A Word from Our Pastor 2015 October

A Word from Our Pastor

“I WONDER. . .”

Years ago, I went to visit a friend in the hospital the day after her baby was born. I remember having such a strong sense of the child’s purity and innocence. Others tell me that the “human stuff” kicks in pretty quickly, and was probably already present in the child. The instincts for self-preservation show up as babies demand to be fed, comforted, whatever; their only priority is to get their needs met. But at the very beginning, their purity of soul is still there to be experienced.

Many people believe that children have this purity because all of us are born with a connection to God – and babies haven’t had enough life experience to “crowd out” God – they are still filled with God’s love. Perhaps you’ve had the experience as I have had with babies.

This month, we are beginning a new Sunday School curriculum that is like NO OTHER – “Godly Play,” for all young people in the Sunday School. “Children have an innate sense of the presence of God” – that is the basic assumption of “GODLY PLAY.” The founder of Godly Play writes, “Children already know the presence of the mystery of God – they just don’t know what to do with it. If that’s not supported and people don’t talk about it, it disappears. But if you find people who are interested in that and you talk about it, then you begin to develop” a way to talk about God and your experience.”

Godly Play uses Montessori methods and a spiral curriculum to present the stories of the Bible. With everyone gathered sitting on the floor, the Sunday School teacher tells the story (based on a carefully prepared script), and uses props to emphasize certain aspects of the story. The teacher does not make eye contact with the children, so that they are able to pay attention just to the story. At the conclusion of the tale, the teacher poses questions like, “I wonder if Jesus forgave this man . . .” and the children are invited to make their own conclusions.

Again, the founder Jerome Berryman, writes: in other Sunday School settings “sometimes people teach their conclusions. Adults teach adult conclusions to children, for the children to memorize or believe to be a Christian person. If you assume that the child already knows the presence of God, you don’t need to convince them of that; what they really need is a language to be able to develop that. Godly Play does not teach conclusions – it has the confidence that the children will find those conclusions. God is invited into the circle to come and play – that’s a big deal. God is okay. God can manage all this.”

This may seem a little weird to you. But it comes down to a matter of faith: to do this, we have to trust God and the child to “play together” without the teacher telling the child what to think or what to believe. We have decided to use this curriculum because we believe it is Sunday School for the “21st Century,” and are excited to join our young people in the adventure of talking about the God we all know.

We are dedicating the new Godly Play room to our beloved Sunday School teacher, Toshi Tekawa, who spent most of her life at BMU in the Sunday School. We used a bequest that Toshi left to the church to fund the Godly Play room. We trust that she would be delighted in this new endeavor.

Please come by and see the beautiful new room! Come to the former nursery school room and view the Godly Play room – you will see immediately that something very special, very sacred, happens there. (Also, if you would like to make a donation in Toshi’s name, in memory of her service as a teacher, we will have a donor plaque).

Please pray that Godly Play will be a blessing to our Sunday School children, the ones who have grown up at BMU, and new ones to come!

–Rev. Naomi