Performing faith involves four important actions: prepare, practice, play and participate.” This quotation is from Dorothy Butler Bass’s book Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening. She advises that we prepare by (1) learning the story, (2) rehearsing a new way of life, (3) having FUN, and (4) journeying with others. This sounds like what I have been teaching for most of my educator career.

Youth in my congregations met to learn the biblical stories, to gather in community to practice treating each other well, and there they ate together and played together, sometimes with people they would not ordinarily have chosen to be their friends. My friend Kate told me as she was getting out of the van at a whitewater rafting trip while she was in college, “You know I would never be going for a weekend with the people on this trip except that we all have one thing in common, our high school youth group.” She had fun with that community throughout her college career. Many of us are still friends on Facebook. My youth groups have given me glimpses of the awakening that Bass talks about in her book.

At church we sometimes get bogged down and forget about the basic need for fun, delight and joy. Another quote from Bass is: “Mirth is essential to vibrant spirituality.” Two of my favorite classes in the years of certification requirements were former Educator of the Year Glen Bannerman’s class at Presbyterian School of Christian Education on play and a class with Maria Harris and Walter Brueggemann where we played with clay as we studied the Old Testament. I found I had to be reminded and taught how to play and what that meant in the field of Christian education.

I had been a high school teacher and a pre-school teacher and director before I became a more general educator for the church. In taking those classes I realized that play was just as important for adults, youth and children as for young children. I found that play is essential. Play is life-giving.

The 2013 Annual Event for the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators has as its focus Let Us Play! Perhaps in Orlando we can pick up some ideas about making our world more humane, just and loving, and have fun doing it. In workshops, plenaries and worship we will hear God’s stories and, perhaps, we can rehearse new ways of living together in community, having fun together and journeying with others. Educators could lead the way to Dorothy Butler Bass’s vision of a new spiritual awakening.

Prepare by signing up today. Practice by praying for the event in Orlando. Come together and play. And participate in a wonderful event in Orlando, Florida, February 6-9, 2013.

Jeanne McIver retired church educator Jeanne McIver is now the volunteer director of the Learning Resource Center at Southminster Presbytery in Dayton, OH.