Dancing a Sacred Song

I like to look around in places where we aren’t supposed to notice other people. One of my favorite places to look around is church. People do surprising things at churches. The only churches I’ve ever gone to regularly are contemporary, postmodern types where it’s not really clear what denomination anyone is. I can’t really see myself being happy anywhere else. I am too much of a pluralist to find denominational churches appealing. And one of the pluses of non-denominational churches is that they typically have really good contemporary music. I’m not much of a singer so I really like worship bands that are loud. That way the loudness can kind of drown out all of my self-conscious thoughts about being a bad singer. Plus, I just like hearing music that sounds like music I might hear on the radio. It makes it feel like I might be worshiping all the time, not just on Sundays when the worship team is leading the congregation in Psalms.

Anyway, the best time to look around at church is while everyone is singing. Everyone’s kind of into their own thing. I imagine if you were some sort of psychologist and knew what all the signals meant, you could really tell a lot about people based on what they do while they are supposed to be singing at church. Some people are spending time with God. Others are doing what they think makes them look like they are spending time with God. There are a couple of people who are more concerned with what their neighbor is doing. Some dudes are standing with their arms crossed. They can’t even soften up at church. Parents are busy trying to keep their kids from going somewhere they shouldn’t, which always kind of strikes me as silly because one of the best things about worshiping at church is when one of the small kids breaks away from her parents.

Corinna Phillips and Kim Lyons by Barbara Jewell © Barbara Jewell/Lois Greenfield Photography Workshop!

She never really goes anywhere. She just stays there right in front of her parents and starts to dance. And it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful because of the simplicity of the thing. She doesn’t comprehend all of the metaphysical things we are taught to think about when we are worshiping – raise your heart to God, let the words be a prayer to God, praising God as a community is important, and all that sort of thing. Instead, she hears music, and she dances. She probably knows that she is in God’s house and that God loves her very much. And so for her, it’s kind of like dancing in front of her grandparents. And it kind of makes me think that we spend all of this time stressing out about God’s will, and we really shouldn’t. All of that stressing out could be avoided if we just started dancing. We won’t always get it right. But that’s okay because God has our back. Sometimes the little girl tries to climb up on the pastor’s chair on the stage, and at that point, her parents have to lovingly tell her to come back.

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