'Except You Become as Little Children...'
In the gospels Jesus warns us that we lose touch with our playful child-bit at our peril. The following exercise may help to KEEP us in touch with the child within us, but also, perhaps, to GET us in touch with some other bits of ourselves and place them both in relationship with God and with others.
Gather together a selection of small soft animal toys, enough for each member of the group with some left over so there can be a choice, and enough small candles or nightlights for every member.
Produce animals one by one from a box briefly introducing some of them in a light-hearted way with a single sentence or so.
Invite group members to choose a soft toy and ask them to sit by themselves and for about 15 minutes to imagine its story.
At the end of this period members go into twos for about 10 minutes to share their stories.
The leader then explains that quite often we may find ourselves putting on to an animal (toy or real) bits of ourselves which we may find it hard to own for ourselves. These may be positive, good things about us, or they may be sad or even painful things in our lives, or qualities we would rather push away, pretending they are not there. Invite the group to think about this individually and to be ready to stay with and perhaps struggle with the harder bits rather than dismissing them or feeling guilty about them. (About 10 minutes.)
Invite each member, in turn, to place their animal on the floor in the centre, or on a low table, and pause for a moment to pray silently for the story the animal has suggested, which will, of course, be partly their own story.
Secondly, ask them to think of other people suggested to them by their story for whom they might like to pray. (10 minutes should be about right for this.)
Then give each member a candle, and having lighted the candles ask for them to be placed in turn on a central low table, and for each person to pray briefly (aloud or silently) for the people who have come to mind for them in the silence.
General discussion now follows on how the whole exercise felt for the group concluding with a suitable prayer.