On Faith and Play

My interest was sparked when I saw the title of an article in the e-magazine,

Patheos, “Why Passing on the Faith Isn’t Good Enough”. 

The author, David M. Csinos, whom I appreciate as a friend and an articulate young advocate for children in the church, writes: “What if, instead of passing on the faith, we encouraged our children to play with the faith that God has given to them in order to love it into greater vitality?”

What if indeed? As I reflect on bedtime encounters with grandchildren, I wonder if this playful encounter is something we can stop. Playful conversations about spiritual matters are among my granddaughters favourite ways of extending bed times when I’m putting them to bed.

There was the time I was asked, “Were you born in the olden days?” “Yes,” I answered. “After all, your daddy came out of my tummy, and that was a long time ago.” She pondered that with her five-year-old wisdom for a while before replying, “That’s like Jesus. He came out of God’s tummy a long time ago, too.”

And then there was the time the eleven-year-old wondered about God’s omnipresence. At summer camp, a counsellor had talked about it playfully and had suggested that we might just be in God’s left nostril. That thought intrigued her, even though she understood that God is spirit rather than physical. Just before she drifted off she quipped, ” What if we’re lying on God’s eyeball?”

Or, more recently, reflecting on the colour of light in heaven: “Will it be white light or a cozy golden-yellow light? I think it will be cozy yellow, because heaven has streets of gold, so the light will reflect the gold of the streets.”

Playful pondering on spiritual matters in that liminal space before sleep offers precious insights into a child’s spirituality. I count myself incredibly blessed to be able to share some of those moments with my grandchildren.

Playful pondering can also be part of the way we nurture and enjoy the faith of children in our congregations. Opportunities and instructions for learning how to promote playful theologizing abound, whether we use the Godly Play materials developed by Jerome Berryman or the Church of the Brethren/Mennonite Church curriculum, Gather ‘Round.

         Brendan Hyde, PhD, Senior Lecturer in Religious Education and a Godly Play researcher, based in Melbourne, saysPlaying and being creative can take those involved to the edges of their knowing and being. ” Brendan will be lecturing on this topic in the UK this fall, where godly Play is helping to revitalize the church. Most of us won’t be able to hear him, but many of us can connect and learn from the playful child theologians in our families and congregations. And if we can’t, perhaps we can connect with our inner child and see how some playful creativity might bless our faith. Playing with the faith that God has given us might even help us love our adult faith into greater vitality.


About Elsie Hannah Ruth Rempel

As a young senior whose life could easily have ended in a nasty car crash in 2012 I live with an extra dose of gratitude to God, humanity, and the wonders of our human bodies. I am a passionate advocate for ministry WITH children and seniors in the life and ministry of the church. I started working in Faith Formation with Mennonite Church Canada in 2002. Thinking and writing about faith helps me see God at work in all kinds of surprising places. I'd like to be remembered as one who encourages others to live into God's good dream for our world. My book, Please Pass the Faith: The Spiritual Art of Grandparenting, is one big way I'm trying to share that encouragement with my peers. This blog is another way I'd like to engage people who care about growing in faith across the generations.
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