Alison, a primary school teacher, undertook the Godly Play core training just as grandchildren started to come into her life. Over the last ten years she has shared Godly Play with all of them and, more recently, with her daughter-in-law, Heather, who has become a storyteller too.
Alison remembers taking her four children to Sunday school, with singing and fun activities, thinking that she was doing the right thing. ‘I wish I’d had Godly Play for my own children, to be able to give them that experience of openness and wondering.’ She felt that she wanted to give her grandchildren that opportunity, and she particularly enjoys sharing Godly Play with them when they are all together. ‘It’s nice to build the circle with all of them when we’ve been able to go away as a whole family. I’ve had eight children all at once making a circle.’ When the cousins all come together for Godly Play in this way, Alison says they listen to each other and wait for others to speak. There is not always such respectful listening between siblings at home.
The children come from four different families and styles of worship practice and in the family Godly Play circle, Alison, as storyteller, gives them permission to explore their own ideas. ‘One time we had fun naming the birds in the mustard seed parable, and someone gave them all Harry Potter names, while another gave them all made-up names. It was quite playful. Godly Play is very different for them, with no set answers.’
Being ‘Nanny’ and storyteller isn’t the challenge she anticipated. ‘It’s fortunate for me as I have teaching skills and I can draw the children in.’ It’s become easier as the children have grown and become more independent, including being able to speak and choose for themselves in the circle. ‘They can do things with Nanny that maybe they can’t do with their own parents, but I don’t see them regularly, as I would children in church, so their “training” in Godly Play takes longer.’
‘Taking Godly Play stories on a whole family holiday earlier this year, Alison and Heather were able to be Storyteller and Doorperson in a couple of family sessions. Sharing a parable with some of her children and grandchildren in the circle was, she says ‘an amazing time’. She recalls how the parents ‘were able to be playful with the wondering questions about the material, but it’s still quite hard for them to get into the deeper wondering. The grandchildren are more used to not saying what they think something is straight away and entering the story.’ Perhaps the children are teaching their parents!
Alison looks forward to more of these opportunities for the adults to see Godly Play for themselves, as well as their children’s response to this approach, which she sees as a counterbalance to their more familiar formal Christian education.