Godly Play: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

A long time ago (early 90’s in Indianapolis?) I heard my first Godly Play story. I was sitting on the floor in a circle with others, listening to Jerome Berryman tell the Parable of the Good Shepherd. It changed my way of sharing the biblical story with children, as well as youth and adults. Since then, I’ve attended (and organized) numerous trainings and workshops to dig deeper and sharpen my skills. And while I don’t have a Godly Play room in which to practice, I have many of the artifacts carefully stored in large containers in my basement to be at the ready whenever called upon to tell as story with the children (or in a sermon) at my home congregation. (You can view my telling of the Faces of Easter here).

Most recently, I’ve been shepherding the revisions and expansions to The Complete Guide to Godly Play (Volumes 2, 3, and 4 thus far) as an editor with Church Publishing. It’s a privilege to work with the leadership of the Godly Play Foundation in providing these updated books and stories. The revisions include new stories (Volume 2: The Holy Bible; Volume 3: Side-by-Side Parable and Making Silence; Volume 4: Saul Changes), many new illustrations, and updated language to all the stories to reflect feedback from Godly Play trainers and storytellers. Continue reading Godly Play: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Advertisements

Jacob’s Ladder

As a child I recall singing “We are climbing Jacob’s ladder” in Sunday School. It was a story that I remember reading in my own Bible, trying to imagine how someone could sleep while their head rested on a rock – no wonder they had wild dreams!

In listening to the reading of Genesis 28:10-19a this morning at Eucharist,  I was struck by the importance of place in which Jacob encountered God. And this wasn’t going to be the last place God interrupted Jacob’s sleep (in the coming weeks we’ll hear more about Jacob, including his wrestling with an angel during another fitful night without sleep). Jacob has many miles to go before he can truly sleep (taking liberties with Robert Frost).

But what about place? In the stories of Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah, each time they have an encounter with God, they mark each place with an altar of stones. Jacob does this same action, using his stone pillow as base for the altar. In all of the travels of God’s people in our Hebrew Scriptures, so many “mark the place” where they encounter God. Perhaps as a way to acknowledge the encounter with something tangible besides a memory, or perhaps as a landmark for whomever may come that way to know that something special happened there. So special that someone needed to “mark” it. Continue reading Jacob’s Ladder

The “Best” of Youth Confirmation in a Nutshell

As many of you know, I have spent a good deal of my ministry in a variety of settings researching, writing, and advocating for (or against) the rite of Confirmation. It has not that I have been opposed to this sacramental rite in which many have called a “sacrament in search of a meaning,” but that I have been critical of how we (in The Episcopal Church specifically) have been preparing teenagers (and even adults) in making that reaffirmation of their baptismal promises.

When working with congregations and their youth preparing for confirmation, it had been my experience that a majority of the young people were less than enthusiastic about meeting on a regular basis for “preparation” and many were only present because their parents “made them come.” And after receiving the laying-on-of-hands by a bishop, these same young people rarely came back, having finished their formation and requirements to be a “Christian.” And those faith statements that often began with, “I don’t know if I believe in God, but I believe we are supposed to be good people”: The whole moralistic therapeutic deism piece explained in the research of Christian Smith. Isn’t Confirmation supposed to be one’s reaffirmation in the belief that Christ is their Lord and Savior and they will follow him as a disciple for the rest of their life? A tough statement that may not be so developmentally appropriate for a teenager who is still trying to figure out who they are and what they believe. Continue reading The “Best” of Youth Confirmation in a Nutshell

2017-2018 Planning Calendars

It’s that time of year when educators begin evaluating the past program year and start to plan for the next year, beginning in August or September 2017, depending on what part of the country (U.S.) you live in. For some, finishing up plans for summer VBS is underway, others it is time to choose curriculum for next year. In any case, below are updated calendars that you can use that map out the Sundays from June 2017 through August 2018 that give the lectionary readings as well as other events that may correspond to Sundays or during the week.  Continue reading 2017-2018 Planning Calendars

Nurturing Children to Live Generously

This article first appeared in “Giving: Growing Joyful Stewards in Your Congregation” magazine which is published annually by the Ecumenical Stewardship Center. The full magazine (chock-full of great ideas) is available for purchase on their website.

Today’s culture can be toxic for children and other living things. If we build our values on the “put-downs” and sound bites of social media and incidences of daily violence that permeate the news, we might lose hope in what the future could hold for our children. How do we nurture a generous spirit in children when it would seem the world is about self-aggrandizement, winning, and having the most toys?

While we may think children are born as empty vessels waiting for family, teachers, and (yes) the church to fill them with love, knowledge, dreams, values, and a purpose, we know that they are already born with a capacity to know God and experience love. As caretakers of our children, it is our responsibility to nurture that which already exists, by providing an environment where their desire to be loved and part of a community is openly welcomed, acting as role models in what it means to be a generous, loving person made in the image of God.

We are born for sympathy and compassion. In a University of Oregon study[1], economist Bill Harbaugh and psychologist Ulrich Mayr found that charitable generosity activated the reward center of the brain, indicating that our brains are naturally made for kindness. Furthering this research are studies on compassionate meditation such as the one conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which illustrated that through the repeated practice of mindful generosity, we can increase empathetic responses to others.[2]

Continue reading Nurturing Children to Live Generously