Looking Back & Being Present

Looking back . . .

Faith & Play Stories in 2022

  • 22 participants attended Playing in the Light trainings, and became Godly Play/Faith & Play mentors.
  • Dozens of kits for Faith & Play story materials were provided to FGC QuakerBooks.
  • 6 Introduction workshops were hosted online, reaching Friends across the US and in Australia, Aotearoa/New Zealand, and Britain yearly meetings.
  • An online workshop on Theology of Childhood and Godly Play/Faith & Play was presented to Friends attending a religious educators conference in Nairobi, Kenya.
  • The story “Gifts” was shared over Zoom as part of Yearly Meeting gathering of Aotearoa/New Zealand Friends.
  • The story “Listening for God” was shared at Quaker House at the Chautauqua Institute in July.
  • A Fall Refresher program, “Are You Ready?” was hosted online in September.
  • A revision of the story, “John Woolman Visits the Native People at Wyalusing” was made available.

Faith & Play stories were shared over the world! — Australia, Bolivia, Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba, England, Guatemala, Kenya, Mexico, New Zealand, and across the United States.

The Trustees are grateful for the collaborations, donations, and spiritual care you shared with our volunteer-run organization in 2022. Thank you for your continued support!  Donate Today→

Being present . . .

Something about the beginning of a new calendar year invites looking back and looking ahead, but I’ve been thinking a lot about how to be present to the day, moment, or interaction I find myself in. I remember when my children were small coming home from school one day and working on dinner, with my daughter nearby sharing stories from her day. I was reflexively going, “Mmhmm, yes, okay, uh-huh” when I realized that I was not really listening to her. I stopped what I was doing, knelt down to her level, and really listened this time. I needed to pause and remember to be present to her.

Being present takes practice. One of the places where we are intentional about the practice of being present is in meeting for worship. An activity I love to do with young people is based on the book What Does It Mean to Be Present? by Rana Diorio and language Beth Collea uses in a lesson on “Silence as a Tool.” I’ve sometimes called it the “worship bowl lesson” and it explores how meeting for worship can be like a container we bring our full selves to — memories, hopes, and present feelings (both the heavy and the light) in the experience:

Our community gathered for meeting for worship is like this bowl. When we come to meeting, Friends are waiting, and listening, in the silence together. In the silence, all our experiences, feelings, needs, and hopes are held in the Light. Meeting for worship can hold our past experiences, and our future hopes, and also how we are feeling now. I wonder what does it mean to be present in the “now?”

When I think of being present to children, my experiences as a doorperson and storyteller in Godly Play/Faith & Place spaces feel like some of the clearest examples. The Godly Play method shapes my intentions and actions as a practitioner. When we welcome children and ask them, “Are you ready?” we are present to them in ways that shows care for the individual and the community. Sitting at their eye level, we demonstrate with intention that we truly see the child and welcome them. In the circle sharing a story, there are layers of being present: building the circle to nurture it as a spiritual community; being fully present to the story and keeping our focus on the materials; listening with attentiveness to facilitate the wondering after the story has been heard. I’m still working on the art of wondering with children, and there is no time I feel more present to them and to Spirit than when we reflect on the story together — sharing what rises from our hearts and listening for God and to one another.

As we enter into 2023, I hope there are many times for you when you are able to be present to children and others. The Faith & Play story, “Listening for God” reminds us that there are many ways and places to listen, and be present, when we bring our wholes to that intention.

We listen with our whole selves—with our bodies, our minds, our hearts, our imaginations, and our souls—and God’s Spirit helps us to know how to love, what to do, and who to be.

Melinda Wenner Bradley is the Director of Communication and Training for Faith & Play Stories, Inc. and a licensed Godly Play Trainer. She is a member of West Chester Meeting (Philadelphia Yearly Meeting).

Images: Pixabay.com and the author