The room at First Presbyterian Church in Little Falls is undergoing renovations to handle the Godly Play students.
by Dave Warner
First Presbyterian Church on Jackson St thinks they have something that at first glance looks like a typical Sunday School program, but isn’t really when you dig deeper.
According to Pastor Tamara Razzano, the program is Montessori-based and has been around for about 20 years. “The whole idea of Godly Play is instead of going to Sunday School and being given a worksheet that you fill in and color, you play the story,” she said.
Students come in and sit in a circle and everyone has and equal space and opportunity to hear the story. Then, the story is told through figurines and other props and the children get to wrestle with the concepts of the story on their own.
Razzano said “There’s a place where they can go dress up and act out the story if they want. There’s an art table where they can go draw and create. There’s a reading nook where they can go read or think about the story.”
The whole purpose of the program is to allow children the opportunity to experience and understand the story through their own methods.
“It’s a lot about asking kids questions. What are they wondering, as you hear the story, how does this relate to you, instead of telling the children what they should be thinking, or memorizing a Bible verse,” says Jessica Kelly, one of the organizers of the program.
“It’s about how the story relates to their life. Kids learn through play and they learn through talking to other children in a structured setting that allows them to explore the idea. It is more student directed than teacher directed,” she said.
The adults share the story and then ask the students what they think it is about. According to Kelly “They can have a deeper personal connection to the story and build a relationship with that story.”
Razzano stated “There’s time for questions, but you kind of roll with what the children need. If there’s a million questions that pertain to the story, then we might say let’s see what happens, and wait until the end.”
“For me, faith is not something that can be taught – you need to do these one, two three things. The mystery of faith and the mystery of God is different for each person. I think kids have an innate sense of wonder and mystery and why. When you encourage that curiosity, it allows them to think about and experience faith in ways that for them are meaningful and which also teaches us something,” she said.
The church felt that children needed to be heard and that they needed to experience faith, mystery and ask questions.
“To be able to come together and wonder together creates community,” said Razzano.
Kelly stated “Church is something that you do on Sunday, then you do an activity, and go away. This program, because it encourages them to think about how the stories relate to their life, it makes it easier for them to see the connections between church and every day life. It’s how these stories can help answer really big questions in their life that they are struggling with.”
The program allows children to explore current events as well. “It’s how can they understand those ideas and still build their faith in meaningful ways,” she said.
Children ages 4-10 will be allowed into the classes. “All those ages will be in the same group for the time being,” said Razzano.
The Church has devoted one room specifically for this program and it won’t be used for anything else. “The bookshelves are designed to be very tactile. There are things they can touch, play with and this is really sacred space for them to question, and wonder and to begin to ask those questions,” she said.
“The kids will know this is their space. They don’t have to share it with adults or others. This is their space to come and experience, play and wonder.”
The program is on Sundays from 9:00 am until 9:45 am and is open to anyone and you do not have to be a member of the church to participate.
“We just ask that people register if possible because it would really help us to have a rough idea of how many kids to plan for,” said Razzano.
A feast is part of that experience for the children and the registration will allow them to make sure that there is enough for everyone.
Razzano said “When we sit around and eat together and share a meal, it reminds us of our community, of our connection.” The meal will consist of Yogurt, Granola bars, fresh fruit and other similar items.
The first class is scheduled to begin on February 24th and the ideal class size is ten students. If you would like more information on the program, please contact Pastor Razzano at 315-823-3004.