Godly Play Foundation Commits to Anti-Racism; First Church Adds New Stories to Curriculum
By Di Pagel, Godly Play Consultant
Like many Christian organizations committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, the Godly Play Foundation recently became more intentional about the work of anti-racism. In 2020 a Task Force was set up and in December of last year released a statement to the Godly Play community. An excerpt is inserted here:
GODLY PLAY FOUNDATION ANTI-RACISM STATEMENT
Our mission at the Godly Play Foundation is to understand, promote, and nurture children’s spirituality so that children have the tools they need to make meaning about life and death in a way that will foster growth throughout their lives. In the story of the Great Family (Genesis 12, 15, 17-18, 21, 24) told in Godly Play circles around the world, we hear that God came so close to Abraham and Abraham came so close to God that he knew what God wanted him to do. He made of Abraham a Great Family, “and we are all part of this Great Family, as many as the grains of sand in the desert, and the stars in the sky.” The crises in our country right now reveal the degree to which racism and its legacy of unjust systems and institutions have made many feel as if they are not a part of this family. These crises compel those of us in Godly Play circles to, like Abraham, seek ways to come close to God, so that we have both the courage and the strength to work to make this vision a reality, not just for some but for all . . . For us, this means ensuring that Godly Play includes all children as it equips them and the adults who partner with them to imagine and create a more just future.
Over the past decade in our own Godly Play program in Oakland we have been intentional about adding stories to the room that enable the children of our church to find their stories there. Some told in Room 2 are not found in other Godly Play programs – the story of Sarah’s slave, Hagar; the story of the Queen of Sheba from Ethiopia; a lesson on Martin Luther King Jr. and the story of Fred Korematsu. More recently we added the stories of Harriet Tubman and John Lewis to the room.
One of the standard lessons told during Lent every year describes seven pivotal moments in the life of Jesus – 1) a baby 2) a boy lost in the Temple, 3) a man baptized, 4) tempted in the wilderness, 5) a teacher and healer, 6) the last supper and 7) death and resurrection. The lesson is called the “Faces of the Journey”. For many years these images depicted Jesus as a white male with blue eyes. The manufacturers did try altering the skin and eye colors of the original images but eventually recently commissioned an artist to paint new images which were made available last year. These are now in our room.
Our goal in Godly Play will always be to ensure that any children who enter this room see themselves reflected in the images of the biblical story surrounding them and to support their growing understanding that we are all God’s beloved children.