The Good Samaritan: a Footsteps event
This was our second attempt at informal worship with elements of Godly Play and Messy Church.
Like our first event: Journeying in the desert: the story of Abraham and Sarah, the event was held in the church itself at 4.00 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon and we invited the school choir to come and sing for us.
The first event had left us with several questions:
How could we make better use of the space we had, and especially how could we avoid congestion at the crossing?
How could we engage older children, teens and adults?
What could we do to encourage both children and adults to be reflective about the story and/or visit the prayer stations?
We decided that we would keep to the same structure:
Gathering:We began with a short opening prayer and then sang "He's got the whole world in his hands"
Drama:A short drama telling the story of the Good Samaritan
Choir:The school choir sang two songs
Craft and activities:We had a variety of activities including food, craft, prayer stations and free response
Closing response:We came back together for short prayers and to sing "Give me oil in my lamp..." We finished with a blessing
GatheringThis time we were more prepared for early arrivals!
Originally we had put the prayer station at the back of the church by the font, which we thought would be somewhat quieter! However we found very few people, if anyone, actually visited it, so we decided to put it in the transept and create an area around it using screens.
We also manned it and encouraged early arrivals to visit it and add a prayer to the chain.
The free response materials (bricks, rainbow, cloths, shimmer stones etc) were nearby and several children went straight to them.
We found this made for a much calmer atmosphere and when it was time to start it was relatively easy to send children to sit in the pews with their families.
The drama was based on the story of the Good Samaritan and was mimed to a narration. We used a mix of child and adult actors in the various parts.
This time I was determined to ask some of the Godly Play wondering questions: "I wonder who is the friend or neighbour to the traveller?" "I wonder who is the friend or neighbour to the robber?" "I wonder who is the friend or neighbour to the Samaritan?"
The last two questions I asked people to turn and share with the person next to them, before taking a couple of answers for each.
The school choir teacher had chosen songs to fit in with our theme. She was very keen for the choir to be involved in the community.
Craft and activities
Sandal making:Thinking about the theme of travelling, the children created sandals using coloured felt, sticking it together and decorating them with "jewels" and felt tips.
Painting a backcloth:We used an old blue sheet (bought from a local charity shop) and tied it around the pulpit. One of the team had created a basic scene of the road from Jerusalem to Jericho for people to paint.
Fun with food:We gave the children scotch pancakes, cherries, raisins, peel, strawberry sauce and squirty cream and asked them to make a variety of faces to go with the theme of "Who is my neighbour?"
Bandit bandana:We tore yet more old sheets into strips and supplied fabric pens for the children to create their own bandit headdresses, which they tied round their heads.
String hearts:The children dipped string into different coloured paints and then made trails across heart (or flag) shapes. The idea was that they gave them to someone else as a gesture of friendship, though I'm not sure this actually happened!
Bandit target practice:We filled empty plastic bottles with a small quantity of sand and gave the children bean bags to see if they could hit the target!
The Good Samaritan today?
How could we engage older children and adults in the story of the Good Samaritan? We decided to show a powerpoint of a "modern day" Good Samaritan story based on an idea by Dave Kitchen.
The Traveller is attacked by thieves who leave him lying by the side of the road. Soon a priest comes by, who offers to pray before rushing off to a meeting with the bishop...
She is followed by a social worker who gets out her diary and makes the Traveller an appointment for a week on Wednesday.
Finally shots of the Traveller lying on the road are interspersed with shots of the empty road.
The final captions read: "But Jesus, where's the Good Samaritan?" "and Jesus answered..." We deliberately left this open to stimulate discussion.
The "actors" were all local people who were known to the children.
Free response:We put out a variety of response materials (wooden rainbow, felt squares, shimmer stones, building blocks etc) and invited them to create the journey of the Traveller from Jerusalem to Jericho. We also had a table with art materials.
Prayer Station 1: A place to pray for ourselves
Words:We are challenged to be kind to those we meet – at home, at school, at work, in our communities...
Activity:We are linked together...
You may like to write your name on a strip of paper, decorate it and add to our "paper chain" of people who are linked together
Prayer Station 2: A place to pray for the world
Words:Many people live in countries where there is fighting... Some of them have to leave their homes and become refugees...
They live in fear of their enemies, who are unlikely to treat them the way the Samaritan treated the Traveller...
You may like to pray for peace in troubled places around the world.
Activity:You may like to add a dove to our map of the world as a symbol.
Prayer:Dear Lord, let us be peacemakers... help us to call people friends not enemies... help us to love and not to hate... help us to care and not to turn away... let us be more like Jesus. Amen
Our prayers were short and included the Lord's prayer, known to many of the children through school. We finished by singing "Give me oil in my lamp" followed by a blessing.
FoodBring and share tea with pizza, cheese savouries, sausage rolls, cake and nibbles.
How well did it work?
Once again the event was greatly enjoyed by all the children who came.
I had perhaps been rather vague about the role of the Good Samaritan as the actor in question produced water, a well known brand of coffee, a blood stained bandage and finally a banana in his efforts to help the Traveller. While this kept the narrator on her toes, the children loved it!
It felt a bit daunting asking the wondering questions after this and I was tempted to leave them out. However the children were used to working in this way and there were some thoughtful responses.
It did mean that, even if it was only briefly, everyone was asked to engage with the story at a deeper level.
This time we made much better use of the space, moving tables into the nave for craft activities and putting "bandit target practice" down by the west door. This made it much easier for everyone to move around freely.
The Prayer Stations were in the north transept with craft activities alongside, instead of being in an isolated position. A member of the team was there to explain and encourage and far more people took part than previously.
We were particularly pleased with the powerpoint of The Good Samaritan today. It was hard at first to get people to visit (being short on space we had to place it in the chancel) but in the end they showed it through about three times with some interesting discussion.
Several of the younger children visited it as well and contributed to the discussion: "They're all just too busy," sighed one six year old.
with thanks to Rowena Berridge, Philip Tait, Anna Shepherd and the rest of the Footsteps Team