Godly Play Beginnings 1

The experience of a small village church

The Godly Play room, where we had come for training, was warm and welcoming.

On entering our eyes were drawn to the focus shelf with the beautifully carved figures of the Holy Family and the poster of the Risen Christ behind. On shelves around the walls were the Godly Play stories: the gold parable boxes, the trays of wooden figures, the desert box, the Baptism materials and the Circle of the Church Year. In an alcove were the art materials for response time.

There could not have been a greater contrast with the place where we did our children's work: a three metre square area under the church tower; with only a curtain between us and the rest of the service.

No soft pale coloured carpet, only the grimy remains of an old grey rug. No focus shelf, for the room was piled high with furniture and junk; its most striking feature was the defunct Christmas tree covered in a bright pink curtain.

Despite this we were determined to do Godly Play. Five of us from our church had done the Godly Play training but we needed to convince the rest of the team who were involved in our family services. We decided to have a Godly Play evening in one of our houses and also invite along any parents who might be interested.

The space under the tower was the only possible place for a Godly Play room. But how could we convert it into a suitable place for telling Godly Play stories? If the children were going to be on the floor, carpet was essential. Tentatively I phoned a local shop to find out how much three metres of carpet would cost.

Sixty pounds. That was all the money we had. We could not spend our whole budget on carpet that would be rotted by damp in six months.

Despite this setback we went ahead with our Godly Play evening.

We set up a focus shelf in the sitting room and sent everyone into the kitchen so that they could be properly welcomed by the doorkeeper.

We told the stories of the Good Shepherd and the Face of the Newborn Child; we explained about the wondering questions, the response time and the feast.

In the end this was all we needed to convince the rest of the team; none of us had any doubts that this was the way we wanted to go.

Someone knew a carpet retailer who agreed to give us three metres of second hand carpet. When it rotted he would replace it. Free.

We sold the big table (and as the furniture buyer was so obliging we sold some of the cupboards as well.) As the room was still so damp we had cushions for the children to sit on.

We used the back of an old cupboard, painted cream for our focus shelf, and one of the group painted the Risen Christ on the back of a kitchen unit for us to hang on the outside door. She also painted the Faces on the Way and others of us made the Creation and Advent cards.

We bought the figures for the story of the Good Shepherd and the focus shelf from St Michael's Cottage crafts near Norwich.

We covered shoe boxes in gold paper for parable boxes and found lengths of coloured material for the different seasons. We kept a long table for the art materials, paints, pens, paper, card and salt dough. It took us three weeks...

As time went on other members of the congregation gave us money for resources; we tended to use this for particular items such as Bethlehem and Jerusalem and the Circle of the Church year. We did not have a desert box to start with as the real thing was so expensive. Eventually we bought an underbed storage box on wheels.

The children could not believe the transformation of the space; they stood in the doorway looking round.

"Look at the little figures."

"Is the picture Jesus?"

"Is this for us?"