September: Godly Play

September: Godly Play

The seven-year-olds ran rings around me — rendering my one stint as a Sunday school teacher a dismal failure.

I lurched about in a leaky boat on a storm-lashed sea.

By the end of each lesson the room was awash with lidless Textas, fluff-laced glue sticks, half-baked scrawlings, inside-out cardigans, leadless pencils and part-eaten, contraband food.

My hands were sticky, my hair spiked on end and my voice squeaky from my efforts to get the kids to calm down.

Disconsolate, I’d bin all the flotsam and jetsam, restore the room to order and declare I’d do better next week.

I didn’t.

Sadly, that term crushed my confidence as a teacher.

I had good intentions and a strong faith but I just couldn’t engage those kids in the wonder I’d found in the gospel.

Why?

Godly Play, embraced in recent years by theUnitingChurch, has given me some possibilities to ponder.

* Did I ask questions expecting honest answers rather than the answers I’d formulated and anticipated I’d hear?

* Did I invite the children into the story and to pay attention to their own knowing and understanding of God?

* Did I truly believe these children had a connection to the divine and were able to know this without me telling them what this would be like?

* Were my lessons playful but deep? Did they chart — via sacred stories, liturgical action, parables and contemplative silence — the tricky existential territory every human faces regardless of age? For example: How do we cope with death? How do we cope with the threat of freedom? How do we cope with the need for meaning? What strange and wonderful language can we use to explore those things at the edge of our being and knowing?

* Did I allow for times of quiet for us to be with each other and with God?

Godly Play founder, theologian and writer the Rev. Dr Jerome Berryman says, “Children reveal the importance of deep, contemplative silence to know God. They do this more naturally than adults, who sometimes need to relearn what they knew as children and develop conscious practices to do what they once did without thinking.

“Children show how to bless and be blessed. When we are with children in a wondering way, it opens adults to be more childlike and more respectful of children’s gifts.”

There’s a saying in Godly Play circles: “Biologically, adults produce children. Spiritually, children produce adults. Most of us don’t grow up until we have helped children to do so.”

I wish (for those Sunday school children’s sakes and mine) I’d known about Godly Play all those decades ago.

Back then I hadn’t fathomed what Jesus meant when he said that unless you know what it means to be a child, you won’t know, as an adult, what it means to enter theKingdomofGod.

Now I wonder …

Marjorie Lewis-Jones

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