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YDS Recess: Learning How Playing and Praying Go Together

By Mindy Roll '07 M.Div.

After spending much of the fall honing their skills in hermeneutics, Patristics, homiletics, ecclesiology and other arcana of the theological world, Yale Divinity School students were ready to experiment with something a little different when YDS Recess rolled around on October 20.

And experiment they did, proving that they are as good outside the classroom as inside. Among the "extra-biblical" activities over the four-day Recess: hopscotch, sidewalk chalking, four square, jump rope, a community dinner, karaoke, yoga, "art and soul" painting, pumpkin carving with the Nightwalking Society, a hike to East Rock Park and more.

Under direction of the Community Life Committee, the school-wide Recess is described simply as "a post-mid-term time for fun, relaxation, prayer, and merriment making." Along with its light-hearted elements, Recess seeks to provide spiritual context, and a good measure of that was provided in the opening activity, a Thursday evening talk by Thomas Troeger, the J. Edward and Ruth Cox Lantz Professor of Christian Communication.

Recently arrived from the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Troeger spoke on the subject "From Many Different Ancient Springs," during which he shared insights about his own faith and spiritual practices.

"In order for theology to feed spirituality and spirituality to feed theology, I find it necessary to nurture multiple sources of spiritual vitality," Troeger told the large group of students gathered in the Institute of Sacred Music's Great Hall.

Troeger argued that these sources are different for everyone and, for him, have been "my mother's daily Bible reading, my father's love of Bach, the plain common things of human love, my walking prayer, the sighs too deep for words, feeding upon Christ in our hearts with thanksgiving, a passion for congregational song, and the joy of creating something to the glory of God." Troeger encouraged the gathered to learn what nourishes them, and to "drink deeply" from these wells.

On Friday, a Eucharist service in Marquand Chapel provided additional context, during which Jonathan Page '07 M.Div. and Martha Korienek '06 M.Div. shared their reflections.

In a beautifully crafted sermon, Korienek retold the biblical Mary and Martha story in a contemporary setting in the context of her own life. For many YDS students, this was an important lesson. The time of relaxation and fun afforded by Recess often means emulating the biblical Mary, sitting at the feet of Christ, basking in the love and care of God, setting aside the task-oriented mindset of Martha.

Jeremy Deaner '07 M.Div. agreed. "I think it's [Recess] telling me I need to loosen up a bit because I am totally a Martha," said Deaner. "And I love juice boxes!"

Juice boxes were a part of the scene that greeted worshipers Friday as they moved out of Marquand Chapel onto the Quad for the Eucharist portion of the service. As students, faculty, and staff emerged from Marquand, they also saw hopscotch, sidewalk chalk, blankets, four square, and jump ropes. Laughter filled the air as the community embarked on the activities, living out the liturgy they had heard indoors that proclaimed "faith tells us to play."

As one of this year's CLC coordinators, Korienek said her job is "to build up community, to build up individuals in a communal way." She added, "That is why Recess activities are all group events."

Other Recess activities included a weekend-long ping-pong tournament, a Thursday night game night and Community Dinner, Friday fellowship, and karaoke night at the Graduate & Professional Student Center at Yale . Saturday's activities included morning yoga, an "art and soul" painting retreat, pumpkin carving with the Nightwalking Society, and a hike to East Rock with the Outings Club.

Along with Korienek and the other CLC coordinator, Jared Stahler '06 M.Div., student organizers included Page, Johanna Osborne '07 M.A.R., and Eric Jeuland '06 M.Div.