|photo by Jeehye Kim|
One day a dancer friend said to me something like, “Have you ever considered that when you simply raise your arms in worship you are changing the composition of the room?” Another friend, a pastor, confirmed this sentiment sometime later, “All you have to do is raise an arm and the congregation is with you.” And this got me thinking about the energy in a worship space and how a lifted arm might invite a shift. It got me thinking more about the make-up of the body and our desire for wholeness. It got me thinking about the pulse of worship and the way dance in worship generates or encourages praise, reflection, opening of hearts to God. And it led me to a deeper understanding of Liturgical Dance – presentational as well as congregational – as a means of facilitating healing of the Body. Dance within worship, God’s word embodied: a most immediate and visceral reminder of the goodness of the body, of Christ come to us as one of us.
Just as well, to learn the art of therapeutic massage is to learn to be a facilitator. The body of the one under my hands is the co-healer with God’s Spirit. What I do is to show up and, hopefully, create the conditions for some kind of shift to occur. To some this might sound like a ‘patch of weirdness.’ But Liturgical Dance is not exactly a well trodden path either. I cannot think of anything better than being a little weird for God.
In the work I plan to do as a massage therapist I will be part of a dynamic team of physical therapists, fitness trainers and dance teachers. My clients will be athletes and dancers and those with chronic pain who have not yet been able to find a solution for their pain. The connection of this work to my work in the church must surely be bridge building and facilitation: creating conditions for the body to find its way to a sense of wholeness. Whether through lifting arms or twirling feet in worship or through laying hands on a body that thirsts for touch, I pray with my whole being that I will be a vessel for transformation.
I read these words recently in an article on massage: “In touch, wonder is coupled with joy... As massage therapists, we get to do good. We get to put our clients in touch with the beauty that lives within them. We help them to experience more deeply the truth of their aliveness” (D. Lauterstein, Massage Magazine, Feb 2013, pp 42-46) And oh the wonder! Our heart pumps involuntarily and the highways and byways of our circulatory system carry nutrients throughout our body. Millions of cells do their mighty work to keep us in motion and help us rest. A nose remembers; an eye twitches and fills with emotion. Our body makes myriad decisions in passing moments for the sole purpose of keeping us alive and in balance.
Liturgical dance at its best is also wonder coupled with joy. Dancers in church have the distinct privilege of getting to do a barefoot boogie in a sanctified place. And the primary purpose is to bring the church lovingly home to itself, to remind the Church of the inherent, fleshly beauty of our incarnate and risen Lord. Herein is the great commission for an embodied ministry:
“Take, eat”…(ingest and digest Me)…said our Lord Jesus on the night he was betrayed. I become your cells and blood, enlivening muscle and bones. So tangible, I am your flesh and your deepest yearning…your desire and your action. Offer Me to a hurting world. Take your hands and put them on my Body, him and her who ache for newness and an end to suffering. Let your feet be swift and beautiful for a Church that needs a barefoot boogie to bring it lovingly home to itself. And take your words, soft and gentle yet gathering strength for witness and proclamation, and love, deep love. Offer Me to a hurting world.
May it be so! Amen.