The spirituality of play

October is a month where the family project has been filled with sacred moments that have come from engaging with play. Playing is something we all did as children; it enables creativity and imagination to flourish and opens our minds to engage with the intangible. Sadly, during adulthood our opportunities to play become less frequent. Some of us may play by having a sport hobby such as netball or running. Yet, this type of play can still come with a structure or rules. Structured play such as this is good for us ; it increases our heart rate which is good for our physical health. It can help us connect with people who have this shared hobby or interest, combating loneliness and helping our mental health. Yet free flowing, imaginative and unstructured play is harder to find beyond school age.

Messy Harvest, which happened mid-October, had moments of this unstructured play. Adults and children alike picked up playdoh to create shapes. Some made food shapes which were related to the theme of harvest. Yet others simply sat allowing their imagination to make something different, using their hands as tools to sculpt and shape almost without thinking. As this happened, conversation flowed naturally and a sense of peace and calm descended on the faces of adults who were unknowingly resting through this action of play. As an observer this seemed a sacred moment; a moment where play enabled the peace that I associate with God to be felt perhaps momentarily by the person in play.

 Graveyard Stories also provided opportunities for families to play. The different activities were structured but allowed space for creative play to flow through each individual as they made prayer wands and decorated bat biscuits. However the real playful enabler was the storyteller. Alongside the quiet that comes when a story is about to begin, there were murmurs of interest as well as bemusement. These slipped away as people became captivated by her playful art form. Her stories brought the laughter and humour of God into the night.

There is the oxymoron of a comfortable unpredictable element to listening to a storyteller. Not knowing the shape of the story is both captivating whilst also leaving the listeners on tenterhooks. The moment of not knowing what comes next enables a space for wonder. This moment of play seems to echo the ongoing reality of those who hold a faith; the oxymoron of both the struggle and comfort that one can find in wondering about an intangible being.  Although holding a faith is about having knowledge, I think it is more about being comfortable in the space of wondering. Wondering isn’t a sign we don’t know the details; it is about acknowledging the element of mystery and unpredictable parts of creativity or in a faith context, the Creator.

A key part of play is imagination. Too often, we forget the power and importance of imagination. Einstein recognised the limit of knowledge when he said : ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.’ When we allow ourselves to play, tapping into our imagination and into the intangible, we enable moments to occur that aren’t quantifiable but are very precious and at times sacred. This Christmas period, amongst the busyness, maybe we should spend some time playing and allow ourselves to be open to meeting with the fun loving, peace bringing, wonder giving Creator.

Storytelling in the graveyard

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