Godly Play Beginnings 2

The experience of a town church

I was always very interested in Godly Play and its mechanics; I had scoured the Internet for information, especially any local courses, but all to no avail. At St Mary's Church St Neots, I had been helping with the eleven to sixteen year olds for about seven years and a nursery group before that. For various reasons the work with the older children finished and when one of the Sunday school leaders left I offered to step into her shoes.

I had not done Sunday school as such for years, and on my first session our Vicar asked if he could come and join us!

The session went well; afterwards Father Paul and I had a good chat about children's ministry and I told him I had always had a very keen interest in Godly Play. Later that day Father Paul went on his computer and quite by accident, found the information for a Godly play training day in Cambridge with Sarah, Victoria and Carolynn, he ended the email saying "well Jane, God really does work in mysterious ways!"

I contacted Sarah immediately and booked myself on the course! That was in May 2010.

I knew before the day had hardly got started that this was what I wanted to do.

I was full of enthusiasm the next day as I shared my initial tentative thoughts with Father Paul; he gave me his full backing to start in September with one hundred pounds to buy equipment!

To begin with I had very grand ideas. We have an unused upstairs room above our Church Rooms, I visualised it with a Godly Play Room sign on the door, new fitted carpet, new shelving full of Godly Play stories in baskets and Gold boxes (I still have that vision today) but it quickly became apparent I was trying to run before I could walk.

I worried terribly about the hundred pounds; I did not want to spend it unwisely.

A hundred pounds is a lot of money, but when you are starting out it does not go far. With my husband's support I purchased some books so as not to dip into the starting fund. I bought 'The Complete Guide to Godly Play' by Jerome W. Berryman, volumes two, three and four. I also purchased 'Young Children and Worship' by Sonja M Stewart and Jerome W Berryman.

I looked at the web site for St Michael's workshop in Norwich, to buy wooden figures and objects.

I went round and round in circles not knowing what would be a good staple starter selection, until in the end I got so confused I contacted Sarah and told her of my plight. Sarah came back with some excellent advice and put me in touch with Victoria who had set up a Godly playroom in her house.

In addition I went to the Diocesan Resources Centre in Ely where I was given a lot of support and information.

I changed my starter list many times but settled on the Church year clock unpainted (I painted it myself to save money); green felt for the Good Shepherd story; Mr and Mrs Noah (who double up as Abram and Sarai); the people of God; a wooden chalice, plate and table; Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus for the focal table; a candle and stand for the table; an under bed storage box on wheels to use as a desert box and the sand to go in it. I also purchased paper cups and serviettes needed for a feast.

Most of the stories I have made up myself, using the templates from 'Young Children and Worship'. I could not afford the large piece of navy felt for the creation story so I cut up and re sewed my son's navy pillowcase! The large circle of white felt needed for the Great Pearl was cut out of the middle of a Tesco value sheet (my daughter's suggestion).

I use only one Gold covered box and one basket - all my stories are stored in labelled shoeboxes until I need them.

I was ready to start Godly Play in the September and have done it regularly every third Sunday of the month since.

At the moment our cohort of children are very young, so I concentrate on the story and do minimal wondering, inviting them then to go to chosen activities. If the chance presents itself, my door keeper (who I am so lucky to have for support and conviction of the value of Godly play) or I, will quietly slip in some wondering while we work/play alongside the children. I have discovered I must be adaptable for the younger children without losing the values of Godly Play.

I do the session in the Church Rooms during the half past nine Sunday morning service, returning to church in time for the start of Communion prayers.

It would have been very costly to convert the upstairs room; the stairs are also very steep for small legs! But you never know one day….

Jane Plumb    
St Mary's Church, St Neots