Storyteller.

This is my Co-teacher, Melinda, helping the children with the art materials.
It is possible to do Godly Play without a Co-Teacher. I was both Door Person and Storyteller for two years, before I had a Co-Teacher. But when you have a group of more than 5 children, your own Godly Play experience will be much more enjoyable with a Co-teacher and the children will be better served. After the first lesson with my Co-Teacher, Melinda, a light went on in my head, and I realized that I had enjoyed the lesson like never before, and it was the first time that I was't completely exhausted afterwards.

A child discusses his work with Melinda.

What does a Godly Play Co-Teacher do? 

Here is a non-exhaustive list: 

- She greets the children at the threshold and helps each child "get ready" before he/she enters the room.

- He sits outside of the circle and observes the children as they hear the story. He practically assists any child who might need to go to the bathroom or who needs more time to get ready.

 - She is the person that the children go to during the Response Time for help with materials.

- He is a person of comfort who listens to each child and also "wonders" with them at times.

- She organizes the feast and how it is to be served.

Preparing the feast.

During our Godly Play Core Training in Minsk, I pointed out (in response to a question) that the Door Person was actually a Co-Teacher who needs to know the principles and inner workings of Godly Play just as much as the Storyteller does. My friend, Helen, brought up the fact that although we talk about the two roles at Core Trainings, we really don't do a great job of practically encouraging and training others to do this role. I think that this is something that we have to develop more. 

The truth is that many people who are interested in Godly Play and believe in its principles simply don't want to be Storytellers. Being a Storyteller is not for everyone, and it may not be a person's gifting, however much he/she loves children. 

Helping the children pick up trash, one of our social projects.

While the Storyteller may be the "front man" in a sense, the Co-Teacher helps hold the whole thing together. The children see both teachers as equally important, and will go to the Co-Teacher just as often with their needs. As a result, the Co-Teacher may have a lot of quiet mentoring opportunities with the children that the Storyteller does not.

If you have a "Door Person", please let the person know that she/he is just as important to the whole process as the Storyteller, and take time to make sure that he/she knows the principles behind Godly Play and the spiritual mentoring.

And lastly, let's applaud all of those faithful Co-Teachers out there!

Other Godly Play 101 links:

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Alternative Advent Story

I've seen pictures of and heard about an alternative version to the Godly Play Advent story in several places on the internet. David Pritchard, a Godly Play trainer in Spain, was kind enough to let me use one of his pictures to show you. 

Peter Privett, who is a trainer of GP trainers in England, has written the text to this story. It can be downloaded on the Godly Play UK page. (Scroll down a bit to the post by Judy on November 28, 2013.)

For those of you who come from non-liturgical backgrounds or countries and traditions that don't use the liturgical colors and Sundays of the Western Church, then this could possibly be an alternative. 

I also love how Bethlehem is in the middle and all of the figures are moving toward it. And, of course, the paths form a cross, which is another wonderful connection between the Infant Jesus and the adult who gave his life on the cross. 

I've love to know what you think of this idea! Also, if you have told this version, please give us some feedback in the comments.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to everyone! 

(Even if it's a few days late!) 

We had a wonderful New Year's Eve here in Berlin with good friends and fireworks. (You can read about our New Year's traditions here.)

Frohes Neues Jahr!

С Новым Годом!