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Play Dough Theology

October 16, 2012

One of the things I love about my congregation is our willingness to experiment. This spirit of experimentation has led to participating in new activities over the years, some ancient and some new. We are a small faith community, experiencing struggles and victories together, living in the midst of a post-Christian suburban culture. In this context we continually seek to follow Jesus in deeper ways, and seek the peace of the city where we are rooted. And the experiments seem to help us create space in our life together for God’s Spirit to work in us. A number of our recent experiments have emerged in the area of spiritual formation. It is no small task to communicate the good news of God’s Story in a culture that largely is unaware of it. God’s Story is one story among many, and it doesn’t have the privileged place it had in previous generations. So we have an opportunity to experiment with how we engage with, and enter into, God’s Story (and in how we invite others to do so with us). Frequently we have found ourselves using play dough in the process.

I enjoy working with others to create simple practices that help us engage God’s Story together. In our congregation we worship inter-generationally, desiring to involve people of all ages in the rhythm of corporate worship and using activities which engage as many of the senses as possible. As a result play dough, pipe cleaners and other materials make appearances various prayer stations and even as a way to participate in sermons. Recently, following the worship time we had a time of fellowship and reflection around tables. Together we ate, talked, and reflected on a Bible Story. Each table had a basket containing the printed Bible Story, some discussion questions, some markers (if you wanted to draw or highlight a word/phrase in the Story), and a few cans of play dough.

What I noticed during this time were meaningful conversations, deeper questions and interactions with the Bible stories, and that the play dough option was becoming the expression of choice among some children and adults. A common children’s toy plus space to play and reflect helped to release our imaginations as we engaged God’s Story. Sacred play time. And I love what was being created!

One of the creations that emerged was this sculpture pictured here. It was made by two young people who participated in a discussion on Zechariah 8:1-8. Their response to the Story was to hear an invitation, to “Come Together,” all people with our uniqueness and diversity. We liked this sculpture so much that we decided to use it as a visual in our worship space (and it also inspired the graphic for our new meal liturgy expression). In a recent worship gathering I was talking with another church member about this sculpture, and her comment was It’s like play dough theology.”* That works for me.

In the process of forming something, we are actually being formed by the Spirit and the Story. Creative imagination-and frankly some good theology-can emerge when we intentionally create space to engage with God together.

*To be clear, this phrase doesn’t mean that we shape theology or scripture into whatever we want. It is simply a practice to help scripture sink down deeper into us, forming and changing us as we respond and use our imaginations. Hopefully this is clear from the post, and I probably don’t need to clarify this, but just in case…
  1. October 17, 2012 7:06 pm

    I love the creativity that is used in relating to our Creator.

  2. October 19, 2012 11:07 pm

    Jim, in our congregation we just had some conversations about how cool it was that our Creator created us to be creative. We had fun saying that fast, too! Thanks for reading and for your comment. Peace.


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