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Godly Play 101 

Godly Play 101 

by Angela Stengl on September 09, 2022


Thinking about the boundless generosity of the congregation here at St. Dunstan’s during our Godly Play Fundraising campaign brings to mind this dichotomy of opposing forces: 

"A fight is going on inside me," said an old man to his son. "It is a terrible fight between two wolves. One wolf is evil. He is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other wolf is good. He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. The same fight is going on inside you." 

The son thought about it for a minute and then asked, "Which wolf will win?" 

The old man replied simply, "The one you feed." 

— Wendy Mass, Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life 

If this is the measure of the type of kindness, generosity and selflessness our members have shown to the children of this church, the good wolf is fat and happy indeed!  I have been amazed and astounded at the way you as a congregation have rallied around the children’s Godly Play Sunday School program once again!  

Our new Godly Play program kicked off last year as we prepared three classrooms for the new Sunday School year.  We had lots of financial help from the congregation to get us off to a great start!  The high quality, handcrafted lessons for this program will last for many years to come, but also have a hefty price tag.  It will take us several more years to acquire all the lessons for each classroom. In the meantime, I have already been able to purchase many new and exciting lessons for this year! 

I started thinking, however, that you might be interested in knowing a little more of what Godly Play is all about.  The name can sometimes be misconstrued – people imagine “play” to mean a wild romper room.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Godly Play is actually based on the Montessori method and has much in common with our previous program, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.  The program was created by The Rev. Dr. Jerome Berryman while he was at Christ Church Cathedral here in Houston 1984-1994 as Canon Educator. Godly Play can be found in all 50 states and in countries all around the world.   

A partial definition: “Godly Play is a creative, imaginative approach to Christian formation and spiritual guidance. It nurtures participants to larger dimensions of belief and faith through wondering and play.”1 It is based on the belief that young children already have a spiritual life of depth, and that they can discover and use the language of religious narrative and symbol that will allow them to “make meaning”. 

Definitions are all well and good, but what would it look like if you were to walk into a Godly Play classroom?   

  • Getting Ready Our children are greeted at the door by the Doorperson and invited to enter when they are calm and ready.  They immediately come in to sit on a beautiful circular carpet where they are greeted by the Storyteller.  
  • The Story/Lesson The session begins by having a child move the hand on the large liturgical Wall Calendar in accordance with the seasons of the church year. The Storyteller presents the lesson modeling how to use the materials in telling the story.  The Storyteller “wonders” about the lesson encouraging the children to share their thoughts (there are no right or wrong answers).  
  • Work Time Children are quietly dismissed one at a time to choose their own work.  They might choose to use the materials from the lesson of the day, practice a previous lesson, set up the altar area, baptize a baby doll or interpret the lesson through arts and crafts activities.  
  • Feast The feast is symbolic of the Holy Eucharist.  Children help serve, share snack, and pray.  

The environment and culture of Godly Play practice is critical – the method is much more than a clever way to tell Bible stories. The Godly Play curriculum guides participants through self-discovery, which is fundamental to the Montessori tradition from which Godly Play is developed.2   

Come by sometime and see the good works going on in the Godly Play classrooms!  Let’s continue to “feed the good wolf” with your unceasing prayers, faith and assistance. Know that your generosity is laying a firm foundation for the children of St. Dunstan’s that will serve them for the rest of their lives! 


1Berryman, Teaching Godly Play: How to Mentor the Spiritual Development of Children, 136-137 

2Berryman, An Imaginative Approach to Religious Education, 79-109

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