When we decided to begin Godly Play at St. Matthews this spring, one of the first hurdles was finding a space. Our church has a wonderful education wing, but as it is used by preschool classes during the week, the large classrooms are full, fun, quite busy and not conducive to godly play. So we were given a little room upstairs that is unused. It fits a storyteller, door person and up to eight preschoolers really well. With any more it is pretty cramped when we spread out at work time, but for now it is working and very cozy.
Godly Play is exceptional because everything that happens in Godly Play is intentionaly creates space for right-relationship with God, Others, Self, and Creation. There is space for the children to learn about and talk to God. There is space for them to think on their own and to create their own response to God's story and work. There is space to wonder and feast with others. And, there is space to care for the physical space that they have been given. (I particularly love that learning to be stewards of the place is an integral part of Godly Play, perhaps because this is absent in most other approaches to christian education.)
Creating a beautiful, simple, and intentional physical place is a crucial step to creating a hospitable space where relationships with God, others, self and creation can flourish. I am very grateful for our little room and am excited to see it grow and develop. We are committed to keeping it calm (not lots hanging on walls or competing for the children's attention), natural (as they are working on stewarding this space it it also important that we are being gentle with the whole of creation with the materials, supplies and decorations we choose) and comfortable (Montessori had such a lovely vision for keeping furniture child sized and materials accessible so the students are free and independent in the space.)
A family donated an children's table and chairs and we found a small table in storage at the church that works as a kneeling table.
There were small shelves in the room that we are using for art supplies. We attempted to buy quality supplies and keep them as natural as possible. Prisma Colored Pencils and Watercolor Pencils, Pens, Stockmar Beeswax Stick Crayons, homemade playdough, scissors, Ticonderoga #2 pencils, prang watercolors, clipboards, watercolor paper, white cardstock, and sleeved smocks all made the cut this first round. On top of the shelves are the children's folders if they want to leave their work to complete another Sunday.
Our first material purchases were the circle of the church year and the core parables. The nativity set beside these shelves was found at church, I'm happy it has found a home and is being used.
We also bought the Haba Middle Eastern blocks; they have been a very popular choice for work each week. The boys often make Jerusalem and tell fantastic stories!
We still haven't found what we want for the good shepherd, but we did buy this nativity (our parables are from Finland as well). It took a very long time to get the supplies from Finland, but the workmanship is beautiful and I think having lovely materials goes a long way in saying that what we are doing in this space is important, and they are a constant reminder that we have been given a marvelous world to steward and that the physical stuff of this world is god-given and often precious.
We had cupcakes and red banners up for Pentecost. It was quite the celebration and our last session before fall. We have so much we want to do in the room and are hoping to take the summer to get things ready to offer Godly Play every week in the fall (Godly Play has been two Sundays a month this spring).
Looking at these photos reminds me of a myriad of projects we want to complete. We need to find more shelves, we want to cover the cork board with a solid color (white?), there are more banners to be made, more materials to be purchased and created, a desert box that will need a home come fall, as well as, dreams of practical life shelves and a nature table. I am so very grateful for a minister and a team of energetic volunteers who are willing to learn about Godly Play, how to lead it and to help to create this space where relationships can flourish!