Beauty and Play as a Growth Strategy
If you are friends with a religious educator who went to the Liberal Religious Educator’s Association Fall Conference this weekend, you may have seen pictures or read Facebook statuses about “Play Stations.”
Imagine a hotel conference room with tables along the perimeter filled with art supplies and Play Station Explanations. And an invitation to gather with your colleagues from all over the continent and play. It was an invitation to finally receive the blessing of creating as faith formation for oneself, rather than the people you serve.
What are Play Stations? Play stations are reflective activities that include elements of play and wonder and creativity. You know the connection between creativity and playing with the Creator. You do this all the time for other people. And now this is just for you. Enjoy.
Why on earth is the Growth Office investing in such a thing? Because religious educators are the natural incubators, inciters, and keepers of our faith formation and identity. A spiritually mature, fed, and centered religious educator is essential to healthy growth of every kind. One of the best way to do that is playing in the safety of peers. Let the play begin!
1. Welcome Station
On Hold Envelopes: On a slip of paper write down any should, obligations, responsibilities and such that need to be put on hold for the weekend. Slip them into the envelope. Write your name on the envelope and place them in the basket for safekeeping. The envelopes and obligations will still be there if you would like to retrieve them after our weekend together. Or not.
Muck Dusters: These have magic magnetic powers. If you come with any ick residue from interactions or tight schedules or any karmic challenge, ask a colleague to dust you off.
Medicinal Bath Salts for Spiritual Detox: if your residual spiritual exhaustion or toxicity level are beyond the magic of the Muck Duster. You may need these. Sprinkle these special salts in bath water and soak for a very long time. Imagine the spiritual toxins being pulled out of your core. And as you pull the plug on your bathtub, watch those nasty contaminations circle the drain. Gone. You karmic slate is clean.
2. Ball Pit
Yes, that’s right our very own Ball Pit. You are invited to dangle your feet in the balls of bliss or you can get right on in there. Here is the only rule: when two people are gathered they each take turns pulling balls out until they find one with a question and then take turns answering the question.
3. Create and Release Necklace Charms
You are invited to create a charm specifically for a religious educator. Here’s the kicker – you do not know who it is. Please make the charm prayerfully and lovingly. What is your wish for another religious educator? Make it into a charm. A silver jewelry backing will be attached after the charms dry. If you are inspired, you may make more than one. These will be gathered and then release during a “reverse offering” during closing worship.
4. Faith Formation Haiku (& other forms of poetry)
Reflect back on your year. Or look ahead. Or go straight to the core and purpose of faith formation. Put it into poetry. Cheeky and irreverent or gorgeously soulful. Write your poem on a blue piece of paper and hang it to create a “rain of poems.”
5. Wall of Appreciative Inquiry
Add to the mural of possibilities. What if Directors of Religious Education ran the congregation?…
6. Story Stones
Instructions. Spend a full two minutes writing down all the roles, identities and titles you carry. All the ones you can think of. From that list circle ten you most identify with. From that ten, narrow it to three. And now decorate a stone with one (two or three if it’s too unbearable to choose) of your very core identities. During our evening Celebration of Play, you will be invited up to place your stone in the river.
7. Prayer Candles
Please use whatever art supplies you like. This is yours to take home and use as a personal spiritual tool in your religious work. I find that tracing paper holds watercolors and permanent marker and crayon nicely and offers a lovely opaque film to glue on.
Guiding questions: What do you call the Ultimate Source? Whose shoulders do you stand upon? What mentors and companion give you strength and camaraderie for the journey? What is your driving mission and purpose? What do you want your life story to be about? What three words can be used to describe your core ministry?
8. Soul Cards
Instructions: Stand before the array of cards. Think of a challenge you’ve been working on. Close your eyes and really envision it in your mind’s eye. Conjure a specific question around this challenge. Once you have your question, open your eyes and let your hand gravitate to a card. Take the card and let the image work on you. What do you see? What possibilities and/or truths are there? Remember there are chaplains serving and holding us as we work through discernment. You are welcome to take your card home. You are also welcome to exchange it for a different one
People crave to make meaning of their world. Art creation, especially in a safe community of peers, is an important way to explore faith identity bubbling up that may not be word ripe yet. The world needs more beauty. Consider adding art and play into all aspects of congregational life. It can be an effective way to stretch into multigenerational programming. Please, try it out and report back.
Rev. Tandi Rogers is the Growth Strategy Specialist at the Unitarian Universalist Association. Contact her at trogers [at] uua [dot] org (trogers [at] uua.org)/ 253-278-4646.