Molly Baskette writes in, “The Church that Plays Together” that:
As a young doctor, Stuart Brown was doing research into the character of murderers who otherwise had no criminal history. He discovered something amazing, a common thread in 90% of their stories: as children, their play was severely restricted. Brown, a workaholic, spent many more decades studying play. He learned that children grow empathy through the rough-and-tumble of play, that play lowers stress (duh!), that play makes us more innovative and helps us adapt to change. He finally got the message, and started to play more.
(Still Speaking Daily Devotional and ministry of the United Church of Christ)
The healthy benefits of Creative Free Play have been studied far and wide and are evident everywhere. So why do we have such a hard time allowing ourselves to play? Cultural and Business Model expectations place way too much value on being Productive. The strong message being sent is if you aren’t producing (in all of that words meanings) then somehow you’re not being a responsible, mature, adult. How sad and how untrue and unrealistic.
I know we have to do well at our jobs but we also need to find the FUN, the Enjoyable parts of day to day tasks or the creative juices just stop flowing. I’ve seen a significant change in children’s Play Behavior during my 30 yrs of public school education. Between “Umbrella Parents” and Technology, kids seem to have lost the art and joy of Play. I watch them at recess struggling to find something to do if someone doesn’t organize a game (basketball, catch, chase). Very few seem to know how to “Make Believe” anymore. Dreaming and Imagining the Possible Future is what will nurture strong, healthy kids who can adapt and move through changes.
Dreaming and Imagining the Possible Future is what Worship is about. It’s always been the time to Imagine and Create an Alternative World/Alternative Community. It’s the “Work of the Church.” And maybe that’s why so many people stay away from the Church because it’s described as “Work”. We work all week and look forward to our ‘down time.’ The last thing most people are looking for is More Work.
So what if we started to Play at Church? What would that look like here, at PUMCST? What if we Sang and Prayed more Joyfully? What if we Played games during Coffee Hour and had a real meal together? What if we held a FUN-raiser just for the FUN of it? What if we all came together to Creatively address a concern in our community and had FUN doing it? Would people see us smiling or hear us laughing as we left Worship? Better yet, a meeting? Is it possible to enjoy volunteering our time? How can we be more Faithfully Playful?
Baskette ends with, “Play, Brown said, is any activity that is purposeless, dissolves ego boundaries, and brings joy.” She adds: “it’s also an activity that delights God, who, after all, was the first one to play. What was the Creation, after all?”
May God bless you with a Creative Spirit and the courage to go “outside and Play” with it!