Godly Play

This Sunday, the gospel draws us closer to the true identity of Jesus the Christ. “I am the gate for the sheep.” In peasant cultures in the ancient near east the shepherd also acted as the gate, protecting the sheep from harm, especially at night. The shepherd would literally lay down his life! When I demonstrated this in a Godly Play session recently, some of those involved were quite moved by this figure of containment and care.

The parable of the Good Shepherd is beautifully portrayed in the Godly Play drama. It emphasises the distinction between the Good Shepherd and the ordinary shepherd. The Good Shepherd is the one who leads his sheep to places of life-giving pasture and life-sustaining water. The Good Shepherd even leads us through the places of darkness and danger, back to the fold. The Good Shepherd knows his sheep and the sheep know him.

The Godly Play room at St. Michael’s is a commitment to the ministry of children and their families. We are also able to offer training for the wider church, welcoming local schools and churches. The children who use our Godly Play room have developed a deep understanding of the Christian story and the language of the Christian people.

Godly Play uses Montessori principles in that objects used in the Godly Play room are made from natural materials. The objects are not just visual aids for a story but are there to be played with and explored. They are sacred objects, treated with care and respect. Sacred Stories often use plain wooden figures with little detail to help the identification of the story of the People of God with our story. The parables are kept in gold boxes because they are valuable, they are a gift and sometimes difficult to get into. Liturgical lessons often have small replicas of what might be seen in places of worship or part of the faith tradition. So we have a whole room full of faith stories, objects and ornaments which represent the Judaeo-Christian narrative! This is a contained and safe catechetical environment which imbibes a sense of wonder and curiosity for practitioners of all ages.

Godly Play encourages children to develop a deep and mature faith, through wondering questions and open-ended responses. It is a way of preparing children to join in the worship and life of the wider church family as they develop an understanding of stories, symbols and rites. The pattern of an entire Godly Play session therefore resembles a liturgical eucharistic service with the gathering, the liturgy of the Word, the feast and the dismissal.

This Sunday we will be playing with Godly Play during the All Age Eucharist. We will also be preparing for the Baptism & Confirmation service on 14th May in which Bishop Steven will preside.

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Author: Gavin Knight

The Revd Gavin Knight has been the Vicar of St Michael & All Angels, Summertown in the Oxford Diocese since September 2011. After serving his title at St Alphege, Solihull, Gavin became parish priest of St Andrew's Fulham Fields in London. He moved to Wales in 2005 becoming Chaplain to Monmouth School. He is married to Jo, a clinical psychologist, and they have three sons.