Submitted by Rev. Dr. Beth Rupe, Interim Minister of Disciples Women for Illinois/Wisconsin
There is probably not a woman who is active in Disciples Women Ministries that is not familiar with the story of Mary and Martha. Jesus comes to Bethany to visit. We find Martha in the kitchen doing what is generally expected of the hostess of that time. We can only imagine that if they are present, she is instructing servants to provide the water to wash the feet of the visitors. She is going about the business of preparing food for the guests. She is overseeing the room to make sure that folks are comfortable, and that hospitality is extended. She is doing important stuff. In contrast, Mary is doing the unexpected. Rather than concerning herself with the needs of the others, Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus. She is spending time nourishing her spirit. She is learning at the feet of the Master.
I would suggest that deep inside each woman there is both a Mary and a Martha. Martha, the one who is attune to the needs of others and provides in ways that assure that those needs are being attended. And, Mary who knows the importance of nurturing one’s own spirit so that you can minister to others from a full cup. I would further suggest that many aspects of ministry encourage the Martha to shine through.
This year, the women of Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) have been invited and encouraged to get in touch with their inner Marys at three Pray and Play events, an idea we learned about from other regions at a Disciples Women Ministry Leadership Team event last year. These afternoons of praying and playing have been designed to be an act of worship and a time of fun and remembrance as we rest in God’s love and refresh our souls.
Pray times provided opportunity to practice different way of listening for God. Each afternoon began with singing and a time of corporate prayer. During the first prayer time, the women were led through a guided prayer experienced utilizing the Lord’s Prayer. The prayer begins “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name” followed by an invitation for participants to either silently or audibly speak the names that they use for God and to consider how we can hallow, make holy God’s name. Phrase by phrase, participants are guided to consider aspects of this prayer and how it relates to where they are in life that day. The pray time concludes with everyone praying the Lord’s Prayer together.
Other prayer times engaged the women through small group activities that gave them the opportunity to learn about and experience different prayer forms. Over the course of the three events, participants could pray with the Labyrinth, pray with the psalms, create a prayer journal, or pray using Lectio Divina. The day ended by pairs of women sharing joys and concerns and praying for each other. Each pair of women was asked to commit to hold each other in prayer over the next year.
During our prayer times, women were asked to consider the importance of listening for God as we pray. Many times, we think of prayer as talking with God. Yet effective communication allows us both to speak and to listen. Pray and Play is an invitation to listen to God more deeply. Our day together is shaped by the understanding that God desires to communicate with us. God is still talking and by listening to God, we come to learn more about what God loves and what God wants us to love. By listening, we draw nearer to the heart of God and we are transformed. And finally, by praying together we connect more deeply as a community of God’s daughters.
Play time provided an opportunity for women to exercise their creative side as they completed a craft project. At each of our sessions, we had a different craft including a mesh wreath decorated for spring, a Christmas angel made from old hymnals and a decorated prayer frame. Our play times were undergirded by the understanding that for most, life is hectic and busy. We focus on our commitments and move with the purpose of accomplishing the tasks before. us. At the end of the day, we drop to our beds tired as our minds race with the thoughts of what we need to accomplish the next day. For most, somewhere between childhood and adulthood we have stopped playing.
Pray and Play is an invitation to come and play. It is an invitation to participate in God’s intended rhythm of work and rest, of purposeful activity and of play. It invites women to experience the benefits of adult play which include: stress relief, improved cognitive functioning, increased creativity and innovation, increased energy, increasing ability to maintain a positive and optimistic outlook on life, and increased ability for cooperation.
Feedback regarding these events has been positive. We plan to gather again in 2020 to Pray and Play together.