Outdoor Sunday School-A Nursing Perspective

I live in Austin, Texas, and attend Central Presbyterian Church in downtown Austin. I run the children’s program under the associate pastor as well as teach Godly Play. During the week I am a pediatric home health nurse. I work nights fifty hours a week for a patient who is severely immune compromised, the common flu or RSV sends my patient to the (P)ICU. When I went into isolation March 13th, 2020, I did not know it would be 15 months until I would see any of my church family again.  

We reopened June 13th, 2021, with masking HIGHLY encouraged for everyone and the first thing I did when I sat down in the pews again was look out the windows and see some of my kids. I got right back up and went outside to be with them, because that is where I have always been called to be in the church, with the children.  

I wanted to be there for the kids and return to some sense of ”normal,” so I began brainstorming how to best restart our Godly Play program. Over the lockdown I had been writing a small synopsis for our e-blast with YouTube links for videos of that week’s story. I didn’t do Godly Play live during quarantine because it felt like it was one more thing for parents to feel obligated to chaperone and I liked the idea of them being able to do it on their time. When we were able to come back together I wanted to do so in the safest way possible and that was never going to happen in doors.  

I was vaccinated, but the vaccine was not available (and still is not currently available, but might be, come October! *fingers crossed*) for children at that time. So the safest place for us to meet was outside. The only problem? It was summer in central Texas with temperatures consistently in the 90’s. That first Sunday back while talking to some of the parents on the playground I threw around the idea of restarting Godly Play outside. There is this space in our playground that used to have swings, but those were torn down a few years ago due to safety concerns (they were falling apart). The area was constantly in the shade between the fellowship hall and a neighboring parking garage. It was at least 5 degrees cooler there. I got an old quilt for us to sit on (that I washed every week) and encouraged everyone to bring their own water bottles (or provided individual ones). Our fellowship hall was right there if anyone needed a few minutes of AC and I decided not to provide snacks. When I was out of town I would let everyone know a week or two in advance and decided against having a substitute. I continued to send the YouTube videos via blast for those who were still unable to join us. All of these precautions I took to heart very seriously for the safety of my patient and our children‘s health.  

Two months later Austin returned to a level 4 and quickly a level 5 and I had to tell the pastor that I no longer felt like it would be safe to conduct Godly Play in person again with the rise in cases and the severity of the Delta strain. These are by no means the only ways to keep our little ones safe and to keep spreading the stories of the Bible, but they were the ones I made for me and mine because I love these children and want only to do the best by them as much as I am able. 

Benita Alice “Allie” Barden, RN, Austin, TX

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