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So Fill Our Imaginations, The Work of Play of a Year of Preaching

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  So Fill Our Imaginations  by Mark Lloyd Taylor. A review As an Applied Improvisation coach, I help churches and clergy become more open, adaptive, and collaborative. In a word, more playful. For this reason, I was drawn to So Fill Our Imaginations: The Work of Play and Year of Preaching by Mark Lloyd Taylor. I’ve read books on how to have playful brainstorming sessions and even playful liturgy, but this was the first book I’ve seen about playfulness in preaching. Mark Lloyd Taylor is a Professor Emeritus at Seattle University and a lay preacher at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Seattle. His book is a diary of his preaching a year at St. Paul’s. He provides twelve sermons along with the context in which they were preached and his thought process in preparing the sermons. In addition to being a lay preacher, Taylor is a Godly Play instructor. Godly Play is a Montessori style curriculum developed by John Berryman. Godly Play practice teaches children to listen for God and to make a

The Stress is Killing You

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  A recent article in the USA Today Network outlined the affects of stress on our bodies. We already know stress causes increased blood pressure which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Stress also creates an increase in inflammation which is intended to help in fighting infection and aid healing from an injury. But when inflammation is chronic it leads to atherosclerosis, increased cancer risk, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s Disease.  Recently, another alarming effect of stress was discovered. Chronic stress destroys the protective cap around the cells that contain DNA. This cap, telomeres, protects the cells as they duplicate. As the cap deteriorates, the DNA degrades, and our new cells are no longer healthy. In essence, stress is wearing out our body and not only do can we succumb to illness, but we’re aging and dying faster. Stress is literally killing us. So how does one manage stress? A healthy diet to fight inflammation and keep our cells healthy is the start. We then go

Making Strong Choices

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 In improvisation we talk about making strong choices. It's about bringing something to the table. When an actor walks on stage with nothing to give, hoping their scene partner will give them an idea, the scene is already off to a dull start. Every time an actor walks on stage they should come on with character and intent. This is true in both improv and scripted plays. An entrance is your first impression. If the entrance is weak, you'll lose the audience. Making a strong entrance choice involves having an idea of who you are. The audience gives you a suggestion of a location, let's say a funeral parlor. They then give you a suggestion for a relationship, a married couple. You immediately come up with why you think a married couple are in a funeral parlor. For example, you may be picking out your burial plots. So you have an idea of why you are there. Next comes the relationship. You can choose to be a loving couple who wants to be eternally close to each other. Or you cou

Applying Improvisation to Hospitality

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  The Episcopal Church is keen on Radical Welcome. We welcome all, regardless of where they are on their spiritual journey, their race, education, social status, or gender or sexual identity. All are welcome.   Radical Welcome goes beyond invitation and hospitality. Hospitality says, “come, be part of us.” Radical Welcome says come and let us be part of each other. The Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers, Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Evangelism, Reconciliation, and Creation Care, wrote in Radical Welcome: Embracing God, The Other, and the Spirit of Transformation , “Radical welcome is the spiritual practice of embracing and being changed by the gifts, presence, voices, and power of The Other.” Radical welcome involves transformation. It is not merely accommodating the other, it is saying, “Come, bring who you are. My arms are open to you. Would you open yours to me?” Growth, transformation, change, these are scary words. We don’t know exactly how the changes will play out. That is the

Can Improv Save the World?

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  Improvisation is a process that uses interpersonal skills to create a mindset through which one interacts with the world. Like our faith, improvisation is a lens through which we view all our interactions. This is a much broader definition of Improv that most people are familiar with. For most, Improv is seen as merely entertainment. Improv takes place in bars and comedy clubs and features a group of people standing in front of an audience and making stuff up to get laughs. That certainly is a form of improv, but it is not it’s entirety. At its core, improv is not about being funny. In fact, if an improviser works at being funny, they have already failed. Improvisation is not comedy, but it can be used in comedy to create scenes on the spot. The definition of Improv is to “compose extemporaneously, arrange offhand, and to make or fabricate out of what is conveniently on hand.” Comedy improv is not making stuff up. Improv is about building on what you have to create something new. O

Holy Playfulness

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  One does not usually think of play when it comes to church. At least for adults, that is. Children are allowed to play in the nursery. If you are in a large enough congregation that is lucky enough to have a gym, then one can play basketball. Many Episcopal churches use Godly Play for children’s church. That is where children learn Bible stories Montessori style by playing with wooden figures representing Biblical characters. But for adults, church is serious business, certainly nothing to play around with. Churches take adult education, evangelism, stewardship, and worship very seriously.   It doesn’t matter if it is liturgical, evangelical, or charismatic; church is serious business. For humans, though, play is very important. Play is part of our human nature. Pretty much all mammals play. Think of cats, dogs, otters, even elephants! Turn into any animal show and you will see them playing. It’s not just our animal nature that comes out in play. Studies show that higher level cogn

Making Lemonade

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  “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade;” is an old proverbial saying, a ground-breaking album by Beyonce, and the essence of improvisation. The phrase is often attributed to Dale Carnegie who used it in his 1948 book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living . He attributed it to Julius Rosenwald, part owner and leader of Sears, Roebuck, and Company.   Prior to this the poem appeared in a 1940 edition of The Rotarian . "Life handed him a lemon, As Life sometimes will do. His friends looked on in pity, Assuming he was through. They came upon him later, Reclining in the shade In calm contentment, drinking A glass of lemonade." The first published copy of the phrase initially appeared in a 1915 obituary penned by Christian anarchist writer Elbert Hubbard for dwarf actor Marshall Pinckney Wilder. The obituary praises Wilder's optimistic attitude and achievements in the face of his disabilities. The saying is meant to encourage optimism and a positive can-do atti