Improv and Confession

I'm taking a foundations of improv class through the Washington Improv Theater. It's a 8-week or so class that meets every Monday for 2.5 hours. It's pretty sweet and our teacher, Lisa Kays, is great. Check her out here. Also taking this class with my beloved Casey Wait Fitzgerald. One of classes focused on emotional commitment. Emotional commitment is when you start an improv scene by leading with an emotion. Game on with this class. I'm full of emotions!

In this class, we created scenes leading out of an emotion.

Now....let me say something about starting a scene. To me, it's like Harold in the books Harold and the Purple Crayon. That little, white, Pillsbury-like- dough-boy takes his purple crayon and creates a scene out of nothing.

The first mark that Harold makes in the book starts on a blank slate. Eventually, Harold builds off each line and circle to create something out of nothing.

That's an improv scene. You create something out of nothing. It's very Paul-in-the-Book-of Romans-like: God creates something out of nothing.

In this class, we created something out of our emotions.

Here's an exercise we did:

Lisa created 4 squares on the floor. One for anger. One for happy. One for sad. One for fear.

In pairs, we would step into a square to start a scene (again, blank slate). I'd step into one square and my partner in another square.

I stepped into a square and started a scene linking the emotion of the square with emptying the dishwasher (a favorite improv go-to for's never about just emptying the dishwasher). Lisa could prompt us to step into another square and instantly my emotion to the scene would reflect the emotion of that square. At the same time, my partner is stepping into another emotion square and his yes....anding...would reflect that emotion.

Picture that game Simon Says.

In the fear square, my partner eventually revealed that he didn't want me to leave him over emptying the dishwasher. That changed the entire scene....because it wasn't about the dishwasher....the scene became about confessing a real fear in a relationship. 

Lisa commented at the end of class that when in doubt in a scene make a confession....unload deepest of fear, sadness, love, anger because it shows something at stake. I'm really fearful right now.....really fearful....because I'm afraid you are going to leave me.

Lisa said when in doubt in a scene, make a confession. That's where the juice is.

Confessions....juice....Casey and I just looked at each other.

This past Epiphany, at Church of the Pilgrims, our young adults have preached, told the Biblical stories by heart, and told their own personal stories based on the theme of "Being Beloved." This liturgical work comes out of a grant we received from The Forum for Theological Exploration to do discernment work with our young adults.

This past Epiphany has been a season of beloved confessions.

Each week our young adults shared their fears, their deepest vulnerabilities. They shared heartache and shame. And they did this not in the abstract but through their own stories as linked to the lectionary, Gospel stories of Epiphany.

They all, indeed, brought the juice. The juice-- the Spirit, the life-blood, the all happens in many ways in liturgy.

This past Epiphany our young adults preached, told the Biblical stories by heart, and were our personal storytellers during liturgy. Their work and the focus on Epiphany comes out of a grant we received from the Forum for Theological Exploration to do discernment work with our young adults.

Throughout Epiphany, our young adults, through sermons and storytelling, shared their fullest selves. They shared their loves, their joys. They shared their heartache and shame. They shared their deep self-doubts. They shared their belovedness.

It was incredible. It was the juice.

Communion Table at The Open Door Community in Atlanta, Georgia.
Communion Table at The Open Door Community in Atlanta, Georgia.

That story you are holding on to because you wonder if anyone will love you, think you are beloved after sharing? Even as you tell that story is your body shaking? Our young adults released those stories to Pilgrims this past Epiphany.

Our young adults embodied church and what church is for: a place to bring the ugly, the feared, the what-feels-shameful. Church is the place to bring those stories you wonder if you can tell anyone else.

Pilgrims, in return, became a vessel, a cup to hold, share, embrace those confessional stories. Pilgrims received those stories and said, "we love you. Period."

Confession and juice.

In Epiphany, Pilgrims became an embodied communion cup, holding and carrying those beloved confessions.

Watercoloring from the Font

Watercoloring prayers from the font
Watercoloring prayers from the font

We watercolored from the font on January 18th.

Our theme this Epiphany season is "what does the Kingdom of God look like?" This builds off our Advent themes/candles of vulnerability, courage, resiliency, and empowerment.

Rachel Pacheco, our Pilgrimage Program Manager, preached on a miracle story in Mark---the one with Jesus calling out a demon--and the Wedding in Cana. Rachel focused on imagination as a key piece to kingdom building.

After Rachel's sermon we were invited into our Epiphany practice of creating a mosaic, putting the pieces together, of what the kingdom looks like. Emily invited folks to imagine something new, let our imaginations take hold of us and picture transformation and holy change.

People were then invited to create a mosaic square by drawing, painting, or writing what has been sparked in their imagination. People could use charcoal pencils, cray-pas, and markers to create their paper tile. They came forward to the table and glued their prayers on to foam board.

One station was watercoloring and we filled the font with water so folks could use the water as a means of creating their prayer with paints. Emily gave this a context: the font is an experience of new beginnings, of transformation. Our imaginations can take us to new beginnings, call forth something new and sacred.

I avoid like hell taking pictures of people IN worship. But this I couldn't pass up. Watching our kids stretch themselves on a stool to reach in and get some water to use for coloring was......amazing. The water, the font, the use of color, imagination, the facial expressions, the improv, the creativity....

A Cake of Imagination
A Cake of Imagination

THEN....during the last hymn we brought out a cake---The Cake of Imagination. I started cutting up the cake and those folks who cut-cake-better bumped me aside to take over. We ate cake ("was that the host?" someone asked?) and celebrated imagination as a expression of the Kingdom.