Thursday, March 20, 2008

Easter, Rosaries in Motion, Reflections on Women & Spirituality Conference

Oh my, it's been a while since I've written. I've got a number of new events added to my calendar. And, one removed. Due to changes in plans, I won't be dancing on the Feast of the Annunciation for the Felician sisters but we're talking about doing something in May. While I'm disappointed not to be able to dance on my favorite feast day, I'm also relieved because I've got so much else going on as you can see below. Below the upcoming events are some reflections on the Women & Spirituality Conference.

Upcoming Events Sunday, March 23, 2008, 9am & 10:30am Easter Services
I will dramatically proclaim the story of Mary Magdalene at the tomb from John's gospel. I haven't ministered on Easter for a number of years, and I'm grateful this year to have the opportunity to focus on the resurrection.
In a switch from the typical, the 9am service is the contemporary service and the 10:30 is traditional. We are doing some creative things on the contemporary. Don't want to tell for those who might come. The traditional service uses the readings from the common lectionary and the pipe organ. My proclamation of the gospel will be the same for both services, but the settings for it will be very different. I'm excited to be able to do it in both contexts. I'm looking forward to seeing how it works in both.
First United Methodist Church of Park Ridge, Illinois

Saturday, April 5, 2008, 6:30pm Glorious Mysteries Rosary
I will proclaim and interpret the first four glorious mysteries - Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost, and Assumption - for prayerful discernment and reflection for those who come to pray the first rosary that my dear friend and fellow rosary dancer, Victoria Liu, and Dennis Mervar will pray as a married couple. We will also teach everyone simple movements to the "Our Father." Everyone is welcome to this rosary prayer, which will follow St. Clement's Saturday 5pm Mass.
Lower-level Chapel, Saint Clement's Church, Chicago, Illinois

Sunday, May 4, 2008, 10am Confirmation Sunday
I will dance with the ribbon banner, blessing each of the confirmands with a swoosh of red ribbons overhead representing the Holy Spirit.
First Presbyterian Church of Wilmette, Illinois

Saturday, October 4, 2008, 9:30am-4pm Moving Through the Mysteries of the Rosary
I am happy to be able to offer a Rosary in Motion retreat in October, the Month of the Rosary. We will explore how the full cycle of the mysteries of the rosary -- Jesus’ birth, ministry, death, and resurrection — is relevant to our contemporary life journeys. After grounding ourselves in movement-based Lectio Divina (scriptural reflection) and faith-sharing, we will develop our own moving meditations to the natural rhythms of the spoken rosary. No rosary, dance, or movement experience is required, merely a desire and willingness to move and pray.
Portiuncular Center for Prayer, Frankfort, Illinois

Reflections on the Women and Spirituality Conference
According to a recent survey of religious affiliation by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, more than a quarter of adult Americans have left the faith of their childhood, either choosing a new one or easing into a life of no faith. (February 26, 2008 New York Times Poll Finds a Fluid Religious Life in U.S.) Against that backdrop, the Women and Spirituality Conference, sponsored by Transformations ~Institute for Psychological and Spiritual Development, is particularly significant.
I had a wonderful time leading the opening and closing rituals for the conference. Toni Saunders had the vision of a circle dance in the atrium of the North Shore Senior Center, where the conference took place. And, we were able to make the vision become a wonderful reality. I insisted that we have live music, and Toni found a very talented female pianist, Andy Schweitzer, and an equally talented singer, Colleen Hewitt. It's great to work with people whose talents complement my own. I'm just amazed by the things they notice, think of, are concerned about, things I'd never think of or notice. So, I'm so glad they were there. They were changing notes, adding measures, and I don't know what all. Just wonderful.

It was a challenge to create a circle dance easy enough for a group of people of all different abilities to learn and then dance on the spur of the moment. So, I kept things very simple. Don't have to have to remember left foot or right foot. I said that we're operating from the philosophy of the African proverb: "If you can talk, you can sing. If you can walk, you can dance." So, I just had fun with it. Women, afterwards, said they thought I was funny. I wasn't trying to or meaning to, but upon reflection, I think my mime background came out. I exaggerated the movements, taking big exaggerated steps, for example, and I think that helped give the women permission to just try it themselves: you won't be made a fool. I already am. Just have fun with it. I am. I can identify with the difficulty people have learning new dances because that's not my forte. So, I brought a "hey, we're all in this together" attitude.
Several comments afterward touched me. One woman said that she had hurt her ankle so she was apprehensive that she'd be able to participate, but she did and she could and so she was very happy. Another woman told me that when I was dancing in the center as I was leading everyone, I looked so blissful. It was clear that I was doing what I love to do. I don't doubt that I was radiant, but I wouldn't have realized my joy was so transparent.

The opening prayer went magically well. At first, I couldn't quite explain how. Upon reflection, I offer three explanations.

At the conference, I attended Judi Geake's workshop, Journaling as Soul Conversation, in the afternoon, she gave us "writing prompts" and one was to write about a scripture text that has "lit my path." While I love the Annunciation, but as much as I'd like to be able to claim that it has "lit my path," I don't think I can honestly say that. Maybe one day . . .

For me, it's Matthew 10:16-19 that I feel really tells my story, and I've felt that way for a long time. I remember telling my sister that I'd like it read at my funeral, and she was horrified because it's describes such an ugly scene. My focus, however, isn't the ugliness but the ability to navigate through it.
"See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak , but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you." (NRSV)
And, I realized that, yes, it happened again that morning when I led the opening prayer. It was not me who spoke but the Spirit of God speaking through me. I became a conduit for the Holy Spirit. It's magical when that happens. I surprised myself. I do think that the preparation is important. I spend time putting together a very detailed outline, which is helpful for thinking through all the little things that could go wrong. It may appear obsessive, but it means that I can be relaxed once I'm in front of everyone.

I also took a workshop with Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, founder of the Urban Bush Women, the day before the conference at Columbia College. She spoke about different types of work that she does: stage performances, how what started as what people told her was "community outreach" has now involved into what she calls community participation and community engagement. It's interesting because, as a liturgical dancer, I'm in a very different relationship to community. But, she talked about "entering, building, and exiting community" in these various different types of work. That her biggest failures have been commissioned works in which she was so focused on trying to get the project done in the weeks allowed that she skipped the "entering community" piece. I had attended another workshop that she gave at Northwestern a couple of months ago, and I didn't realize the significance of the "community mapping" that she led: it's a way of "entering community." She creates different categories of birth order, childhood home, or love of chocolate, for example, and asks people to go to different corners of the room depending on how they self define. Then the groups in the different corners come up with and agree on one advantage and one disadvantage of being first born, for example. Sometimes, the maps are more truly spacial maps, like where you live relative to where you are at that moment. Sometimes, it's choosing a side of a dichotomy. And, then sometimes, it's forming one straight line with our eyes closed and no talking, of height or hair color from dark to light.
But, the interesting thing that Jawole had us do was line up based on economic privilege from our childhood. People were a lot less talkative for this one. Talk about breaking down barriers, navigating through barriers. When we debriefed it later, she said that it's important to own and be our authentic selves, to own who we are to others and ourselves. That's how we can dance our authentic selves. And, so I think a little shift happened inside of me. I got permission to just be myself. Be who I am. Trust myself.

And, the third thing that helped is that Toni's husband and brother-in-law picked me up at the train station and took me over to the conference. They were a such a great comedy team, that they got me out of myself, out of my head. And, that was a good thing. I couldn't stop laughing and smiling. Thank you!