Adapting Godly Play for congregational worship

Kathryn Lord, a Godly Play trainer, worshipped in a church where  Godly Play was well established for the children. It was natural that the Godly Play approach influenced and spilled into the intergenerational worship. She suggests that this as a helpful question to ask: ‘How can Godly Play be of service to my community?’

And alongside the fundamental question of what a community might really need, here are some considerations:

  1. Can I offer a full Godly Play session as the worship service?
  2. Can I use the language and stories and a Godly Play approach?
  3. Might I need to adapt the Godly Play materials and scripts so that they better serve the congregation?

I offer three examples as illustrations:

1. A full Godly Play session in morning worship

A doorperson invited people into the worship space in which the chairs had been arranged in semi circles with carpet squares for those who could sit on the floor. There were about 60 adults and children present. We began with the lighting of a candle on the altar and a song. The story of the Exile and Return was told and followed by some wondering. People were given 25 minutes as a response time and could chose from a variety of response materials set out on tables around the church. We came back for another song and the light was changed. The Feast was tea and cake in the hall. One older man who had never before experienced Godly Play said that this was the best church experience he had ever had.

2. Using a Godly Play story and approach for Easter Sunday

In place of a sermon we shared the Faces of Easter (in its entirety) on Easter Sunday. The 6 metre purple felt was unrolled down the aisle until it reached the white cloth at the altar – when the colours changed. For the verbal wondering, the A2 pictures were held up in a circle to encompass the congregation – so we were all part of the story. The part of the story ‘that you can’t pull apart’ was in the centre of the church, held up by a 10-year-old girl. It was our vicar and a 3-year-old boy who together held up the Face for Jesus’ birth. After the wondering, the paintings were placed on the white cloth in front of the altar so we could see them again when we came up for communion. A5 copies of all the Faces of Easter were available for people to take home. It was good that the children – who have had the Faces of Easter throughout Lent – were able to have the last part on Easter Sunday when we are all together and it was a blessing for the adults to experience the whole story. It was possible, with a congregation of 64, to have intergenerational worship using Godly Play principles and the Godly Play story. Three out of the five musicians in the music group were young people. One of the adults voiced how she liked the picture of Jesus in the temple because it showed how children and adults need each other and are blessed by each other. How true!

3. Adapting the Godly Play story to meet the needs of the worshipping community

During our intergenerational Pentecost service we used the language (words, symbols and gestures) of Godly Play – providing continuity for the children who have Godly Play during the other Sundays and enriching the liturgy for the adults. Each month we gather in a circle for our intergenerational service (about 60 people from babies to elders). Some adaptations were made to the story: using the people of God instead of the apostles shields and lighting a red candle next to each apostle to symbolise the Holy Spirit coming down which were then changed so we could watch the smoke spreading out into all the world. After the story the ‘red carpet’ was unrolled all the way through the hall to the church entrance for us to follow outside as a symbolic gesture (where we could blow bubbles as an act of celebrating the birth of the church and going out into all the world to tell this story). We then had a chance to respond in different ways using resources in the worship area. The bread and the wine was placed on the red felt for the Feast. After the service one child chose to run up and down the red carpet – which the inner child inside of me was longing to join in with!

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