this post is in response to the gadzillion of requests I get for play churches to live in other places. I'll begin with a prayer for you, the reader, the possible next play church starter, for you the dreamer, the magic bean buyer:
I know what it is to long to connect more fully and genuinely and easily with those you share a life with and those you want to share more beauty and love and fun and meaningful intimacy with. I know that we all ache in our tribal bones to be less insular, less isolated and more capable of deeply satisfying interconnected living. May the journey of bloom/discovering a play church carry you to those deep sweet shores where we get to sing and create and dance and love together the ways in which we intended.
a manifesto for the play church movement:
I created Play Church to do what my fiction teacher told me to do in college, which is: “write the book you want to read.” I wanted more meaning-drenched moments of shared joy with the community I was building a life with.
I didn’t want to bring my neighbors cookies, I wanted to know their deepest hearts.
I didn’t know it then, but I was crafting a training ground for tribes to learn how to fall in love with themselves and each other via shared regular play, the deep soul sharing, and the shared inspiration that helps the community continually revel in and turn toward the deepest questions, together, consciously and with much swag. Also, I was butt weary of either festivals filled with lonely debauchery and endless hours of spectatorship or deadly serious churches or gatherings where zero fart jokes ever happen or if they do, a statue’s head falls off. So I made something new. My vision is for these to live in communities all around the world, communities that want to know themselves and each other via the path of deepest, connected joy.
To serve the joy needs of the community it lives within.
I decided to offer the first play church on a Sunday morning because that is MY lineage. I come from preachers in the Christian tradition. Sunday mornings are a really good time for me to tend my connection with divine energy.
It’s a lifelong habit to take Sundays to tweak my inner stuff so that my outer stuff can be a song to the universe.
And this roughly correlates with lots of people’s habits as the Bible did say to chill out on Sundays and rest as The Lord rested on his 7th day and you want to be like the Lord, or something like that.
But I think people should feel free to discover when their community will best be served by this. Lots of people have an urge to celebrate on Friday nights, but end up relying on alcohol alone to entertain and try to bring meaning. I could see a very fun Friday night play church in a bumping city. Or some people dread Mondays. A Monday after work play church would give a boost of positive whoo ha into a community in a really needed time. I think if you listen deeply. You’ll know. Well, that’s always true. Just thought I’d say it here since I love talking.
My churches tend to run to nearly 3 hours. It seems the right amount of time for a monthly play church. We are going to weekly again to support the community through the winter and I think a weekly one should be less than 2 hours. I keep playing with it.
Who can offer one:
If you feel a draw to do it, then it’s you. I find that teams naturally evolve around play churches. The basic skills needed to do this are: a love of being happy, a willingness to talk in front of people and say things out loud with your mouth, a connectedness with the feeling of inspiration, a willingness to share joy with others, a love of the world and of humanity in general.
Play church will evolve your skills as you keep doing it. I used to be nervous of speaking to large groups, or directing people’s attention in different ways, or I’d feel nervous and vulnerable playing in front of and with people in different ways and a lot of that has faded for me and is replaced by a steady confidence and a real easy joy in the play.
The basic elements:
Play church follows the ecstatic dance wave where you step into the experience, and the wave carries you up to somewhere new, somewhere higher, and you get that fresh clarity or epiphany or wonderment and then, gently, the wave brings you back to your everyday energy, but with this newness infusing and uplifting you throughout the week. Here’s the nuts n’ bolts of how to do one in the simplest way I can speak of it. * There are suggestions for each segment at the end.
(note) If you feel insecure or wobbly in yourself as you go to do or participate in a play church, wonderful! I’d suggest doing some appreciation for your own bright spark or going off and playing somewhere. You want to get yourself grounded in your joyjam before proceeding.
tada! So easy. Now you're ready.
All my deepest love and delight,
*Suggestions for the bits! (the play pastor just sets a timer for each section and mc's in the next bit.)
1. I like to encourage people to be brief and brave. A stand by is, "what's really sweet for you & wants one thing you want more clarity on?" Whatever opens it.
2. Ask the musicians in the group to hold a rhythm and play around with singing uplifting songs or making them up. We separate the group into singers, body rhythm players and folks on instruments.
3. We usually dance to 3 or 4 songs. Start slow, go high. Someone who loves music will DJ and it will be their terrific joy. Sometimes I ask people to dance a particular emotion. I usually encourage people to not give a rats ass about what other people think and to tune into the sweetness of their body's expression without judgement.
4. We usually do improv games or The Willingness Game.
5. Share something that has been useful and uplifting for you or ask someone from community to share some helpful thing that moves all towards the light.
6. Give a writing or creative prompt of some sort that deepens the sermon. I usually have people pair up and share what they've done or experienced
7. Close circle with gratitude and a group ohm.