Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Godly Play Program

It’s about Christian education for children but Jerome W. Berryman calls his new book The Spiritual Guidance of Children. Subtitled Montessori, Godly Play, and the Future and published by Morehouse Publishing at www.churchpublishing.org, Berryman starts with early history of providing Christian education for children, both in the U.K. and the U.S.

Many of us may have heard of Robert Raikes and his first Sunday schools in England in 1780 and on. Children learned to read via Bible stories, learned the catechism and attended worship services. In America, the American Sunday School Union was begun in 1824 in Philadelphia, while the Sunday School Society began in Boston in 1831 and both spread across the country.

A little later, an alternative program for children’s spiritual quest and from a tradition outside the Sunday school movement, was being started by Dr. Maria Montessori in Rome in 1907. Montessori believed that children are “inherently spiritual,” and her teachers were trained to guide children in their spirituality. The assumption was that children have an inner faith from their beginning and they should be supported life long on their journey toward spiritual maturity.

Berryman provides a detailed history of the Montessori tradition and those who were searching  for teachers with the right combination of religious interest, educational talent, confidence and skill to express Montessori’s ideas, and realization of the importance of religion to a young child. When little children respond to something new or beautiful in nature, we may see on their faces that they believe and they want to know more.

A prominent name in this history is Sofia Cavalletti of Rome, author of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program and its teachings, plans, and helpful books. A little later in the U.S., Berryman and his wife Thea were putting together the Godly Play program. There are both similarities and differences in the two programs, though both built on Montessori’s earlier work in the Roman Catholic network. Berryman says that neither program is finished, and both continue to try to find better ways “to help children help themselves to know God.”

Begun in the Episcopalian community, the Godly Play program is quite ecumenical today. The final chapter provides information on ten examples of how Godly Play is being used and diffused into the mainstream of Christian education around the world.

—Lois Sibley

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Tale of Two Maps

Let’s begin the New Year with a fascinating book about maps called How Maps Change Things. A subtitle informs us that it is a “conversation about the maps we choose and the world we want.” Written by Ward L. Kaiser and published by Wood Lake Publishing Inc. under its imprint as Copper House, it is available at www.woodlakebooks.com in Canada, or through WestminsterJohnKnox at www.wjkbooks.com, where I saw it in their catalog.

Author Kaiser asks “What’s a Map For? Keep an open mind. And keep asking. Maps send messages...” says Kaiser, and have always been, more or less, “propaganda.” An example of a map sending messages is the Mercator, which was first produced in 1569, a map for navigation. When used for navigation, the Mercator is a dependable and useful map. For other purposes, Kaiser and other map people claim it is not accurate. The Mercator “enlarges some parts of the world and diminishes others. (Greenland is the same size as Africa!) Where size is concerned, better not depend on the Mercator.”

This book is full of copies of maps of the world done from different perspectives, and it’s easy to see what Kaiser is saying about the Mercator. Even so, many teachers, schools, mapmakers are still using it. On the other hand, after years of growing discontent with the inaccuracies of the Mercator, in Germany in 1974, the Arno Peters map was first published, claiming to be an “equal area map...for the equal value of all peoples.” It was soon in English and is now “widely available in French, Spanish, Italian, Swedish, and Danish.”

This new map produced by Peters has encountered “heated opposition as well as enthusiastic welcome.” The earlier Mercator map, “widely used, was often uncritically assumed to be ‘the truth.’” Peters claimed there was no fairness in it and there was great need for an equal area map. Kaiser has included quotes from many geographers and professional cartographers, who give cogent reasons for accepting and promoting the Peters map over the Mercator.

Included is a study guide for four sessions, providing material for discussion on:1) introduction to the conventions of map making; 2) how maps affect the user’s point of view; 3) what some demographics maps don’t show, such as poverty, energy use, water consumption, life expectancy, religion; and 4) new ideas, encouraging participants to dream about how they could get involved in creating a better world.

This is not a religious book, which is what I usually review on this blog. But....this book is about so much more than just maps. It is about politics, and faith and the values we hold dear. It is about human relations, about justice and peace and budgets and environmental concerns. I think we cannot look at this map book without looking carefully, each with our own worldview, or as the Germans say: Weltanschauung. Our value system will go with us, no matter what we are thinking, discussing, sharing, reading, reviewing. God bless you as you read through 2014.

—Lois Sibley