Genuine Change Offers Welcome
Every mid-to-late September, we tell the story of creation in Godly Play. It’s arranged on seven tiles, each of which represents one of the days in the Genesis 1 telling.
It’s a fun story to tell. The words are simple, but everything in the story invites the hearers to imagine both the vastness and the variety of what God created: the light, the water, the green and growing things.
My favorite part of the story, though, is the wondering at the end. “I wonder what you like best about this story?” we ask. “I wonder what part seems most important?”
Sometimes the kids answer these specific questions, but more often than not, the conversation meanders and the Spirit leads and we end up in unexpected places.
Once I told this story on a Sunday morning and as we wondered together, a fourth grader scooted closer to the materials on the floor and began to move them around as she spoke.
“This doesn’t make sense,” she said. “Why would you separate dark and light before you created the sun and the moon and day and night? Was the earth not rotating yet?” For several minutes, she continued, talking half to herself and half to the group, ordering and reordering the tiles as she wondered aloud.
I grew up, as I suspect many of you did, in a congregation where questions like this simply weren’t allowed. Bible stories were presented to us as strictly factual accounts with pre-decided lessons in them for us to learn. There was no space for nuance, much less for big questions or disagreement. I was taught that being faithful to God looked like taking whatever I learned in Sunday School or heard from the pulpit and applying it directly to my life – no critical thinking wanted or needed.
And, oh, how things have changed for the better! That day in Sunday School, no one shut down that fourth grader’s questions. In fact, several of the other children added their own ideas to hers. No one seemed threatened or even concerned by the way this conversation was going. I pulled out a Bible so we could look at the way the story was presented there. We noticed together that Genesis 1 is a poem, and we wondered aloud how a poem might be different from a news article or even a historical account. We wondered how the person who wrote these words down might have known what to say, and how he or she might have first heard the story of creation.
This is the change that gives me hope for the church – we are becoming a more genuine people. It seems with each passing year, we trust ourselves – and our God – a bit more, and we grow more comfortable with bringing our real, honest selves – hearts, minds, bodies, souls, imaginations, and all – into our gatherings and conversations. I see it happening all over the place – in Sunday School, in worship, in weekday studies, in deacon’s meetings. We are growing more real, more honest, and more thoughtful, and in doing so, we are creating a safer and more welcoming sacred space for ourselves and our community.
Rev. Standiford's article appeared in FBC's October newsletter, The Bridge. If you would like to receive a copy of FBC's monthly newsletter via postal mail or email, please contact the FBC office at 502.227.4528 or .