Weekly Reflection 11th – 17th October 2009

Posted on: Friday 9th October 2009

I wanna tell you a story…

It is not often Max Bygraves intrudes into my waking thoughts (though his version of Deck of Cards was the soundtrack to many a nightmare). However, lately I keep hearing in my mind’s ear his catchphrase, I wanna tell you a story. It began when I got into a discussion about Christianity’s persistence in our culture and imagination, rooted, someone thought, in the stories the tradition preserves. Even if we don’t go to church, or believe a word of what the preacher preaches, we know the story of the Good Samaritan, the Flood, the Creation, the Nativity, and as long as they are current, something of our culture’s Christian character endures.  All religions have their stories, especially those which originated in oral culture, and even in ours, in which Scripture is primary, stories precede texts. The Gospels, for example, preserve material that was in circulation before anything was written down – stories about Jesus and his teachings – and scholars have shown that far from being unreliable, like Chinese Whispers, this material was very carefully passed from person to person and community to community. Perhaps what makes a good story, its power to lodge itself and endure in the memory, individual and collective.

Mindful of this, an Anglican priest in the United States developed a system for teaching children the essentials of the Bible and of the Christian faith through storytelling. It developed into what we today call Godly Play, and it has been so successful both in the US and in the UK that we have resolved to start using it here. Instead of a sermon, children and young people (and it is fascinating to see how compelling adults find it too) gather around a rug on which a storyteller uses a few props and an artfully constructed narrative to tell a story from the Bible. It sounds like nothing special, but when you see it done properly it is extraordinarily effective, capturing the children’s attention in a way sermons or addresses can’t, offering a way into Christian faith that is refreshingly different from the old Sunday School methods that many of us endured when we were young. Our Family Service, at nine on Sunday mornings, has been growing, bringing the next generation of Christians into the Church. We want to do everything we can to encourage their growth and nurture, so today, Sunday October 11th, Godly Play comes to Knightsbridge. We do hope you will come along to the Family Service when you can find out what the story is all about.

Fr Richard Coles, Curate