Godly Play in the Wild

Godly Play and the Wild Goose Festival
by Becki Stewart and Emily Griffin

Godly Play storytellers Emily Griffin (L) and Becki Stewart at Wild Goose Christian Festival in North Carolina

Emily Griffin and Becki Stewart at Wild Goose

Well, it was a Wild, Wild Goose!  If you are unfamiliar with this outdoor Christian festival, the first thing you need to know is that the wild goose is a Celtic image for the Holy Spirit. As you know, the Spirit goes where it will, and this summer it led us to the beautiful mountains of North Carolina, where people gather for four days of speakers, workshops on justice and spiritual practice, liturgy, and music. We came aboard the Goose, as it’s affectionately known, relatively late in the game. Through a contact at her home church, St. Alban’s in Washington, DC, Emily was asked to provide the children’s programming.

The Wild Goose theme this year was “Story,” so Godly Play seemed like a perfect fit. Soon we were eating lunch and planning with Joy Wallis, their Board Chair, and envisioning what might be possible with such a large circle of children – up to 100 at a time.

The People of God had to be larger for Wild Goose

The People of God had to be larger for Wild Goose

We then began making our story materials. We painted large creation cards, made stand-up Great Family figures to walk over sand-covered canvas, and planned a desert box response area to add to the art tables. We fashioned a boat, some waves, and a tree for Jonah, and wrapped an old copy paper box in gold paper to make a parable box big enough to hold our enlarged Good Shepherd figures.

Godly Play story told at Wild Goose Festival

Godly Play at Wild Goose

We knew we would have children from 3-12 years old for six separate program sessions. Following the model of previous years, we would have two tents with a common area between – a small tent for up to thirty 3-5 year olds and the big tent for up to seventy 6-12 year olds. Assisted by some long-time Wild Goose volunteers, we got to work setting up the tents and a story area. Though we told the stories in one big circle, we created different age-appropriate art stations so the kids could choose their work – everything from play-doh for the little ones to collage, sand art, and finger weaving for the older kids.

children Godly Play art response time work play

Young children at work

art response Godly Play Wild Goose

Art response with older children

Although neither of us had ever been to Wild Goose before, we both thought our plan could work, and it did. We were continually amazed at the way things came together, despite the torrential downpours and logistical hiccups.

The children loved the stories. It was hard to believe how well such a large, varied group could wonder together – but they did. We could not get to everyone’s verbal wondering, so sometimes we asked the kids to share with their neighbors. We let those who wished stay behind to wonder with us some more.

With the Spirit’s help and the help of an amazing crew of volunteers, we experienced coming close to God and each other, over and over again. What a gift to follow such a ‘wild” God.