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What is dance ministry?

08:42 PM ET (US)
The Lausanne Covenant has been a great rallying call to the evangelical Church around the world. It defined what it means to be evangelical, that is, what it means to have scripture as final authority in what evangelicals believe and in how evangelical Christians live. It is a covenant with other like-minded Christians and a covenant with God himself. Anglican minister Rev John Stott, the Queen's Chaplain anchored at All Souls Church, Langham Place, London was the chief architect of this significant document. Does this covenant say anything about dance ministry?
Deleted by topic administrator 02-23-2016 01:56 AM
Andrew D ParkPerson was signed in when posted
07:26 PM ET (US)
Some years ago when I was studying for my Bachelor of Theology degree, I chose this topic to write a pastoral care essay about: "To lose ritual is to lose the way. It is a condition not only painful and pathetic but also dangerous. Some people it destroys. As for the whole society, sooner or later it will find rituals again, but they may be of an oppressive rather than a liberating kind. Rituals have much to do with our fate" (Driver, Tom. 1991. The Magic Of Ritual. New York, Harper-Collins, p.4).

Rituals, rites of passage and symbols have quite a lot to do with our identity, and the stories of our history which make up that identity.
When we are stripped of those rituals, and the stories that accompany them, we are also stripped of the rich historical meanings that are indelibly associated to them. And as Driver says, we may unfortunately replace what were once possibly positive rituals with quite societally harmful and oppressive ones.

For instance, at the turn of the 20th Century, Germany was regarded once of the most socially progressive countries in Europe. It had a very strong Lutheran and Christian heritage. But by the 1930's in Hitler's Germany, all the positive rituals of its previous youth movement such as with scouting became replaced by Nazi ideologue and symbolism, and possibly its most memorable illustration of the oppression involved were the highly ritualised burnings of libraries of books by authors regarded as politically or racially incorrect by the Nazi regime.

That was only the start of the Nazi horror story, which was a story heavily-laden with symbolism and ritual, and culminated in the Holocaust of World war 2.

It has been asked, how could such a progressive Christian country wind up becoming such a symbol of world oppression and horror - a nightmare in very sense of the world? And it has been suggested that, a good place to start would be to study the history of its youth culture and symbols and how Nazism's evil symbols and rituals had been able to so easily overtake and make redundant all the other alternatives in the lead-up to World War 2.
Nazi symbolism and ritual was a blue-print for Hitlerian idolatry and all the evil that came with it on a world-wide scale. And the goose-step dance of hobnail-booted soldiers marching victims to places like Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen and Dacchau illustrates how dance can be utilised to worship evil as well instead of symbolizing and bringing meaning to something pure and good such as genuine worship of God.

What we do in dance ministry involves quite a bit of ritual, symbolism, and metaphor.

It is through movement that we communicate as dancers. So what we do in dance ministry often involves rituals, symbolism and metaphoric language.

The Nazis goose-stepped their dance of havoc and hatred across 1930-1940's Europe. Theirs was a ministry from the pit of hell.

So we know only to well the ominous truth of Driver's words above.

Today's generation of youth are also seeking meaning to life. But in this world of latent secularism, many of the religious presuppositions previous generations once took for granted about the existence of God from which we drew personal meaning and identity and values from, no longer exist for them.

That God, and the values belief in God generally perpetuates is seen as no longer part of the lens grid for today's generation raises very serious issues for the future of this world.

And we Christians need to be challenging secular narratives with well thought out counter-narratives that intelligently challenge God-less views of our future. Our narratives need to be Christocentric, and I think heavily-laden with metaphors and language that `speaks to' this generation in its language and with its cultural idioms when that is necessary "to communicate" across and to break through social-cultural barriers. I say this because, Church, to so many in this world, is culturally `foreign'. We need to become far less isolated by our cultural idiosyncrasies of selective choice, where those have become unnecessary barriers to faith.
Dance ministry is one way - one possible language - which, if done sensitively, can transcend some communication and mission barriers in today's world.

So this is a serious topic. A very serious topic. And it is disappointing that no one has really engaged with it as present.

Therefore, I am going to plug on with a story that I found during reading a book about culture from Mark Sayers, The Vertical Self (2010, Nashville, Thomas-Nelson)p 55-56.

It involves dance, and how it ministered to a large group of young, black people during the recent LA Riots.

Sayers tells how the hip-hop dance cultures of clowning and crumping developed in South Central Los Angeles after the LA Riots:

"The movement was an attempt to create a positive alternative for young people for young people to the culture of gangs and drug selling. The dance styles also provided frustrated urban youth with an artistic avenue to physically and creatively express their negative feelings in a positive way".

This became the subject of a documentary by David LaChapelle called "Rise".

Sayers says: "The documentary is a moving depiction of the way music, art, and faith can collide in the unlikeliest of places to bring life".

He continues, "In one part of the film, the dance moves of the young African-American dancers are spliced with images of traditional African tribal dancing. The similarities are so uncanny that LaChapelle simply assumed that the young people whose dancing he was documenting had copied moves they had seen in old documentaries of African tribal dancing. But LaChapelle discovered he was wrong. Before the movie was released, he organised a showing of the film as thanks to all of the young people who had aided in its production. When the scene of the African dancing came on, the crowd was shocked. They began to cheer and pump their fists. Growing up in South Central and Watts, they had never been exposed to images of traditional African dancing. When they realized the dancing style they had created was uncannily similar to that of their ancestors, they were deeply moved. It was as if some cultural DNA had been passed down to them. A connection was established with their roots, and they found that a part of Africa's culture was still inside of them".

So what are we seeing here? Dance, which is heavily laden with both cultural idioms, symbolism and ritual, not only providing meaning and identity for today, but reconstructing identity and meaning from the past. Liminal thresholds being crossed in this story in multiple ways. People, as Sayers says, once they `get' the association with their cultural history, dropping away social masks (e.g. hip-ness) to dig deeper into that to discover their true-selves "behind the clichés and performances...[finding] tiny grains of truth, memories of wholeness" to do with who we really are behind the masks and screens of cultural, political and religious performance. These unhealthy masks we hide behind, Sayers says,can move us away from our true selves and "toward parody and perversion of our humanity".

This story illustrates how dance can be richly laden with personal, relational and communal stories, cultural memories and theological meaning that can be teased out through it all. If done intelligently and thoughtfully, can provide people with healthy rituals they need to explore their own journeys and relationships with others and with God, and to locate new meaning from their cultural heritage and history, and their present situation within a culture.
Edited 12-13-2014 10:54 PM
Andrew D ParkPerson was signed in when posted
06:00 PM ET (US)
Above photo is my wife Lucy, ministering in dance during a Pentecost service in Darlinghurst (Sydney inner city) c.2005. We gathered with with the staff and clients of many inner-city homelessness services, local clergy and church members as an ecumenical gathering and local MPs.
Edited 12-13-2014 07:58 PM
Andrew D ParkPerson was signed in when posted
09:58 PM ET (US)
Here are some thoughts from the various network coordinators in reflecting about what dance ministry is over the past week:
"Seeking to build my credibility as a person of integrity, loyalty and perseverance, who works always towards a high level of skill (whether in dance or in other arts). From this platform, my own dance works concerning God and my faith have been received well in the secular context. My sense has been that, if I build my credibility as a dancer in the secular community, then the secular community is very happy to watch and even pay me to dance my own works, and to be moved by them."
"We need all wirings and all types in ICDF".
"Ministry" is not divorced to some sort of religious compartment separate from "mission", but flows from, grows, and occurs, as a result of our partnership and cooperation with Jesus in fulfilling God's mission (Missio Dei)...”
“Intimate time in her worship closet. Intimacy with God is what matters alongside “Where am I in my relationship with God? Are we feeling close or far away?
"Like waiters serving cups of tea, we're serving real things of the Spirit ".
“ Dance is a language... Ministry is a brokerage of another Kingdom...”
“Ministry means the precious task of imparting the life of God to a person. As dance is a body language with no language barriers we can impart this through the medium of dance”
“And God smiles”.
Edited 10-29-2014 10:00 PM

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