Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Dreams of Dance...

What we do with our bodies is one of the great inner dilemmas facing those of us in a UBC worship service. We have our pasts to blame for this.

At the beginning of a new school year, when there were droves of new youngsters packing the pews to experience the "David Crowder Band Church," Kyle would give a short speech trying to lay a framework for how we approach corporate worship when the music is playing. It was equal parts invitation and caution. He suggested the bodily forms of worship will most appropriately be an expression of how God has wired us individually. People who are more or less introverted will likely retreat inward and process the words and music without much observable fanfare. Those who typically express themselves outwardly will probably show the same exuberance when the music begins. Of course none of us fall solely in one of those categories at all times, but it was a good way to understand things.

The caution part was mainly for the extroverts, who have to always be on guard to make sure their movements are an expression of worship rather than a need for attention.

The purpose was to make known that there is no officially sanctioned way to do things, and to encourage authenticity. He wanted people to be true to the way God created them. I thought of this several months ago when Rolling Stone did an article on the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The interviewer wondered aloud whether or not Anthony Kiedis danced so much, even in practice, because it had become his "shtick." Kiedis responded with a statement that has stuck with me, saying it would be fake if he DIDN'T dance.

Now, for the part about our pasts.

I'll be honest, every time I see a hand go up my guard goes up right with it. Having lived through the church "worship wars" of the 80's and 90's (primarily raged in more free church traditions, like Baptists,) I have been majorly affected by the explicit and insinuated dictates some people create to define or describe what "True" worship is. Without a rigid ecclesiastical hierarchy to send down decrees, the most influential voices reign in what passes for acceptable, or spiritual, worship. For Baptist churches seeking to be "relevant" in the mid-90's, these voices were the extroverts. Introverts were either left in the cold or forced to accept the fact that those who moved and shimmied about were a couple of rungs closer to the almighty. We were told that sometimes God doesn't want us to be comfortable. This was code for "If you don't worship the way I do, then you care more about comfort than you do about God."

You know what I'm screamin'.

Yet, to be even a little more honest, it's not just suspicion that causes my guard to go up when bodies are overcome with movement during the music. There's also a little jealousy.

A couple of years ago, during one of these "first Sundays," Singleton made the hilarious comment that he bets we have at least one "spinner" this year. I've laughed about this comment ever since, because I've seen a "spinner." Lost in emotion, the spinner needs a little more surface area to commune with God than the rest of us. The jokes abound but I can't help but believe there is a "spinner" in all of us just waiting to be let loose. I envied this kid a bit when I saw him. My first thought, of course, was that he was just seeking attention. But my position now is , "So What?" Aren't we all seeking attention? Lost in worship or not, he looked like he was having a rip roaring good time.

The difficult thing, as in most areas of life, is finding that balance. Worship, as it is expressed through music, is neither primarily corporate nor personal, but a strange overlapping of both. When Crowder sings "It's just you and me," we should all know by now that it really isn't, and that's why the echoes are important. I dream of dancing and being caught up in emotion, but mainly because I want to be a part of something, not because that's necessarily who I am. But if it's who WE are, then so be it.
(I'm reading a WONDERFUL book right now that has inspired these thoughts. It's by Barbara Ehrenreich, the author of Nickel and Dimed. It's called Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy. I highly recommend it.)


Doctor Clockwork said...

good stuff

ruth said...

seriously. could you get out of my head? it's starting to freak me out.

Katy said...

OMG! I've totally seen a spinner! I think it was in a chapel service at JBU that got out of hand. Spin, spin, dance, dance. Her shoes were off and her eyes closed and I wondered how the hell she kept from running into the wooden pews of our campus cathedral. That chapel service was pretty much lost on me after that.