16 thoughts on “The Lord of the Dance

  1. Only if the liturgical music is made with tambourine, harp, strings, or flute (Psalm 149, 150); and we also allow liturgical tapdancing, liturgical ballet, liturgical gymnastics,… oh, let’s just open it up and allow liturgical skeet-shooting.

  2. My only experience with liturgical dance came when I went to Army Chaplain Basic Course back in 1989 (imagine that, liturgical dance in the US Army).
    For the entire 13 week course the students had to provide a daily devotional. A Methodist priestess (go figure) decided she whould perform a liturgical dance for her devotion. She wore an alb and sort of hopped around ballet style to some religious sounding music. As one would expect, it didn’t go over well. The fundies were shocked and some walked out while others started praying. The Roman Catholic Priests and the other Lutherans either laughed or looked bored and some of the other Methodists sat there looking embarassed. The only positives came from the other female chaplains.
    After the first break of the morning the performing priestess and the band of females were in the hallway mad as wet hens and upset that others were put off or upset by her perfomance. Their main arguement was that everyone should just “get a grip” and that no one had the right to critisize her expression of faith.
    Their comments put liturgical dance in perspective for me. Unless one knows what’s going on before hand, liturgical dance makes no sense. It’s just someone doing what they want to do to express thier faith. Unless something is written in a bulliten no one can know what each movement means or expresses. It’s just someone hopping around or flourishing or whatever. With that in mind, it’s a very selfish expression. No one is edified by it. It leaves the viewer to their own imagination and thoughts (and depending on what the dancers are wearing they are not elevating or lofty thoughts).
    All in all, I’d say liturgical dance is just plain silly and therefore quite unworthy of a corporate worship setting.

  3. Chaz,
    I went to that site, but could not see anything. I did see the words, “cross processional.” If that is what you were referring to, I guess I consider a procession different than liturgical dancing.

  4. I am a Roman Catholic priest who has, without really trying, celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on five continents. I remember once, while doing a retreat for a group of Missionary of Charity Sisters (Blessed Mother Theresa’s group) in Nairobi, Kenya, our Sunday Mass entrance procession was lead by a group of high school girls (the MC Sisters run an orphanage, the unfortunate result of the African Aids epidemic) doing their traditional dance. It was so natural and it fit in so well I didn’t realize I had celebrated Holy Mass where they had “done liturgical dance” until about two days later when it dawned on me while praying. It was so natural it was acceptable. Juxtapose that with the trend in the US for middle aged Religious Sisters trying to imitate whatever they do or have in Kenya and I would say it’s as bad as trying to organize a Gospel choir among the Amish. Maybe Steve Martin in the movie “The Jerk” had something.

    First, I would have to ask, “Why?” In averageville suburbia, USA, I don’t think there’s a very good reason.

    Good story…it’s been attributed to many bishops so I’ll just tell it as a joke…a bishop goes to a parish for Confirmation and the pastor of the parish has been “experimenting” with liturgical “innovations”. At the presentation of the gifts, these three 60 something women religious in white dance tights do this crazy three person weave up the main aisle with the bread and wine…and at the end they all fall on the ground melodramatically to present the gifts to the bishop. He just stands there, a little overwhelmed by the display, and then calmly turns to the “hip” pastor and says, “If they ask me for your head, I’m going to give it to them.” I’m with the bishop there.

  5. When our daughter was around 2 she would do little steps with hand movements at our pew, ( her favorite was “This is The Feast”) and we would jokingly say she was doing an interpretive dance.

  6. I was wondering what SPQR thought of that video.

    Our handbell choir was playing one Sunday, and a little girl, maybe four years old, came down to the front and began dancing in the aisle. That I can deal with; but is it really something we want to plan, as SPQR put it, “for middle aged Religious Sisters trying to imitate whatever they do or have in Kenya”? (Not that we have Religious Sisters–but we do have religious sisters.)


  7. I have a granddaughter who has a liturgical dance ministry. I remember going to see her in a group setting in a religious play. When she was dancing with the others I noticed there was something different about her dancing. They all had the same movements but, her ‘s was profoundly expressive. She was dancing to I Want to Be Holy. I spoke to her after the program was over and she said, ” Mommie it felt like little feathers were touching me all over and I could feel it tingling.” I believe the angels danced with her that night. There wasn’t a dry eye in the building. Many
    gave their hearts to the Lord that night. The Holy Spirit interpets her movenents with the words to the congregation. Everyone doesn’t have the gift. She anointed. You can hear God talking to you when she dances. She goes to dance class so she can refine her gift and present her best to God and, she always prays the the Holy Spirit will use her to speak through movement.

  8. Eve,

    It sounds like your granddaughter has a great talent for dancing. You are right to be so proud of her and so thankful for the talent with which God clearly has blessed her.
    I am concerned however about how you have interpreted your granddaughter’s talent for dance as a means through which our Lord communicates or interacts with his people.
    Our Lord has promised to reveal himself to us through His Word and nowhere else.
    My concern here is rooted in the fact that when the focus of someone’s faith is in the talent of another person, it is necessarily distracted from the Word of God through which God’s revelation of his salvific work and his promise of mercy and grace pour out upon his beloved Children.
    Certainly we should give thanks to God for all of His created gifts. And in fact we can even use our gifts to express our thankful hearts at what he has done for us. But I caution you (with nothing less than a spirit of Christian love) to place your assurance in God’s salvation where it is in fact revealed – through His Word, and allow the talent of your granddaugher to be what it is, a wonderful gift of God for which she is right to be thankful.

  9. Eve,
    As the Holy Spirit always points to Christ, I wonder how the liturgical dance that you described, or any other liturgical dance for that matter, can be seen as something edifying for the Church.

    I know it is hard to put sentimentality aside, but try to just for a moment. Having been in a rock band, I know how easy it is to manipulate people using their emotions. Furthermore I also know the rush that one gets when performing/entertaining. However, I can guarantee you that in my days in the band, our songs mainly focused on juvenile behavior, teen angst, and teenage puppy-love, not what Christ has done for us. That’s the whole point of the Divine Service. It isn’t about us offering up something to God, but rather, being gathered as God’s people to receive the gifts of forgiveness and eternal life. This is why performance for the purpose of entertainment or lifting up oneself is out of place in the Divine Service.

    Now I’m sure some will quickly choose to cite the Psalms as speaking in favor of some kind of liturgical dance. However, looking at the context of the Psalms, one must be careful not to assume that all the actions that are spoke of in the Psalms were part of worship. If that were the case, then should we also not have two edged swords in our hands executing the vengeance upon the peoples (Psalm 149:6-7)? The obvious answer is that there is a time and a place for things, but not all things ought be done in the context of the divine service.

    Finally, with regard to hearing God talking to us. If it is not coming from Scripture, I have to question if it is God or the devil speaking. We come to church to hear God in fact speak to us, it’s called the liturgy, the readings, the sermon. There we can be sure we are hearing God’s Word (so long as all these things are bound to Scripture). But outside of that which comes from Scripture, I do not trust that it is the Word of God being spoken.

    But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
    (2 Timothy 3:14-17)

  10. Hi There,
    This dialog is so fascinating…it continues to amaze me that Christians criticize one another so profoundly when our call is to pray – especially for those that we imagine are doing ‘wrong’. Who can stand in judgement – each individual will stand before God and shows and says what they have done to share God’s love to others. If you don’t believe that God wants us to dance in honor and praise of Him then that is ok; lets leave alone those that feel called to do so.

    Things change. In times past women werent allowed to be preachers in church, now they are. In my mothers time women couldn’t show their elbows and knees and be considered ‘religious’. Now what don’t women show?! Quite frankly I suspect we make all this stuff up based on what is the current trend – who really knows? What remains the same is Gods love. Each of us if we pray for inspired guidance will know God in a personal way and if that way includes song, dance, missionary work, preaching, speaking in tongues or whatever we’ll find out. We each have our own gifts to cultivate. One we can all use though is compassion, kindness, forbearance, and caring for others, despite their errors.

    As in all things some people misuse what is a healthy way to worship – how many go to church and are drunk or ‘fornicating’ and cursing etc. during the week or weekend? We are all sinning – some intentionally. So how do we criticize those that believe this is a profound way to worship God? and no we don’t need words to connect to well-choreorgraphed dance movements. If done well we can feel the message – just like listenign to music form another part of the world is understandable – not the words but the feeling. (It could be a right brain/left brain thing too – some will ‘get’ it and some won’t).
    The lady who saw and felt what happened when her granddaughter danced (and how it moved so many in the congregation) is the one who was there – none of us were there. She felt and saw and heard Gods presence expressed in some beautiful way via her daughters’ gift (which by the way comes from God).

    If if you did not see it and someone told you “Hey that guy Jesus just walked on water!” would you have believed it? Maybe not. (Let him who has ears hear). God talks in many ways to us. In Africa the birth place of person-kind, music and drums are a true path to God. Music, dance and art speak to us through the spirit and the emotions which uplift and remind us of Gods love and presence.

    That is one reason we have choirs in church – though in many churches they are so uninspired that it is easy to forget what their purpose is or was. I suggest the ‘Doubting Thomases’ attend a church that has a vibrant praise dance ministry and experience it first hand before judging based on incomplete information….(and maybe let go of judgment all together and have compassion instead?) And yes some dance ministries are way more able to express or connect us to God than others. Just like some preachers/pastors. And that is just fine. God comes to each of us in a personal and unique way. Thanks for reading this.

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