Playfulness – 09/05/21
Opening Music: excerpt from Pure Joy by Michele Mclaughlin – recorded by Corrina Dolso
Opening Words: ‘It Is Good To Be Together’ by Alison Wohler
With thankful hearts we have come together this morning
to celebrate the bounty of the day,
to bask in the warmth of this community,
to share with friends the tides of our lives,
to entertain, perennially, our hopes for a better future.
We join together, this morning as always, to resist
injustice and inequality, wherever they may be found.
Our hearts are touched by the human need we feel around us,
whether far away or within reach of our hand.
We come here, to be together, because this is how we believe our lives are best lived:
in questioning and in conversation,
in compassion and in service,
in gratitude and in joy,
in companionship, and in love.
It is good to be together with you this morning!
Introduction: Good morning everyone, my name is Corrina Dolso, and I’ve been coming to Kensington Unitarians for about 6 years although I mostly attend the Heart and Soul gathering and sometimes make it in London on a Sunday for service. I have just finished the Worship Studies Course with the Unitarian College and as part of the course I am pleased to be invited to lead today’s service with Sarah whilst Jane is on holidays. In this morning’s service we’ll be reflecting on ‘Playfulness’….and I’ll be exploring playfulness in our lives and how it changes as we grow older. I hope that we can find ways in which we can make our lives more playful and how this can also help us in difficult times…I hope that we can also understand the ways in which younger people play and perhaps help us to connect and understand their worlds too. I hope that you can take away something of meaning and value for your own lives and something which is helpful and thoughtful.
Chalice Lighting: I will now light our chalice as we do every week as a symbol of our Unitarian faith which connects us to Unitarians and Unitarian Universalists the world over, and with who we share our religious and historic traditions, one of which is gathering in community…
‘Community Chalice Lighting’ by Atticus Palmer
We call this light before us in hope that we may always remain a strong community,
working together to make the world a better place.
When we are grieving or sad,
When we are challenged,
When we need help,
This flame guides us out of the darkness.
When we are cheerful,
When we celebrate,
When we accomplish a great task,
When we return to a place that makes us happy,
The chalice reminds us to share our happiness with others.
I will now hand you over to Sarah for candles of Joy and Concern
Candles of Joy and Concern: Each week when we meet in person at our church building in Kensington or here in our online congregation, we share candles of joy and concern, where we invite one another to light a candle and share something that is in our heart. So here in our Zoom service we’ve a good few minutes for some of you to tell us of a joy or a concern, and to light a candle, real or imaginary – visitors you are most welcome to join in. When you are ready to speak you can unmute yourself and speak out so everyone can hear and then re-mute yourself when you’ve finished speaking. Do give it a go if you’d like to, as it’s good to hear some other voices, and let’s stay aware of how long we’re speaking for so others have chance to speak too. And I suggest we each now switch to gallery view on our own screens so we can see everyone. Jeannene our host and I will do our best to spot if you want to speak and can’t unmute yourself.
(thank each speaker by name)
I’ve got one more candle here and – as we often do – I’m going to light that to represent all those joys and concerns that we might be holding silently in our hearts today – for our joys and our griefs weave us together in the fabric of community. Our lives are connected. Let’s take a moment now to think of the joys and concerns we have heard spoken this morning… these glimpses into one another’s lives and the life of our wider world… and let’s hold them – and each other – in loving compassion as Corrina leads us in a time of prayer now.
Prayer: We will now enter a time of prayer. If you would like to have a piece of paper and a pen or pencils and doodle or draw as I read out the prayer…or if you would prefer not to, then it is fine to sit and quietly reflect in a way that works best for you…
Spirit of life and love, the playful mystery that has brought wonder and beauty to our lives….
May we be grateful for the people and things in our lives which bring us love, comfort, community, strength, joy and a sense of peace.
May we think about the acts of kindness that have come our way over the past week or so…and how we too can act in ways which can promote kindness to others….
May we find space for playfulness and creativity in our everyday activities, which can nurture and rebuild our spirit… and help us connect with those around us…
If we find ourselves faced with situations which are difficult, painful or uncomfortable, may we find our strength from within… to treat ourselves with care, compassion and love….to dig deep and find the everyday courage we need to live well, and the resilience to get back up and keep going….
May we be a light for those people we hold dearest to us…who might need our help or guidance….and may we love with extravagance and intention…
If there are people we are struggling with, and need to find consolation or resolution….may we be able to act with empathy and understanding…
May we hold all of these people in our light…in our hearts and understanding…
May we continue to keep our own light nourished, and take this out into our lives and share it without everyone we meet…. Amen…
Hymn: Now for our first Hymn, No51. From the purple book, God of Grace, God of Laughter. The words will appear on your screen for you to join in and we will keep you on mute so please feel free to sing along if you want.
God of grace and god of laughter
Singing worlds from nought to be:
Sun and stars and all thereafter
Joined in cosmic harmony
Giving songs of joy and wonder,
Music making hearts rejoice:
Let our praises swell like thunder
Echoing our Maker’s voice.
When our lives are torn by sadness
Heal our lives with tuneful balm;
When all seems discordant madness
Help us find a measured calm.
Steady us with music’s anchor
When the storms of life increase.
In the midst of hurt and rancour,
Make us instruments of peace.
Turn our sighing into singing,
Music born of hope restored;
Tune our souls and voices ringing,
Tune our hearts in true accord
Till we form a mighty chorus
joining angel choirs above
With all those who went before us
In eternal hymns of love.
Reflection – part 1: Today’s service is all about playfulness and how we can re-introduce it into our lives and also how can we bring play into our lives on a spiritual level too? Or are these things simply one and the same? For me it be the latter… I think playfulness and nurturing my spirit are one and the same, they are entwined. Playfulness can also help us strengthen our connections with others, build stronger relationships and deepen communication.
Should prayer always be serious? Should we sometimes include jokes in our prayers? Do spiritual activities and practice always have to be serious undertakings? Can we find appropriate times in which to lighten up a little use laughter or humour to connect with that which we hold to be greater than ourselves?
Could tools like prayer wheels, doodles, art, music, dance and movement be used in a way that is unstructured and non-judgemental, just because it feels good to do and as a way of connecting to our inner spirit. We might already use these tools for relaxation or meditation but what about using them playfully can we still obtain the same sense of wellbeing and connection?
When we take time to do something for the sheer joy of it, without a necessary outcome or purpose, doing something just because it makes you laugh, feel energised and immersed in the moment we can begin to feel like the burden of life’s woes are lifting just for a moment, like we are the child again immersed in curiosity and wonder and it will ultimately lift our spirit…
Meditation: We’ve come now to a time of meditation. Make yourselves comfortable, either sitting or lying down whilst also being grounded and you can close your eyes or leave them open…To begin our time of meditation, I am going to play a recording of a chant that might be familiar to you, and you are welcome to join in and sing quietly to yourself and focus on the words before we enter a few minutes of silent meditation where the chalice will be highlighted onscreen…you are free to approach this in any way that you feel comfortable, either meditating on the words of the chant or letting you thoughts give attention to something which needs it….
Music: Joy Chant – played and sung by Corrina
Let joy fill your heart
May peace be your goal
May joy peace and love make us whole
Silence: Two minutes of silence
Poem: To lead into my reflection this morning I will read a short poem by Tagore….
‘Playthings’ by Rabindranath Tagore
Child, how happy you are sitting in the dust, playing with a broken twig all the morning.
I smile at your play with that little bit of a broken twig.
I am busy with my accounts, adding up figures by the hour.
Perhaps you glance at me and think, “What a stupid game to spoil your morning with!”
Child, I have forgotten the art of being absorbed in sticks and mud-pies.
I seek out costly playthings, and gather lumps of gold and silver.
With whatever you find you create your glad games, I spend both my time and my strength over things I never can obtain.
In my frail canoe I struggle to cross the sea of desire, and forget that I too am playing a game.
Reflection – part 2: (plus Elephant video)
Last week I was out on a walk and noticed the blossoming of flowers on trees, the tiny lambs jumping and bouncing around the fields. At home my cats have started chasing bugs around the garden. The onset of spring has awoken a sense of playfulness in nature but in my own life I feel that this has been lacking because of the pandemic…
During lockdown there has a sense of quietness around us with empty streets, businesses remaining closed, and people shut away in isolation. There has also been a general sense of waiting hovering over our society hasn’t there, and over many of our individual lives. I know that each of us will have experienced lockdown differently. I personally have found it quite restful, and all of my cupboards are extremely tidy now after spending many days sorting out the contents of my house…however I feel like something else has been missing from my days and after watching nature I realised there hasn’t been much room for playfulness…
Each day has been drifting into the next without too many external events or interactions to distinguish one from the next…Many people say they have found it difficult to get motivated, to concentrate or be bothered to do much more than the basics.
I recently discovered this has now been given a name, it’s called languishing….it is a feeling of the void between depression and thriving…Languishing is a sense of emptiness and stagnation. It feels like you just feel a bit…blah…you are not depressed or not energised, just somewhere in between. I think some of us have suffered from this feeling during the past year or so without realising it. Our days and schedules have become quite reduced and somewhat limited, and we have all had to make adaptations to the way we live, work and interact. Could rediscovering playfulness be an antidote to this new phenomenon? Could we adopt a more playful attitude to find our energy again? What can we do to bring more playfulness into our lives? When do we stop being playful?
When we are children, we spend a good part of our time indulging in play. Children make no excuses for it, have no expectations about it, or even consider it to be an activity, it is a way of life. Children are very good at playing, they can make a walk down the street into a game, and they can transform their world into some wild fantasy and get lost in make believe and role play. They can use any object, something as simple as a stick to play with. There are no limits to what their imaginations can create for them and their sense of playfulness is something they do naturally. Their play is spontaneous, joyful, creative and exploratory. Of course, it helps them develop their cognitive and social skills and they discover how they interact with the world around them as well as letting off much need energy and steam.
The first few years of our lives are pretty much dominated by play in one way or another and as we get older this seems to become more compartmentalised. When we get to school, playtime is sandwiched between lessons and often games can become more competitive, and children have less time to have free unstructured play time.
Once we become teenagers, play starts to change. Playfulness can often be something that starts being viewed as a bit juvenile or silly.
During the pandemic many children have resorted to endless hours of online play. This has been a lifeline for many including my own children. The games are so complex and sophisticated that they can play with their friends on a virtual platform and talk to each other through headsets in real time. Some of these games are also competitive and others are more creative, but they use a lot of teamwork. These games have changed the way many young people view play compared to even a decade ago. Whilst computer games are often criticised for being antisocial, I actually think the opposite as they have got some social and cognitive benefits. There are many charities now using computer games for children who are in hospitals to help distract them from pain, boredom, or helping children with anxiety and trauma to help promote peaceful moods.
This shows how each generation devises its own new ways to play depending on the circumstances around them. However, at this age there is still plenty of room for good old-fashioned mucking around, kicking a ball, having pillow fight or doing a wheelie on your bike.
As we get older the sense of play becomes something we often overlook, somewhere between childhood and adulthood many of us stop playing. We can get bogged down in the responsibilities of adulthood, earning a living and looking after ourselves and our families. Although we make time for leisure activities like meeting friends for a drink, going for a walk, exercising or zoning out in front of the TV, these activities are not necessarily playful. Playing is something often seen as something reserved for after work, or once all the jobs are done and the pressure of being an adult can weigh down heavily on us. We can take life too seriously. But playfulness is not something which we should give up, let go of or be ashamed of…it is not something which trivialises the seriousness nature of being an adult, but it is, I think, something inherent in every human being and even in animals and something we can all benefit from.
So how can we live more playfully?
The first that springs to mind is sport. Now that we can get out and play a game of tennis football or go for swim, are we doing it playfully? Quite often in organised sport we are playing to win, there is an element of competitiveness which can actually take away the playfulness of the game and our interactions with others. If sport is not your thing, board and card games are popular for all ages. During the pandemic many of you might have played more board games than ever before. Again, there can be a win and lose element to many of these games and quite a lot of rules but like sport, if we approach them with the idea that we are more interested in the spontaneity and the sense of connecting with our teammates and opponents then the games can actually be more fun, more relaxing and more playful.
Playing an instrument is another form of play although not for everyone. It also takes hours of slow determined repetition and practice, but when we get together to play or sing with a group of people can definitely be playful, or even if you do it alone, and by keeping music making at the heart of the experience then the essence of play is maintained. The mistake for some of us adults lies in thinking that we think we have to be good at something in order to do it, or that is should have some kind of outcome or purpose to it. Playfulness lets us simply have a go at something, try it out, see what happens, it has no clear purpose other than being in the moment and enjoying the activity that we are doing.
We can play with pets too. They are naturally very playful and if we don’t have any pets, we can also observe animals in nature or watch other people’s dogs out on walks and take delight in the way animals react to their world in their uninhibited and often amusing way. I was lucky enough to be in Tanzania recently and we came across a large group of elephants playing in a waterhole which I have made into a short video to share with you now…
Coming back to our own lives, there is of course the world of work and chores…Most of us spend a huge amount of time at work or doing jobs and chores. Sometimes just taking a break with colleagues and doing something fun together can also help build your relationships and productivity.
Whatever activities we choose to take up again after lockdown or rediscover, playfulness has no boundaries. It is something we can do at any age, level of fitness, or social access. There is something playful for everyone to do. We all have a playful spark inside us and just thinking in a less serious way and with more curiosity and spontaneity can help us live more playfully, with delight and joy and also help us strengthen our connection with others. Playfulness is away to connect with joy, spontaneity, creativity, and fun. We shouldn’t view it as childish or silly, but rather as something which is necessary to our wellbeing.
With the restrictions of the pandemic are easing, and we come out of isolation and lockdowns, businesses are resuming and outdoor spaces are becoming busy again. Perhaps now is the ideal time to consider ways to reintroduce playfulness into our own lives and help us shake off the feelings of languishing. Let’s re-enter the world with a new curiosity and engagement, to be a little less serious and approach our daily tasks with a sense of play and curiosity….
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old,” George Bernard Shaw remarked, “we grow old because we stop playing.”
May you live playfully…
Hymn: ‘How Can I Keep From Singing’ – played and sung by Corrina
Time for singing again and I hope you will join in playfully and sing this well-known hymn and spiritual called How can I keep from singing?. This is a song which I have always found very playful to sing with many arrangements having been written. I encourage you in the safety of your own homes to perhaps, try out a harmony or dance wildly around your lounge rooms.. The words will appear on the screen for you to follow if you feel inclined…
My life flows on in endless song
Above Earth’s lamentation:
I hear the real though far- off hymn
The hails a new creation.
Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing
It sounds an echo in my soul-
How can I keep from singing!
What though the tempest round me roar,
I know the truth, it liveth.
What though the darkness round me close,
Songs in the night it giveth.
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that rock I’m clinging:
Since love prevails in heaven and earth,
How can I keep from singing!
When tyrants tremble, sick with fear,
And hear their death-knells ringing:
When friends rejoice, both far and near,
How can I keep from singing!
To prison cell and dungeon vile
Our thoughts of love are winging:
When friends by shame are undefiled,
How can I keep from singing!
Time for some announcements now. Thanks for joining us for today’s service and thanks for encouraging our playfulness Corrina.
There are plenty of other opportunities to keep in touch in the week ahead – there are a few places for Heart and Soul this evening – let Jeannene Powell know if you’d like to come along to a particularly lovely spiritual gathering online – this week’s theme is Adversity.
There’s the coffee morning at 10.30 on Tuesday. And next Sunday I’ll be here again, leading our 10am service with a title of ‘You can do this hard thing’. Do drop us an email if you are quite new to our Sunday gatherings. It’s always good to hear from people.
Thank you everyone who has made a donation recently or taken out a standing order. Every bit helps in these challenging times for all organisations and charities. To make a quick payment just go to our Kensington Unitarians website and on the front page there’s a Donate button to click on. Or you’ll find the details needed to make an online banking payment or set up a standing order.
At the end of the service, after our closing music which will feature Benjie del Rosario and his clarinet, we’d like to take a photo so do stick around for that if that’s ok with you and we invite you to stay for a chat over a cuppa afterwards too, if you don’t need to dash off. For Corrina’s closing words, I suggest we all click on gallery view on our screens so we can see us all in community together.
Closing Words: Today’s closing words were written by Margaret Guenther and she says; “Play exists for its own sake. Play is for the moment; it is not hurried, even when the pace is fast and timing seems important. When we play, we also celebrate holy uselessness. Like the calf frolicking in the meadow, we need no pretense or excuses. Work is productive; play, in its disinterestedness and self-forgetting, can be fruitful.”
So, I hope that you have enjoyed today’s service and will find ways in which to live more playfully, with delight and spontaneous joy. Have a great week and see you again soon. Thank you all and to Sarah for helping me with today’s service and to Jeannene, Jane and John for the work behind the scenes.
Closing Music: Undertale – Bonetrousle
Corrina Dolso and Sarah Tinker
9th May 2021