“I have to learn how to do this.” That’s what the Rev. Cheryl V. Minor, Ph.D., freshly ordained, said after she watched a woman sit on the floor to tell a story. The storyteller, Laurel Mosteller, encouraged Minor to fly with her to Houston, where Dr. Jerome Berryman was serving as Canon Educator at Christ Church Cathedral. She attended a three day training that included every Liturgical Action story, plus modules on response time led by Thea Berryman.
Neither Minor’s ministry nor her personal spirituality have been the same since. Godly Play changed her work in the parish, her work as a parent, and who she is as a person.
“It is my work. As a parish priest, I do many things, including push papers and sign bills, but the reason I get up in the morning is the work I do; this work.”
Minor has served All Saint’s Church in Belmont, in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, for 18 years. “After my sermon the other day, my husband said, ‘Do you realize the last paragraph of your sermon is all wondering?’”
Since 2000, Minor has also been a Godly Play trainer. She serves on the Board of Directors and the Education Committee. In her new position as Director of the Center for the Theology of Childhood, Minor will assist Visiting Fellows in their research as well as continue to work with Berryman on new publications and new editions of classic publications. Minor served as Consulting Editor for Volume 6, 7, and 8 of The Complete Guide to Godly Play, the new revised edition of Teaching Godly Play, and is currently working with Dr. Jerome Berryman on the revised edition of The Complete Guide to Godly Play, Volumes 2, 3, and 4.
Minor feels an increasing urgency to spread the reach of Godly Play. “What we are seeing in our country is a spiritual crisis. A lack of meaning and purpose in life leads people to do violence to self and others.” Minor’s background, including an M.Div from Virginia Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in Psychology, point to missed opportunities in development as the root of violence in society.
“Violence begets violence,” she says. She offers racial and police tensions as an example. “It’s difficult to grapple with existential limits. People are pushing against existential limits, seeking to break out of existential limits. Godly Play offers children a way to bump up against those limits safely, and a language to talk about it.”
To nurture a safe society, then, we must nurture the spiritual lives of children. Minor says, “The work I am beginning to do as the director of the Center for the Theology of Children is a piece of the puzzle. It’s really exciting to be a part of that. I’m especially excited that we are inviting others into that work through the Visiting Fellows program.”
Minor notes that many church programs for children are designed to serve adults rather than children. They seek to occupy and entertain children, or to fill them with information, rather than helping them honestly grapple with larger questions. She remembers how her own child, who had been immersed in Godly Play for many years, expressed surprise when encountering churches that thought Godly Play was useful only for younger children. He asked, “Why would you use anything else, Mom?”
Indeed, Minor would not use anything else. She employs Godly Play all the way through eighth grade, depending on enrichment activities and side-by-side lessons to expand beyond the scope of the hundred plus stories in the basic curriculum. She is pleased that the newly revised edition of The Complete Guide to Godly Play Volume 3 now includes a side-by-side story, making deep Godly Play work more accessible to more churches.
Minor is currently in the early stages of authoring a book on the subject: Godly Play with Older Children: Breaking through the Chaos of Children’s Cultural Habits to Do Deep Work.
Why would you use anything else?