Dance me a Prayer

Yesterday I spent my Sunday morning at Trinity Lutheran, New Hamburg. The good folk there invited me to speak on the topic of “evil” in the adult education hour, after the Anchor service at 9:30 am. It was a delightful morning. Pastor André spoke winsomely of the passion narrative, making reference to the Greek text in order to reframe the story for us and thereby giving occasion for my heart to be strangely warmed. Pastor Anne presided at Holy Communion. It is always a treat to hear again her voice. I closed my eyes and experienced transport of a sort as she chanted me into a different place, a different time. We sang one of my favourite Lenten hymns: Go to Dark Gethsemane. The journey had just begun.

With coffee in hand I moved over to the education room, where I had opportunity to chat with 30 or 40 people on the topic of evil. It was a rich experience, indeed, as I heard the stories that sustain people, as well as the questions that plague them. We spoke for a time on the topic of evil, and its character as both a philosophical quagmire and an existential pit. We spoke of evil’s irrational character, which seems to preclude making sense of it.

People asked me probing questions, and together we endeavored to imagine a Christian response to evil – looking to lament and a struggle against injustice to assist us in such times and places. People spoke so openly of their trials – it was really very moving. One elderly woman spoke of her strategy for dealing with the dark days that descend upon her from time to time. She told me, she told us all that when a heavy, claustrophobic cloud descends upon her, she pulls out her favourite dancing music and dances – all by herself in her room – despite the fact that she can hardly walk. She can dance herself out of the darkness in vexing moments. It was beautiful to hear her talk of her strategy and the hope she embodies in dancing. It struck me that her dance is her prayer of lament, of faith, of life.

On this, the beginning of Holy Week, we could do worse than imagine ways to dance together through the multifarious modes of darkness that descend upon us here and there, now and then. This elderly dancer spoke to us of the relief that comes as we allow our body to speak what our heart feels. I don’t know about the others, but I came away a little richer yesterday as I was afforded that curious opportunity to be a co-learner as well as a co-teacher.

My prayer for us, Lenten pilgrims all, is that we may take advantage of this week to discern how to dance a prayer through the darkness: from dark Gethsemane to the darker cross and tomb, and then at the last into the glorious splendor of life.

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10 thoughts on “Dance me a Prayer

  1. shoreacres says:

    Though it isn’t seasonal, this danced version of the Coventry Carol — a commemoration of the Slaughtered Innocents — is beautiful and moving. I’m not sure you were reading my blog when I posted it, but I enjoy it throughout the year. It’s danced by Farah Canale.

    • agjorgenson says:

      Thanks, that truly is a beautiful and moving dance. There is something intoxicating about dance, and it is a fitting form of worship when done properly – in my estimation.

  2. dianerivers says:

    I love that you were asked to speak on the topic of evil and found it a delightful morning. You are certainly a creative, seeing the world through a different lens, and a “glass half full” kind of person! Thank you for sharing the concept of dancing a prayer through the darkness.

  3. Marie Taylor says:

    One of the most beautiful and moving videos I have ever seen is of an old, old woman Hawaiian woman dancing. Such beauty and grace and vulnerability. Wasn’t it David who danced for God – and the whirling dervishes who find their center in movement. Dance, song, prayer – all the same burnt offering.

    • agjorgenson says:

      Yes, David danced, and so it seems dance has a long history in the Judaeo-Christian tradition. An interesting story, I’m sure, can be told about it getting lost. I like the image of them being “the same burnt offering.”

  4. jannatwrites says:

    This sounds like it was a great discussion. I like your prayer at the end – dancing a prayer through darkness sounds so eloquent.

  5. Terry Wood says:

    Allen, thank you for this. I have just returned from a trip to Ethiopia and South Africa with the Stephen Lewis Foundation, visiting projects funded by the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign. We visited several Grandmother-led projects where women are pulling themselves and their communities out of grinding poverty and grief, much of it caused by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Every day we were amazed by these women who were taking back their power, their voices and their lives.
    Everywhere we went we were greeted by singing and dancing. We had no idea what the words meant but we were able to dance, clap and sing right along with them. What a joy to join in these dances with these indomitable women, African and Canadian together, laughing and crying with sheer joy. Dancing is indeed a prayer through darkness.

    • agjorgenson says:

      Thanks for commenting Terry! I’m so very happy you had to look at some of the work you have been supporting. What a great opportunity! Yes, dance is a kind of universal language, so why shouldn’t work as prayer! I wonder if it will ever make its way into the northern churches?

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