The Advent’s Church School program is a busy and exciting environment for Christian education! Nobody is too young for Church School – we even have a class for infants and their parents.
Church School happens every week after the 9:00 a.m. Mass. Following Communion, our Church School teachers meet all children ages 3 & up at the rear of the church and head up to the third floor. Infants and toddlers and their parents can attend “Beulah Land”. We have “Godly Play” classes for ages 3-6 and 6-9, and a Scripture Study for ages 9-12.
Beulah Land is a Sunday School class for infants and toddlers (up to three years old) and their caregivers. Besides singing and music, the Beulah Land curriculum is designed to help the very young and not-so-young develop a visual vocabulary of faith. It not only teaches children particular Bible stories, but also opens the whole world of Scripture and liturgy to their imaginations. The class meets on Sundays at 10:20 AM during the school year.
The name “Beulah Land” comes from Isaiah 62:4 (King James Version):
Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.
“Beulah,” the “married land,” is the place where imagination is fertile and brings forth visions and dreams, and the place where mothers, fathers, and children are safe. We hope this class will help you and your children distill the varied imagery of Scripture into an imaginative whole, and make it part of your own inner world.
What is Godly Play?
Godly Play is an approach based on Montessori principles. There are four main goals at the heart of Godly Play. They are:
- Creating a sacred space
- Building and working in a community
- Learning religious language
- Using religious language to make meaning
In the classroom, the children are helped to learn by doing things themselves. They are not simply told what to do but are asked to “wonder” about the stories they hear under the guidance of their teachers. An emphasis is placed on setting aside time and preparing to come close to God, which indirectly teaches them strategies for entering and leaving devotional time.
Each lesson follows the pattern of Christian worship. Entering the playroom is the first threshold, marked by a personal greeting at the door. Preparation both individually and collectively occurs as the children gather in a circle around the storyteller, sharing news and settling down in expectation of the day’s presentation. Next, God’s word in the form of a story is presented as something to which a special kind of attention is paid. Time follows for ‘collective response’ as the group of children and adult(s) wonder together about the many meanings for them in the presentation. Then time is allowed for individual response and further discovery of meaning as the children each choose for themselves ways to work/play using a wide variety of art and craft materials ‘in their own way’. Typically this personal time ends with re-forming as a group, as a community, and a ‘feast’ (of juice and crackers) is shared together to mark this period. The session ends with a word and or gesture of personal blessing for each child as they both leave behind and take with them something of their experiences.
The Teacher’s Role
In the Godly Play classroom the teacher’s role is as a storyteller and guide. There are usually two teachers in each classroom. One teacher acts as the “door person” and welcomes the students to the classroom. This teacher also helps the children if they are having trouble focusing on the lesson. The other teacher is the storyteller. This teacher presents the story to the children and guides them in the “wondering” questions at the conclusion of the story.
The Structure of Godly Play
At the Advent our Godly Play classes follow a particular structure:
- Getting ready – The children are welcomed into the classroom by a teacher and form a semi-circle on the floor.
- Storytelling – A teacher tells the story for that week and guides the “wondering” period.
- Craft time – The children create crafts that are related to the lesson.
- Snack – After a brief prayer the children have snack and chat.
- Blessing/Prayer and Dismissal – The teacher leads the children from the classroom.
Our Scripture Study program encourages older children to being engaging critically with our tradition and the texts that lie at its core. Classes take the form of small discussion groups and students are encouraged to ask questions and engage with one another as they begin to wrestle with the meaning of specific narratives in Bible as well as broader questions about interpretation, divine inspiration, and role of the Church.