One part of my ministry in my new appointment includes children and their families. I have worked in a classroom before, and also been a children's pastor, so this was nothing too new or daunting for me. I love being around children. Their frankness and playfulness delight me, and sometimes I feel it is much easier to speak and be with them than it is with adults.
Since Vicki Jo's birth, I have also been drawn into the Montessori method of creating environments and approaching development.
I knew, from some research, that Maria Montessori had developed a spiritual formation approach called the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. Her collaborator, Gianna Gobbi (for whom the fabled Gobbi mobile is named), is largely responsible for organizing and cataloguing this approach, along with Sophia Cavalletti. Here is a good webpage about the genealogy of this amazing way to allow children to discover God inside them.
Gobbi, Cavaletti, and Montessori were, of course, Roman Catholics. That is not my particular tradition, and so some of the details of the curriculum do not make sense in my context. What to do? How to incorporate the Montessori ideals of beauty, learning first through the hand, and having meaningful work?
And then I found Godly Play. Dreamed up by an Episcopalian priest named Jerome Berryman (a Kansan!), this approach modifies and builds on Catechesis of the Good Shepherd to make sense in a Protestant environment. And trust me, dreamy it is.
This is a shelf of materials for telling Biblical stories, wondering aloud together, and working to develop a language about the God of grace that already resides in each child.
I am deep into reading his work and preparing to slowly implement this method with the children in my care. We will do our wondering and working on Wednesday evenings together. Expect regular updates as I figure out what I'm doing, collect materials (like everything Montessori, Godly Play is heavy on specific items), and collaborate with children.
I will leave you with this quote from Teaching Godly Play: "For example, when children prepared for their first communion they harvested the wheat and processed through the school, carrying it tied in small bundles with ribbons. They then ground the flour and stamped the rolled-out dough they had made with a personally chosen Christian symbol. Finally they baked their personal communion hosts to be consumed on the grand day when they first participated in the Holy Mysteries." (p. 24, describing how Montessori helped children prepare for their first communion at her school in Barcelona).