Monday, May 22, 2017

New Godly Play Storytellers in Minsk!

The Godly Play family is growing! There are now 14 more certified storytellers in Mink, Belarus. 

Eleven women and three men attended a three-day Core Training May 12-14 led by UK/Germany Trainer, Helen Spencer, and myself. With this group, we did some serious playing! We laughed together quite a bit, and wondered about a great deal of things. Our unofficial motto was "Godly Play, not Godly School"!

Our lively group was made up of children's workers from 5 different churches: 

One of my favourite parts of any training is when the trainees experience a full Godly Play session for themselves as participants, often for the first time. Here Helen shares "The Great Family".

Many people come to Core Training having only assisted children in the Response Time, or never having seen a real Godly Play room.  It is fun to observe and assist them during their first Response Time for themselves.

We wondered about Children's Spirituality, 

the roots and influences on Godly Play, 

and about which of the Montessori principles in Godly Play we liked best. 

Of course, there was time to learn and practice our stories, 

and to share them with our peers. Depending on the person, this can be a lot more challenging than sharing the stories with children! 

Pictured below, Helen and I are with Sveta, Irena, and Alesya, who did all of the legwork for us, and without whom we could not have offered this training. (There is one other Sveta not pictured, who also went above and beyond the call of duty to serve us!)

Core Trainings go all day and involve lots of sitting. Sometimes it wears me out, because I don't get enough exercise. There was nothing to fear at this training, because Alesya walked me an extra 8-10 km each evening after the training ended to make sure that I saw all of Minsk. (This was my third trip here, but the first time that I actually saw the city!) 

Here I am at "Ploshad Pobedi" (Victory Square). 

Alesya and I on top of the city library building, one of the most excellent views town.

And I had some amazing food while I was there as well! Here are some "draniki", a type of Belarussian hash brown with lots of sour cream and smoked salmon. Yum! Yum!

So privileged to have shared this time with such special people!

Aufbaukurs in Halle / Godly Play Training & Retreat in Halle

Godly Play Germany offers Taster Days and Core Trainings all over Germany as well as a bi-annual conference. Over the years, though, the Godly Play community has expressed a need for other things like further training, community with other storytellers, and spiritual retreats. Because of this, the trainers have developed something called an "Aufbaukurs", a weekend that includes a new aspect of Godly Play to explore, some training, and many elements of a spiritual retreat. 

Villa Jühling in Halle, Germany, where we stayed. 

In March, my friend Heidi, who is a trainer in Wittenberg, and I led such a weekend in the city of Halle with 10 other women from Saxony, Berlin, and the Black Forest. Together we explored the Old Testament enrichment stories that deal with suffering and conflict: The Garden of Eden, Ruth and Job, and some Godly Play-inspired stories about the teachings of Jesus: The Lord's Prayer, The Sermon on the Mount, Blessing the Children, and the Emmaus Disciples. 

I'd like to tell you about some of the highlights. One was the community aspect. While some religious movements divide people over doctrine and other issues, Godly Play really brings people together. The twelve of us were from different backgrounds and confessions, but each woman came with a genuine openness that quickly established a trusting, sharing atmosphere. 

Our Wondering conversations after each story were thought-provoking and uplifting. Most of the time, I wonder with children and people that are new to Godly Play. I learn so much from these two groups of people, but it was really different to wonder together with a group of diverse, mature women who practiced Godly Play themselves. 

We also experienced two full Response Times sessions, where each of us could creatively explore however we wished. For some of the women, this was challenging, because they are usually accompanying children, and the children are the ones doing the creating. For others, it was pure joy to be able to sit for a longer period of time and creatively respond to the stories  without being interrupted. It was freeing for me, because I realized that I don't often regularly make time for a creative response to Scripture. One of the things that I am "bringing home" from this weekend is to make time for that on a weekly basis in response to Lectio Divina.

Our time ended on Sunday morning with an interactive, ecumenical worship service centered around the Lord's Prayer. Each of us then made our way home with our spiritual tanks filled and excited about our further path with God and the children in our lives. 


Friday, May 5, 2017

Easter Club 2017 Week 4

In der letzten Woche vor Ostern haben wir "Das leere Grab" gehört. Diese Geschichte ging natürlich um die Auferstehung Jesus, aber auch darum wie die Jünger u. Jüngerinnen erstmal nicht glauben können, was ihre Freunde über Jesus erzählt haben. Wie sie als Community langsam gelernt haben zu trauen, was sie gesehen, gehört und gespürt haben.  Our last story in Easter Club was "The Empty Grave" about the miracle of Jesus' resurrection and how the followers of Jesus had a difficult time at first believing the reports of their friends having seen Jesus. 

Danach haben die Kinder fleißig Projekte fertig gemacht und neue angefangen. The children were especially productive in this last week, making and finishing all kinds of projects.

Nähprojekte . . . 
Sewing projects . . . 

Osterbaum-Anhänger . . . 
Easter ornaments . . . 

und noch gespielt . . . 
and playing . . . 

Die armen Eltern müssten dann einen Weg finden, alles nach Hause zu transportieren! The parents had quite a time figuring out how to get it all home!

Als Abschiedsgeschenk hat Melinda, meine Co-Begleiterin, eine Osterüberraschung an jedes Kind gereicht. My co-leader, Melinda, prepared a special Easter treat for each child as a parting gift. 

Friday, March 31, 2017

Birch Easter Decoration with Christian Symbols

Honestly, the idea for this art project came to me, because I had a lot of birch stumps left over from an Advent project in 2015. : )  Also, one of the things that I love to do in my Easter Clubs is to acquaint the children with historical Christian symbols and allow them to creatively explore them. 

So I came up with the idea of allowing them to draw a symbol that is meaningful to them on the birch stump. (I recommend high-quality permanent markers for this activity.) And then, the children could choose a Bible verse to write on the tag and tie it to the birch wood. As always, the children had the freedom to come up with their own symbol or Bible verse if they wanted to.  

This is a simple, but beautiful project, especially if you are looking for something with natural materials that can be finished in a short period of time. It also doesn't have to necessarily be an Easter project.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Easter Club 2017 Week 3

Teamwork: wir zünden die Christuskerze an.
Teamwork: Lighting the Christ Candle.

Unser 3.Woche fing mit einer Godly-Play-Geschichte namens "Ostereier" an, die die Verbindung zwischen christlichen Symbolen und der Ostereikunst Osteuropas zeigt. Die Handlung der Geschichte ist eine alte Legende, die nicht in der Bibel steht, aber verbunden mit dem Bericht von Simon von Cyrene, der Jesu Kreuz nach Golgatha getragen hat. (Ich habe den Kindern am Anfang erzählt, dass dies eine Legende und keine wahre Geschichte ist, damit sie nicht in Verwirrung kommen.) Week 3 began with a Godly Play story called "Easter Eggs" that highlights the Christian symbols found on Easter eggs in Eastern European countries such as the Ukraine. The background story is a legend based on the account of Simon of Cyrene carrying Christ's cross to Golgotha. (Since the story is a legend and not a biblical account, I was careful to make sure the children understood this.)

Bei der Geschichte gibt es wunderschönes Material, u.a. ein echtes ukrainisches Osterei und flache Holzeier mit christlichen Symbolen und ihre Bedeutungen darauf. Nach der Geschichte haben wir den Korb mit Ostereier herumgegeben, und jedes Kind hat ein paar herausgezogen. Dann haben wir die unterschiedlichen Farben und Mustern zusammen geguckt. Wir redeten darüber, welche am wichtigsten sind, und welche vielleicht etwas von uns erzählen. The story has beautiful materials that include a real Ukrainian Easter egg and many wooden eggs that have the meanings of the colours and patterns on the back. After the story, I passed around the basket and let each child take a few eggs, so that we could look at them together. Then, we discussed which symbols and colours we thought were the most important and which ones perhaps told something about us. 

Danach stellten wir den Korb auf einem Tisch mit Ausmalblättern. Da konnten die Kinder alles genauer angucken und ihre eigene Ostereier ausdenken. Afterwards, we moved the basket with eggs to a table and gave the children colouring sheets with blank eggs so that they could make their own eggs and explore the symbols and colours further.

Ein Kind meinte beim Ergründen, dass seine lieblings Farbe blau ist, weil sie traditionell mit "Gesundheit" verbunden ist. Dann malte es ein Osterei mit diesem Wort darauf und noch ein paar andere Ostereier, deren Farben und Mustern ihm wichtig waren. The child below had expressed that his favourite color was blue, because the color blue on Easter eggs is associated with good health. He then drew the egg and wrote the meaning on it. He also drew a purple egg with "trust" and "patience" written on it. 

Auch haben wir Osterbaumschmuck aus Ton gestaltet.
We also made decorations for our Easter tree. 

Viele Kinder wollten mit den Volk-Gottes-Figuren und Baumaterial einfach spielen. Ich glaube, die Kinder geniessen diese unstrukturierte Spielzeit, einmal weil die Kirche so ruhig ist,  und auch weil man so etwas selten in einer Kirche oder in der Schule tun darf. And many children just wanted to play with our People of God figures and building materials. I think the children really enjoy the longer period of unstructured play in the church, because it's not something they always get to do in a church setting.

Noch eine Woche!
One week left!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Gift Idea for Godchildren: Prayer Journals

My oldest goddaughter is now in her 20s' and I couldn't be prouder of her! Recently, my husband and I became godparents again, this time of a 10-year-old girl and an 7-year-old boy. We were so thrilled to be godparents again, and naturally, I immediately began to think about a meaningful gift that I could present them with. 

I decide on a bracelet engraved with the Lord's Prayer for our goddaughter, and a flashlight engraved with "Jesus is my light" for our godson. But I also wanted to give them something handmade from the heart, so I came up with the idea of making a prayer journal for them. 

I first bought small well-made notebooks and put their initials on the cover. 

Then, I wrote different prayer prompts on the pages, and explained that they could either draw or write their prayer. 

Dear God, I feel . . . 

Dear God, This is my favourite story about you  . . . 

I also left some blank pages for their own imagination. : )

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Easter Club 2017 Week 2

OsterAG fängt mit der Christuskerze an. Zwei Kinder dürfen sie anzünden. Danach stellen wir die "Kirchenuhr" ein. At the beginning of Easter Club, we light the Christ candle together and "set" the church clock. 

Diesmal behandelten wir den 1.Teil der Ostergeschichte, "Jesus leidet und stirbt". Die meisten Kinder wussten, dass die Ostergeschichte nicht mit Jesu Tod aufhört, aber wir wollten diesen Teil der Geschichte in uns ein bisschen ruhen lassen, bevor wir zu dem fröhlichen Teil weiter gehen.  This week we began the actual Easter story. We heard a Godly Play inspired lesson called "Jesus Suffers and Dies". The story ended with Jesus being laid in the tomb. Most of the children know that the story doesn't end there, but we decided to let this part of the story settle into us before moving on to Easter morning. 

Im Ergründungsgespräch nachher habe ich die Kinder gefragt: "Was möchte ihr o. sogar müsst ihr als erstes dazu sagen?" und "Welcher Teil dieser Geschichte ist euch am wichtigsten?" Im Foto unten zeigt ein Junge, was ihm der wichtigste Teil war, und zwar als Jesus Brot und Wein mit seinen Freunden kurz vor seiner Verhaftung teilte. After the story, I asked the children, "I wonder what you want to say or even have to say after hearing this?" and "What part of this story is most important to you?" Below a boy explains that the most important part for him was when Jesus broke bread and drank wine with his friends just before he was arrested. 

Es gab in der Kreativphase ein neues Projekt. Die Kinder haben Oster-Dekoration aus Birkenstämmen gemacht. Sie haben christliche Symbolen darauf gemalt und einen Bibelvers angebunden. We added a new project to our Response Time this week. The children could make Easter decorations out of birch stumps by drawing a Christian symbol (or a meaningful symbol of their own) on the wood, and attaching a verse from the Bible to it. 


Ein pädagogisches Ziel von Godly Play/Gott im Spiel besteht darin, bei Kindern eine Sprache entwickeln zu lassen, wobei sie ihre Glaubenserfahrungen ausdrücken können. Eine Art dies zu machen ist durch die Kombination von uralten christlichen Symbolen und die eigene Kreativität der Kinder. One of our aims in Godly Play is to help children develop ways to express their faith in both verbal and non-verbal ways.  Combining historical symbols with their own creativity is one way of helping them do this.

Es gab auch Frühlings-Collagen . . .
Some children painted spring-themed collages . . . 

 ... und andere spielten mit der Geschichtematerial, auch mit anderen Gegenständen in der Sachrestei. Diese Kinder finden das große Kreuz aus Messing besonders interessant und integrieren es jede Woche in ihrem Spiel. 
...and others explored and played with the story materials, combining them with other objects in the room. This particular group of children is fascinated by a large, brass cross in the room.

Die Nähprojekten gingen auch weiter.
And other children chose to sew. 

Mich fasziniert die Gruppen-Dynamik bei jeder AG. Diese Konstellation von Kindern ist sehr lebendig. Sie können ziemlich laut sein, aber sie wissen immer intuitiv, wann sie laut sein sollen/können und wann sie am besten leise und zuhörend sein sollen.  This group of children are particularly lively and dive into each activity with gusto. They can be really loud, but they seem to  intuitively know just when to be loud and when to be still  and listen. 

Noch 2 Wochen gibt's!
Please stop by again for Week 3!