It’s hard to believe that it has been almost ten years since a first Godly Play® training with Quakers was hosted by Philadelphia YM. That weekend, we spent time unpacking the word “liturgy,” which literally means “work of the people.” That conversation acknowledged that we all – whoever we are – “work” to identify and come up with the “work” that we do to experience God.
We acknowledged in that training that we needed Quakers to write stories for our children that would help them understand and participate in our work of worship and witness as Friends.
And it happened!
A wonderful and dedicated group of Quakers from several monthly Meetings, under the care of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, began meeting quarterly, writing stories and vetting them with children. These stories were published in 2008 by FGC as a Quaker supplement called Faith & Play™: Quaker Stories for Friends Trained in the Godly Play® Method, which includes a warm letter of blessing from Godly Play creator Jerome Berryman. The Faith & Play Working Group (PhYM) continues their work writing and adding new stories to the collection (available from QuakerBooks).
Fast forward to 2013: a long and rich sister relationship has developed between a meeting of Cuban Quakers and Quakers from New England Yearly Meeting. Friends from New England shared stories from Godly Play and Faith & Play with visiting Cuban Friends, who fell in love and said. “This is what we want for our children.”
“But we need training,” Cuban Friends wisely recognized.
“Who is there who is a Godly Play trainer, speaks Spanish, a Quaker, able and willing?” the New England Friends asked themselves. A series of emails began back and forth, followed soon by the formation of a care committee to pay attention to this leading. It was an amazing journey of opening ways and discernment, and on January 6, 2015, we flew to Holguin, Cuba. We visited nine different Quaker churches and held seven workshops introducing Godly Play and Faith & Play to Cuban Friends.
Many huge gifts have made this possible, including:
• The support and permission of Friends General Conference for the translation into Spanish of Faith & Play™ by Benigno Sanchez-Eppler and Susan Furry, funded by New England Yearly Meeting, and co-edited by Beth Collea and Melinda Wenner Bradley
• The dedication of a care committee to carry this work forward: Beth and Melinda, Cynthia Ganung, and Julie Peyton
• The printing and gifting of the Jugar junto a Dios (Godly Play®) and the Jugar llenos de fe (Faith & Play™) manuals by NEYM
• Grant money from the Lyman foundation supporting Quaker ministry
• Travel funds from West Hills Friends Meeting (Caryl’s home Meeting)
• The donation of Faith & Play materials by Friends from Philadelphia and New England Yearly Meetings
• The donation of materials by the Godly Play Foundation
Gratitude is extended to all those mentioned, and the many other Friends who have supported the growth and diffusion of this work.
In Cuba, I (Caryl) soon realized as I often do in trainings that this work was every bit as much for the adults as it was for the children. It was so easy to remind them of their Quaker understanding that, as Quaker founder George Fox once said, there is “that of God in everyone,” and Godly Play at its core is about providing a space and language to pay attention to that inner teacher. If we don’t provide that space for ourselves as adults, we will never be able to provide the space for our children to do that.
We were so enthusiastically and warmly received. The traveling minute from the presiding clerk of Cuba Yearly meeting, included below, so beautifully speaks to how Cuban Friends responded to this gift:
In this year that has just begun, God has sent us a special gift, a new window, a wonderful opportunity to preach the gospel to everyone through the method of Godly Play and Faith & Play. Our sister Caryl and brother Jeff have been the bearers of this news, taking it to each of our monthly meetings. We give never ending thanks to God for our brother and sister who with love and patience have come to us to share this way with us which has been received with enthusiasm by the teachers of Sunday School and leaders in general of the Yearly Meeting of CUBA.
In Light and Friendship,
Caryl Menkhus Creswell and Jeff Creswell
West Hills Friends Meeting, Northwest YM