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Speaking to the Soul: Playing on Holy Ground

Speaking to the Soul: Playing on Holy Ground

by Kimberly Knowle-Zeller


Church signs generally grab my attention.

Sometimes they give me a laugh. Sometimes something to think about. Sometimes I learn of an upcoming event. Sometimes they provide an insight I hadn’t considered.


This weekend driving past a church sign I took a double take.

For the sign caught me off guard.

It made me think whether I agree with the words or not.


The sign read: Worship is holy ground, not a playground.


Now, with the first part I can agree. Worship is indeed upon holy ground. For all the ground that we inhabit is holy. The very dust and dirt of this world is all holy. So holy that if we truly opened our eyes and ears and heart to the holiness around us we’d fall down on our knees in gratitude and prayer.


Yet, it’s the worship is not a playground part that got me.


Especially as a mother of a toddler.

Especially as a person who loves to play and watch my daughter play.

Especially as one who sees the holiness in play.


When I think of worship as a playground, I think of a place that is welcoming. A place that provides a variety of ways to be engaged. The playground across from my house has provided a place for my daughter to feel safe and also to test her boundaries. I still remember her first time on the swing at 7 months. The pure joy on her face. The smiles and the laughter.


I remember the times she’s squealed in delight when a new friend comes.


I remember how she kept away from the tunnel for months and one day she just walked in and through.


I remember the frustration at continually falling down the slide as she tried to climb up and then one day she reached the top triumphantly.


The playground has provided confidence and friends for my daughter. It’s challenged her and allowed her to be a kid.


The playground has brought us into community and taught us lessons in humility, patience, growth, and hope.

Playgrounds are places where people come together from different backgrounds and gather with a common goal – to have fun, to rest, to play, and to make friends. For many, worship provides those same goals.


Believing that worship can be fun and playful doesn’t take the seriousness away from church. I believe that the more serious we take church, the more we can be playful with church.


Playful in our welcome to all.

Playful in our music and song.

Playful in our readings and prayers.


Playful enough to know that the holy ground we walk upon is ground that allows us to be our true-selves – both playful and serious.



Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of a toddler, and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, MO. Her website is


Image: from Pixabay public domain


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