Lent is the perfect time to explore the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion with children and their families. It is our Lenten tradition at Sudbury United Methodist Church to hold a Wednesday evening soup supper with programming for adults and children to follow. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, I will be sharing these two Sacraments with out second – fifth graders and their parents.
As I prepared for these six classes, it struck me all over again just how much of our story as God’s people is told in these two sacraments. Through water, grapes and grain, we are formed as Christians. An exploration of these two Sacraments is a grace-filled opportunity to help parents who may not be well versed in the Bible experience God’s grace and power with their children as they play in the water and knead the bread.
Godly Play Stories
In the prayer over the water at Baptism, the United Methodist Church, like many Christian denominations, remembers God’s saving actions through water; Creation, the Great Flood, the Exodus, and Jesus Baptism. I found the Godly Play presentations to be a solid foundation upon which to build my class. While I will not tell all of the stories in their entirety, I will be using parts of them to connect these learners with the water that connects us to God and each other. I will anchor the Baptismal portion of my class with the Godly Play story of Holy Baptism (The Complete Guide to Godly Play Volume 3: Presentations for Winter). This is a powerful story that immerses us deeply in the symbols of Baptism and invites us to experience being known to God by name. It is my favorite of the Godly Play stories because it is so deeply experiential. And I will tell the story twice – once sitting on the floor telling the story exactly as it is written and again the following week in the Sanctuary using the font, the paschal candle and our dove kite. What I find most helpful about Godly Play as an educator is the way it can be adapted for use in a variety of settings and for a variety of age levels.
I will also use Godly Play as the focal point for the Holy Communion sessions of my class. As it is with the Prayer Over the Water in Baptism, the Eucharistic prayers of both the United Methodist Church and the Episcopal Church tell significant parts of our story as God’s people. Using sections of Godly Play stories to share the stories told in our Eucharistic prayers, we will experience the connection between the water of life and the bread of life. The end of the Godly Play story of the Exodus (the unleavened bread) will become the beginning of our exploration of the stories about God feeding, followed by the Good Shepherd and World Communion (The Complete Guide to Godly Play Volume 4; Presentations for Spring). Again, the stories of The Circle of the Holy Eucharist and The Symbols of the Holy Eucharist will need to be adjusted slightly for our United Methodist context and tradition (our Book of Discipline directs us to use “the unfermented fruit of vine”), but there is room within the stories for me to do just that.
Rather than a dry, intellectual experience, it is my hope that this six-week exploration of Baptism and Holy Communion will be a rich, experiential time of grace and excitement. Having the Godly Play stories on my CE shelves offered me the opportunity to create a multi-sensory, hands-on environment for exploration and wondering. I hope other educators and faith-formers will take advantage of this curriculum to meet your congregation’s Christian formation needs – not just during Lent, but throughout the Church year!
Dr. Elizabeth L. Windsor is the Director of Christian Education at Sudbury United Methodist Church in Sudbury, Massachusetts. She is an accredited Godly Play storyteller. Christian formation throughout the life cycle is both her profession and her passion.