Friday, September 21, 2012

circle of the church year

We began our Godly Play sessions on Wednesday evening.  Godly Play is a Montessori-inspired faith formation program using story, wondering, response, and feast as a way to communicate God's love and desire for each of us. 

We face a dwindling number of children at our church.  This is not at all uncommon.  It causes you to face a sort of existential question:  at what point does it just no longer make sense to offer children's programs?  I have decided that so long as we have one child that needs to learn the story of our faith, I will continue to offer developmentally appropriate ways for that to happen.

So, our small group of three on Wednesday evenings gathered and shared our first presentation:  the circle of the church year. 

Like all Montessori-based learning, Godly Play uses special materials that are calibrated to engage children and provide natural control of error.  The circles of the church year that I looked at online were gorgeous.  Carved and painted wood, fitted to slots so that each tab occupied its own natural place:

But it also cost $160, and we are not exactly swimming in that kind of money!

I set out to make it myself.  Crafting is decidedly not my thing, so please don't laugh too hard at my measly efforts.  It was kind of calming and meditative to set my mind to a task using my hands, though.

I cut out two felt circles, one larger than the other.  I'm sure I could have used a compass to make this all much more exact, in terms of size of each tab in relationship to the diameter of the circles.  But where's the fun in that!?

Then I cut out 53 itty bitty tabs (one for each Sunday of the year, plus one for Christmas on those years it doesn't fall on a Sunday).  There are white tabs for our times of celebration (Christmas, Easter), purple tabs for our times of preparation (Advent, Lent), the great green season of tabs for our times of growth, and the special red-hot tab for Pentecost (they loved that one!).

I also cut out four arrows and secured them to the center of the felt circles with a brad.  Three white arrows and one red.  The three whites point to our great feasts:  Christmas, Easter, Pentecost.  The red one points to where we are now (18th Sunday after Pentecost). 

The kids enjoyed it.  They were entranced during the presentation and time of wondering.

Afterwards, they were invited to choose their work for the evening.  Because we are just starting and I am making everything as I go, they don't have many story materials to work with.  They all chose to respond using the art shelf:

There are carpets for all work, big paints, little paints, clay, drawing, and journaling. 

Our three children chose purposeful work and worked diligently.  The work they chose did not seem to engage much with the presentation, but that is okay.  They are there to confront their four existential limits (death, the threat of freedom, the need for meaning, and fundamental aloneness)*, not do a craft that relates to the lesson. 

Finally, we shared our feast:  clementines, oatmeal-raisin cookies, and water.

They served one another with grace and courtesy.

It was great fun, and I'm excited for next week!  Creation cards.  Stay tuned.

Jerome Berryman, Teaching Godly Play, p. 68.

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