Jerome was born in 1937 in Ashland, Kansas. He and Thea Schoonyoung were married in 1961. They have two girls, Alyda (1962) and Coleen (1967). Alyda is married to Michael Macaluso. They have three daughters and live in Castle Pines, Colorado just south of Denver. Coleen, who was born with the handicap Spina Bifida, died in 2020. She painted and was a reading teacher at School of the Woods in Houston for many years. This is the the Montessori School where Thea was the music teacher for children ages 3-12 for over 35 years. Thea also created and directed the after school music program. She died on January 25, 2009.
Jerome Berryman was educated at the University of Kansas (B.A., 1959), Princeton Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1962 and D.Min, 1996), and the University of Tulsa Law School (J.D., 1969). In addition he read theology at Oxford University’s Mansfield College during the summer of 1966 (Certificate, 1966), graduated from the year-long program at The Center for Advanced Montessori Studies in Bergamo, Italy (Diploma, 1972), and was awarded three post-doctoral Residencies in Theology and Medical Ethics at the Institute of Religion in the Texas Medical Center in Houston (1973-1976). In 1991 he was awarded a Lilly Endowment grant for study in Italy related to the history of the Montessori approach to religious education, and in November of 1997 he received the Kilgore Creative Ministry Award given by Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, California. In 2000 he received a second Lilly Endowment Grant to study the theology of childhood. In 2009 he was awarded an honorary doctor of divinity by The General Theological Seminary in New York City and in May of 2010 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia.
Dr. Berryman is the founder of the Director the Center for the Theology of Childhood, which is part of the Godly Play Foundation, established in late 2007. This is the research center for the Godly Play Foundation and is located in Denver. It includes an extensive library and a well-equipped Godly Play room.
From 1998-2007 Jerome Berryman was Executive Director of the Center for the Theology of Childhood in Houston, Texas (as the forerunner of the Foundation) and from 1994 has been an active consultant in areas related to the moral and spiritual development of children and Godly Play. August 1, 2007 he retired as Director and was appointed Senior Fellow of the Center, which came under the umbrella of the Godly Play Foundation.
From 1994 – 1998 Dr. Berryman traveled widely as a consultant, giving workshops and teaching courses all over the world. From 1994 – 1995 he also served as part-time Associate Rector at The Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit in Houston and as Chaplain to Holy Spirit Episcopal School where he taught 14 religion classes for children and led 4 children’s liturgies each week, as well as working with families. The school had about 370 children at the time from 3-12 years of age.
From 1984 – 1994 he served Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Houston briefly as a consultant in 1984 and then as Canon Educator. Before being ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1984 he had been a Presbyterian minister since 1962, serving in parishes and schools.
From 1973 – 1984 Reverend Berryman served various positions in the Texas Medical Center in Houston and as a Fellow at the Institute of Religion. This included teaching the pastoral care of children, medical ethics, the relation of science and religion, and faith development courses in five pastoral care programs in the Texas Medical Center’s hospitals and at the Institute of Religion. He also served directly on health care teams, especially at Texas Children’s Hospital and Houston Child Guidance Center. In addition, he was Adjunct Asst. Professor of Pediatric Pastoral Care on the clinical faculty of Baylor College of Medicine 1979-1984, and Adjunct Professor of Christian Education at The Houston Graduate School of Theology.
Dr. Berryman’s educational experience with young people is broad. He has been Director of Christian Education in four churches of various size, served as a boarding school chaplain (as well as a teacher and as a basketball and track coach) at Culver Military Academy (1965-1968), and has done youth work in churches. His experience in non-church settings included being headmaster of a Montessori school for 250 children from 2-14 years of age in Cleveland Heights, where he built what was probably the third or fourth Montessori Middle School in the United States there.
As a consultant, Berryman has been active for many decades in the areas of religious education, child development, the spiritual guidance of children, organizational and family systems, medical ethics, counseling children and young people with suicidal tendencies, the pastoral care of children in hospitals, values curriculum, and other such matters. Among these consultations were: The Consultation and Liaison Service at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, The Crisis Team at Houston Child Guidance Center, The Houston Independent School District, The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, The Catholic Diocese of Galveston-Houston, The Human Studies Review Subcommittee at the Veteran’s Administration Medical Center in Houston, The Board of Discipleship of The United Methodist Church, The United Church of Christ, The Lutheran Church (ELCA), The Presbyterian Church, The Reformed Church of America, The Christian Reformed Church, The Episcopal Dioceses of Colorado, Pennsylvania, Texas, Albany (New York) and Upper South Carolina, etc. as well as many individual churches and theological seminaries of various denominations.
Papers, lectures, and workshops have been given at conferences throughout the world, especially in the areas of religious education and the pastoral care of children. These presentations have been invited by such institutions as Princeton Theological Seminary, Baylor College of Medicine, The University of Texas Medical School, Catholic University, Rice University, Case Western Reserve University, Tulane Graduate School of Education, Texas Tech University School of Law, The University of Houston, Villanova University, Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, Nazarene Theological Seminary, Iliff School of Theology, The Pacific School of Religion, The General Board of Religious Education (Australia), The General Theological Seminary, Virginia Theological Seminary, The School of Theology of The University of the South, The Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas, and others. In addition he has lectured at various conferences and presented workshops in Australia, Canada, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Italy, Mexico, The Netherlands, Scotland, Wales and throughout the United States.
He is a former member of the American Bar Association and belonged to the Family Law Section. He was also a member of the Oklahoma Bar Association. In Houston he served on the Ad Hoc Legal-Medical Child Advocacy Committee. He presented “Alternative to Bedlam: The Mentally Disabled and Society’s Rights and Responsibilities” at the University of Houston’s Half Century Symposium presented by the Graduate School of Social Work and spoke at the Texas Attorney General’s Conferences on the Rights of the Handicapped in El Paso, Austin, Houston, and Dallas. In addition he presented a series of public lectures called “Law, Justice, and Human Development” at Texas Tech University School of Law. He also served as a member of the board of the Religious Education Association.
Today he continues his membership in the International Seminar for Religious Education and Values, and the Association of Professors and Researchers in Religious Education in the United States. He is a retired priest in the Diocese of Colorado.