Two years ago, 5 days after my wedding, I headed on a plane to St. John’s Newfoundland for the North American Godly Play Conference. There are not too many reasons why I would leave my newlywed husband, but the Godly Play conference was one of them. As I sat in the sessions, workshops and plenary sessions in the beautiful city of St. John’s I joined with other leaders seeking opportunities of creativity, wonder and experience through story. I left with new ideas and friendships to bring back to our own Godly Play room at First Baptist Church Halifax.
Like many gatherings, this bi-annual conference also needed to change shape based on covid restriction and realities. I wondered how the social networking, time of worship and prayer, and storytelling would translate into an online format. And, like many shifts in this pandemic, I was surprised by how engaging it had become. Last week from Thursday – Saturday (June 17-19) I was glued to the networking app “Whova” gaining “points” with each interaction. Over 350 people from 15 different countries were posting pictures of Godly Play spaces and creative uses of engagement in our own congregations; gathering all the Baptists (we are not the only Baptists using Godly Play!); having “coffee” with the founder in Q&A format and; engaging in an almost “speed dating type” form of networking with social room and topics switching every 5 minutes. In most conferences I’ve attended, it’s been difficult to choose which workshop to attend because choosing one, means missing four others. With all sessions being recorded, participants can go back and view sessions they were not able to attend.
This year’s theme was “family reunion” knowing that we are all part of God’s great family, and everyone is welcome. This theme was woven through all workshops and sessions with a large emphasis of inclusion. Godly Play as a foundation has spent a lot of time in the last two years listening to voices that have been silenced and making changes of how to hear. We heard of changes to the curriculum from materials used, words spoken and unspoken and how to commit to antiracism, ableism and making a safe space for all. We engaged in the deep work of finding God’s beauty all round us, in us and in others. We wrestled with changes this pandemic has brought of who and how we engage and what form of community looks like now.
As most conferences have more information and ideas that can processed in one week, I’m looking forward to the follow up session in August. Godly Players from across the Maritimes will gather over zoom to share and encourage one another using what we have learned in our own Godly Play circles. Our great family reunion will continue!
Thank you, First Baptist, for the time and space to gather creatively with others to be refreshed in ministry with our congregation.