Minister’s Column June 2021

Dear Ones,
Our “Soul Matters” ministry theme for June is play. Although we likely won’t talk about play on a Sunday morning this month, I nevertheless want to commend play to you as a potent spiritual practice. Like prayer, like meditation, like singing, like yoga, like worship, play in its purest form pulls us into the present, focuses our attention, moves us out of our rational minds, moves us into our bodies, and often fills us with joy. Play requires that we set our inhibitions aside, submerge ourselves in the moment, let go of our worries for a time, connect with the child-like aspects of our personality. Play invites us to imagine, to create, to enter worlds of fantasy, to try on different personas, to strategize, to cooperate, to be silly and, again, to be present. As such it is relaxing, rejuvenating, invigorating, uplifting, healing.

I like a quote from the early 20th-century Dutch historian, Johan Huizinga, who said “In play we move below the level of the serious, as the child does; but we can also move above it—in the realm of the beautiful and the sacred.”

How often do you set time aside for play? My own answer is “not enough.” I really do not play enough. My wife and children tell me this quite frequently. “I try to exercise every day,” I often respond. But according to them, exercise doesn’t count. I agree. Exercise is important to health and well-being, and it certainly has a spiritual dimension. But it’s not play.

Our family plays board games or card games every once in a while. We take a trip to the Adventure Park at Storrs a few times a year. We occasionally play bocce in our yard or basketball in our driveway. We occasionally play Dungeons and Dragons. This past Christmas Santa brought us a couple cases of indoor snowballs—very light, very soft, stuffed pieces of white, fluffy fabric. It’s impossible to hurt someone with them, even when throwing very hard at very close range. So now we have indoor snowball fights. I get annoyed when a snowball hits me from out of the blue (especially when I’m trying to work); and I get annoyed when I find snowballs all over the house. But when our lives devolve into full-scale, every-room-in-the-house snowball battles, it’s really fun. We laugh the whole time. We lose ourselves in the moment. That’s when I realize I need more play.

How about you? How do you play? What role does play serve in your life? With whom do you play? When I identify play as a spiritual practice, does that ring true to you? I’d like to know your answers to these questions. Please feel free to share by email at [email protected], or on my home office phone at 860-652-8961.
As a spiritual season, summer offers many opportunities—exploration, growth, relaxation, light, the first harvest. But certainly, summer is a season for play. As summer arrives, I wish for you many, many opportunities to play. May you be pulled into the present, into your body, into your imagination, into your creativity, into new worlds of fantasy, into profound silliness, and even into indoor snowball battles! Amen and blessed be.

With love,
—Rev. Josh