Background & Beginnings

Our History

‘And it grew …’ ‘In the beginning …’ Well, it all depends where you start. There are many stories. These are a few…


Rebecca Nye stumbles across a reference to Godly Play whilst researching her PhD on Childhood Spirituality.


David Cannon, in an early internet search, tracks down a reference to Jerome Berryman in a list of courses offered by the Melanchton Institute in Houston, Texas. The Institute’s Director provides contact details for Dr Berryman.

(David’s wife, the Rev’d Liz Cannon, became one of the first trustees of Godly Play UK.)


Rebecca’s research is published in The Spirit of the Child (1)

Rebecca visits the USA for a conference. She talks about escaping a ‘rather predictable conference’ and is invited by a friend to visit a Godly Play space in a local church. ‘There were no children as it was the summer vacation, but I saw a very basic classroom, and the teacher told me a story. Immediately I knew I had to get ready for another new journey; experiencing Godly Play was even more exciting than what I read about it.’(2)

On her return to the UK a friend and colleague thought that she had been taken over by some kind of cult.

“Experiencing Godly Play was even more exciting than what I read about it”

Summer 1998

Rebecca meets Jerome Berryman, the American theologian and priest who founded Godly Play, when he visits the UK. Both give papers at a conference. A friendship develops.


Rebecca introduces the idea of Godly Play to Diocesan Children’s Work Advisers in the Church of England.

May 1999

Jerome comes to an afternoon meeting at the Mothers’ Union headquarters in London. He has come straight from the airport and produces Creation, a parable and the Faces of Easter from amongst his clothes…


Advisers and others become increasingly enthusiastic about Godly Play.

January 2001

Jerome visits the UK again. Rebecca organises a week-long study of Godly Play at the Old Divinity School Cambridge. This brings together people from Christian education circles and the Centre for Jewish Education

Liz Cannon negotiates with St Michael’s Workshop at Bowthorpe who begin to make materials.

Rebecca, Gill Ambrose and others set up the first European Godly Play Room in Cambridge. Hundreds of people from around the world attend day courses.

UK Supplier

Saint Michael’s Workshop in Bowthorpe, Norwich, has a team of dedicated people manufacturing the materials used in Godly Play. 

Find out more about the approved supplier of Godly Play materials in the UK


Peter Privett and Rebecca go to the USA to train as accredited trainers

Three-day accredited core training happens. There is little advertising. The work spreads by word of mouth. Peter and Rebecca are the first non-American trainers. Godly Play gradually moves outside the UK, initially to Holland, Finland and Germany. Then quickly there are requests from Spain, Australia, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark … the world.


Discussions begin to consider the idea of creating a charity to support and secure the work of Godly Play in the UK.

6th December 2007

On the Feast of St Nicholas, the charity Godly Play UK is launched In Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey. Rebecca Nye gives the first Godly Play Lecture. The charity is also celebrated at a sister service later in the month at the Cathedral of St Nicholas Newcastle. Upon Tyne. 

  1. David Hay with Rebecca Nye, The Spirit of the Child, 1998, Fount
  2. Celebration Booklet to mark the launch of Godly Play UK, design and production by the Methodist Church Connexion team, 2007
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