Godly Play in evening worship

After Godly Playing with our church children, I’ve now had nine years of Godly Play with the adults, as part of periodic evening worship.

The first time I saw Godly Play, as an adult at an all-age service, found me the next day in the ‘company’ of Abraham and Sarah in my imagination and emotions. I never forgot this new awareness that the child who plays remains within the adult heart and can be touched.

Our setting for evening worship with Godly Play is a side aisle, with chairs in a semi-circle, the Communion Table (we are broad Presbyterian), holding an open Bible, the Christ Candle and the dear familiar nativity figures. A very simple liturgy which does not change, encloses the Story. There is a short hymn, a spoken responsive psalm, a short Bible reading, prayer and the sharing of the Peace handed from seated person to person.

A brief introduction to the story sets it in its origin. True to the Godly Play approach, there is no interpretation! I present the story on the floor. (Someone said that we learn humility when we sit below us and focus on the story rather than ourselves.) There are short moments of stillness throughout the service, especially after the story-telling. I say the wondering aloud but individual responses are unspoken. Sometimes they are said after the end of the service.

In the Godly Play way, there is a gentle and warm welcome at the start. Adults can be apprehensive before their first encounter with the approach (Are we to play? Do we have to act?), or they take several weeks before the non-directive and open way ‘gels’ for them. Switching from hearing on the rational level to receiving imaginatively can feel unfamiliar.

There have been responses like a skeptical, ‘children’s stuff!’, ‘makes me feel very calm’, ‘I really felt like I was Leah’, ‘I was there with Boaz’, ‘It’s like Spiritual counseling’ or having new insight within the next day’s Bible reading time.

Jerome Berryman’s words are printed on the back of the service sheet.

‘Godly Play is a creative and imaginative approach to spiritual nurture. It values, process. openness and diversity, and encourages people to make meaning for themselves. The approach invites listeners into stories, and encourages them to move into larger dimensions of belief and faith.’

Ellie Blackwood

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