Leader Letter

Subscribing congregations should share this letter with congregational leaders.  Being oriented to the month’s theme, and equipped to help others in the congregation get aligned with it, builds the whole congregation’s engagement with the theme.  Which, of course, means unity and energy for the community.

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Dear Leaders,

About ten years ago, I gave a talk for an assembly of Rotarians from all over the country. My talk was on the topic of playfulness in leadership, and I had the audience engage in various playful activities from their seats in the auditorium.  They seemed to like it. The speaker after me was a career diplomat, who'd negotiated through some tough situations in his career. He began with an uncomfortable throat-clearing and then made a dismissive remark about playfulness, and said, "Let's get serious now." I've thought about that moment and that man. What a shame that he was so uncomfortable by a spirit of play, so uncomfortable that he took the extraordinary step of scoffing at another speaker! I don't remember being miffed by it, but I was intrigued. Maybe he was right. Maybe high-stakes diplomacy required a more sober mindset, and playfulness would detract from the work of achieving multi-party desired outcomes.

But, on second thought, I just didn't believe it. Sure, high-stakes and important situations require respect, and silliness wouldn't be appropriate.  But playfulness is not silliness.  Instead, playfulness is an open stance, allowing multiple possible paths and a spirit of responsiveness in the moment. If anything, I see it as even more appropriate for diplomacy or sensitive relationships in a shifting environment. Think of the chess player.  Or any strategist. These are people who need to keep a relaxed and open view of the landscape, not buttoning down their perspective to what might only seem respectable or initially acceptable. I've used playfulness at the bedside of people who are dying--again, not to introduce silliness to a serious situation, but to open the moment to more possibility, and to invite creative response to the moment.

This month, we're looking at the theme of "Work and Play." What are ways you can think of blending the two? How could you incorporate a spirit of play into some serious situation in which you're involved?  This is the month to think about it!

Faithfully,

Jake

Rev. Jake Morrill
Lead Minister ORUUC
Executive Director UUCF
Launchpad Partner