Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Ribbon Cutting @ 1st Pres Wilmette

I always learn so much each time I dance. On Sunday, I helped with the ribbon cutting dedication of the newly renovated fellowship hall for the First Presbyterian Church in Wilmette where the wonderful Reverend Sarah Butter is pastor. It's a great place full of friendly, helpful people. Sarah had envisioned me dancing around blessing the space and then a ribbon cutting across the little stage at the back. In the end, we combined the dance and the ribbon cutting. But, it was a process getting there.
Before meeting with her, I looked at the readings for the day. I saw that the reading for cycle A that day was the woman at the well and was thinking we could do something with that, bringing a water jug from the sanctuary to the fellowship hall (which is the church basement magnificently transformed).
Then I went to meet with Sarah. After batting some ideas around in her office, she said, "Let's go down and see the space." And, of course, as usual, that changed everything. The hall is really magnificent, and the defining feature -- what defines it as a gathering space -- is a huge oval in the ceiling. (Hard to describe. You'll just have to see it.) As soon as I saw it, I knew I needed to dance directly under the edge of the oval.
I thought of the crepe paper streamers I had used a long time ago for the family reunion connecting the graves in the cemetery in Pine Bluff, Wisconsin. I could use streamers to define the space.
So, to make a long story short, I went up with the young children during the Time with Young Disciples during the worship service. Pastor Victoria Millar talked to the children about ribbons and presents and the fact that the present everyone was receiving today was really big. It was a room. I unfurled the ribbon down the main aisle as Victoria held the other end. Then, she released it and I gathered it up.
I then rehearsed with the children downstairs. After the rehearsal, the older ones put cray paper on the banisters and elevator leading everyone down to the fellowship hall. The ribbons were blue, which is the Presbyterian color.
I had originally envisioned an unbroken ribbon from the sanctuary, leading way down the stairs into the fellowship hall. It's interesting how the original artistic vision gets compromised for reasons of safety and practicality but the concept and idea remain and it actually works better.
Before the worshipers came downstairs, the 3,4,5 year olds with the 7&8th graders were in their places. They formed a circle around the table of food in the center of the room and within the oval, facing out. Pastor Butter knocked on the door and the campaign committee opened the doors. Sarah led the people around the circle. The children welcomed them with big smiles.
When everyone was in, the choir began to sing, and the children turned around and faced in. I went in the circle and unfurled the ribbons for the children to catch, then danced around the circle twice more for the magic three.
Pastor Butter announced the ribbon cutting. The major donor made the first cut and then the campaign committee made cuts between each of the children. Each child ended up with ribbons. The festivities and food began.
It all seemed so simple in the end, but as always took simplifying and whittling down to get at the essence, the basic message. And, the dancing itself was minimal really. It was the choreography that took the effort, figuring out where to place the movement so that it underscored the meaning and message of the day.
Sarah was delighted. She said the choreography changed the focus from the stage to the community where it should be.

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