Monday, April 26, 2010

the deep end

Some days I understand 100% how lucky I am, to have people around me who "get" me and go wherever I ask them to go, even if it's not where they thought they were going. One of these times happened this Sunday at church.

At our church, when the minister is away, one of the members leads the worship service. I've done this a couple of times. The first time I was really nervous. The second time I was really excited. Both times before it turned out well. This time, when Julie said she would be away at a conference and asked if I would lead the April 25 service, I said, "Sure, and can I do something that we have never done before?" Of course she said, "YES!"

This big idea popped into my head, and I decided to follow my impulse and plan a playful worship service. I patterned it on something that I remember doing with my sister and brother and our friends when we were kids. We'd scrounge up a bunch of pieces of cardboard, print big numbers on them, and lay them out on the lawn in the shape of a board game. Then we'd mark up a box to make it into a die, and scrounge up a few prizes. We played the game by rolling the big giant die, and moving ourselves around the game board according to the numbers we rolled. I think we all got prizes. I remember it was exciting and big and fun.

So I made a giant board game and set it up in the basement hall of our church. Three players moved giant game pieces around the board according to their rolls of a die. The game pieces were: a toy high chair, an oversize Ukranian nesting doll, and a giant inflatable Oscar Mayer wiener. The players started wherever they wanted, and ended wherever they ended (because life is like that). Each game space prompted a part of the service, so we sang, when someone landed on "SING" and made a joyful noise when likewise prompted. There were "take a card" spots for which players took discussion cards, prompting everyone to discuss a situation with the person sitting beside him or her. We fit in call to worship, prayers, passing the peace, scripture reading, offering and dismissal, all prompted at the whim of the rolling die, which had numbers on some sides, and suggestions on others: "ask" and "what you need." It was somewhat unpredictable and definitely playful and silly, compared to a regular church service.

What made it wonderful for me is that everyone jumped right in. Three people were quick to volunteer to be players. One of the space prompts was "Share your path." After that turn, each time a player took a turn, she would find someone from the congregation to go with her - roll the die and count the spaces to move the big game piece. The youngest and the oldest in the congregation were recruited to play along in this manner. Several people volunteered how to teach us how to say "Praise God" in various languages, including American Sign Language, and everyone made a joyful noise. In fact, several people remembered that I asked the week before for them to bring instruments or noisemakers, and we had extras for those who forgot. We were in the basement, but I think we still rattled the roof on the church. There were spots that asked the players to "give a gift" (potted flowers that I brought from the plant nursery) to someone else in the congregation and to "be a gift" with a hug or a kind word to another person. Those parts were definitely warm fuzzies, and prompted rounds of applause from the congregation.

I had lots of help from friends who volunteered to play music, set up the sound system and project the words to the hymns on a screen for the singalong parts. My friend Lynn came early to help gather up everything we needed, and to set up and run the game, and provided wonderful encouragement as we went along. The kind acts of these good friends helped me feel sure that everything would go okay.

We had a few first time attendees. Boy, did they pick an interesting day to come to our church. I made sure they knew that we usually worship upstairs in the sanctuary, but assured them that we are fun and playful like this, even on a more ordinary day. I think they'll come back to get to know us some more. Coincidentally, my neighbour came to our church for the first time, with her young daughter and infant son. I think they enjoyed it. The little girl said, "church is fun."

So I'm glad I took the plunge and tried something different. I'm totally delighted in people's willingness to participate. We are playful, curious, trusting and generous. I am blessed to be a member of this community.

question: when you say, "Come on in, the water's fine," who jumps?

mompoet - happy splashing all around

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