Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Godly Play

"I'd rather spend more time with my parents than go out shopping at the weekend", (local child, aged 9).

A couple of days ago I returned to one of the things I used to really love about being a parish priest - story-telling with primary school children.

A small group of us went into a local school and told the story of the Creation. We were using the Godly Play technique (Montessori-style tactile learning).

We sat on the floor in a circle and using some very basic, but well made, cut-outs we ran through the ancient story from Genesis 1 of God's gift of Creation, 'In the beginning.... On the first day... On the second... And God saw that it was all very good'.

The great thing about Godly Play is the way that over a dozen kids can sit still for nearly 30 minutes completely entranced by the meditative unfolding of a simple story. When I tell a story like this, it often feels a bit like celebrating a Eucharist there is such intensity and reverence in the room.

What's even more exciting is that after the story-telling proper, the circle is encouraged to 'wonder' about the story. Instead of old-style chalk and talk Religious education (RE), Godly Play is both faithful to the Bible texts, but also completely open to allow children to discover what the texts mean for them. It's a remarkable post-modern approach to RE.

As part of our wondering I played at removing various of the seven 'days' and asking the children what they felt. Several of the children wondered whether if the 'seventh day', the 'day to rest and remember', were removed from a week, people's bodies and minds would begin to break down. One lad suggested it might lead people to commit suicide.

In one of the other groups a similar question led one child to make the comment I began this entry with: s/he'd rather spend time with family on a Sunday than have another day out shopping with mum and dad. And all this, just as the Government's Department of Trade and Industry considers extending Sunday trading hours...

More info about Godly play and other links on this blog entry here.

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