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  What is Godly Play?

The teacher tells the story of Godly Play as two little girls look on.The children of our Meeting have recently been blessed with the introduction of Godly Play. To help understand what Godly Play is, we have to know what it’s not. First, Godly Play is not a complete children's First Day (Sunday) School program. Christmas pageants, vacation Bible schools, children's choirs, children's and youth groups, parent-child retreats, picnics, service opportunities and other components of a full and vibrant First Day School are all important and shouldn’t compete with Godly Play. What Godly Play contributes to the glorious mix of activities is the art of knowing and knowing how to use the language of Christians to explain life and death.

The originator of Godly Play, Jerome Berryman, calls it his interpretation of Montessori religious education. It’s an imaginative approach to working with children, an approach that supports, challenges, nourishes and guides their spiritual quest–in other words, a form of spiritual direction.

Godly Play isn’t about theater, although drama can sometimes enter into its sessions. It’s more about using play to teach children who have some experience of the mystery of the presence of God in their lives, how to use language and understanding to express it. In Godly Play, children learn through parables and sacred stories to discover God and one another in the world around them.

Children express themselves in drawings as part of Godly Play.In Godly Play, our First Day School teachers prepare a structured environment in which our children can work with adult guides. Two teachers guide the session, making time for the children:

  • to enter the space and be greeted

  • to get ready for the presentation

  • to enter into a presentation based on a parable or sacred story

  • to respond to the presentation through shared wondering

  • to respond to the presentation with their own expressive work

  • to prepare and share a feast

  • to say goodbye and leave the space

Godly Play is different from many other approaches to children's work with scripture. Unlike church school pageants and vacation Bible schools where kids have fun with scripture, Godly Play seeks to give children deeper, more respectful experiences with scripture so that can fully understand it.

Our First Day School teachers have been practicing the art of patience when it comes to doing Godly Play. Our Religious Education Committee has chosen to incorporate Godly Play into its greatly enhanced curriculum. At Downingtown Friends, we’re lucky to have a large open space–the alcove on the upper level of our Schoolhouse–in which to conduct Godly Play on the first Sunday of each of our seasonal First Day School sessions. Within this boundaried environment, our teachers help our children to make constructive choices regarding both the materials they use and the process by which they work toward shared goals.

Typically, one of our teachers acts as the storyteller and sits at the top of a circle waiting for the children to enter. A second teacher helps children get settled within the circle. The storyteller relates a spiritual story using props such as a sandbox and wooden models of buildings and people. After telling the story and eliciting responses from the children, the other teacher helps the children break away to work on expressive art work or other projects.

Click on each photo below to see a larger image.

Children gather round in the Godly Play space. The teacher tells the story in a session of Godly Play. A sister watches her brother expressing himself in Godly Play.g Children listen intently to as the teacher tells the story in Godly Play.

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