Finding a language – economics and Godly Play

Hilary Blake wonders what the Godly Play approach to children’s work might teach us about how we talk about economics.

One of the premises behind Godly Play is that all children have experiences that transcend the everyday and the physical world; what we might call experiences of God, or spiritual experiences. But many children lack the language to talk about these experiences. Often the older children, teenagers and adults around them also don’t talk about their own spirituality, so the young child’s spiritual life is not nurtured and it may become lost.

At Joy in Enough, we are trying to give voice to concerns that many people share about the destructive direction in which our economic system is leading us. It struck me that, just as we all have experiences that transcend the everyday, we also all have experiences of the impact of economics. And just as we often lack the language to talk of transcendence, many of us also lack the language to talk of economics.

The Public Interest Research Centre has worked on how people in the UK think about the economy and how we can foster an understanding of economics that encourages transformation towards fairness and sustainability. In listening to people, they found different images and stories were used, but also that for many there was a ‘cognitive hole’ – they didn’t really have any useful language to talk about economics.

In Godly Play we try to create a safe and sacred space where we develop Christian language through story, gesture, models, pictures, silence, ‘wondering’ time when anyone may speak and listen in response to the story, sharing food and allowing free response time with art and craft materials. We don’t just hear, learn and comprehend historical stories, we enter them physically, think deeply, share a time and space with others, face our limits and become aware of the Love that holds us. Godly Play is also used with adults and mixed-age groups, and Deep Talk grew out of Godly Play to work specifically with adults and in secular contexts.

Each time we share a Godly Play session we ‘wonder’ together; the storyteller frames some questions with the phrase, ‘I wonder’: ‘I wonder which part of the story is the most important part…’ ‘I wonder which part of the story is about you…’ ‘I wonder where this place could really be…’

So here are my wonderings for today:

I wonder what those of us communicating about economics and working for a fair and sustainable economy can learn from Godly Play? 

I wonder if we need to create a safe and sacred space before we invite people to develop their language about economics?

I wonder if we can start to understand the economic forces at work in our society through stories, pictures, models…?

I wonder if we have something to offer to people who yearn to go beyond reading, learning and comprehending?

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