Friday, May 04, 2012

Dancing Easter joy!

Mary Magdalene recognizes Jesus.

On Easter, I proclaimed John 20:1-18 - the story of Mary Magdalene at the tomb as part of Pastor Zina Jacque's sermon at the Community Church of Barrington. The sermon, titled "The Story's End: Love Wins," was at the very end of the service, which had been full of lovely singing and Easter joy. Pastor Zina pointed out that we can rejoice now because we know how the story ends, but what if we didn't? Imagine not knowing. That's the state Mary Magdalene was in that first Easter morning so long ago . . . With that introduction, I told the story: the disbelief, the grief, the revelation, the joy! Then, at the end, as I was rejoicing, exclaiming, "I have seen the Lord!," Natallia Revinskaya, the church's incredible pianist started playing, "I've Just Seen Jesus" by Sandy Patti, and I danced up and down the aisle.

Afterwards, many people thanked me. I am heartened when people tell me they cried, and some did. One woman told me that she had danced to that song in that church as a young woman and when I danced, that's when she lost it. Another woman said that she enjoyed the dance because it was how she'd like to express her response to the good news. She's not a dancer but I was moving how she would move if she could: I expressed what was in her heart. I realized on a new level that the scriptural storytelling segueing into dance can be a powerful combination. It is unusual, and it is my ministerial gift.

On Holy Saturday, I also had the honor of proclaiming the story for Felician (Franciscan) sisters in the infirmary at their Motherhouse at Peterson and Pulaski in Chicago. Special thanks to Sr. Carole Mary, my liturgical consultant, for arranging it. One of the sisters cried because she wanted everyone to experience Jesus' love as she saw me expressing it and as she felt it. I'll admit I was a bit perplexed by this. Then, when I told the story at a storytelling lab for Kellogg School of Management alumni (in my other life, I have an MBA) a couple of weeks after Easter, a Jewish man told me that my telling helped him understand the Christian religion in a way he had never understood it before: my love and enthusiasm expressing Mary Magdalene's love and enthusiasm at seeing the risen Jesus was very touching. To be honest, I hadn't consciously realized the depth of my love and conviction until he reflected it back to me. It took someone outside my faith to point out to me what was going on inside of me in my faith. Distance provides perspective!

On that note, I'll leave you with an insight from another Felician sister. She said that when Jesus told Mary not to cling to him, or as one translation poetically states, "Touch me not," he was asking her to take her love for him out into the world. It's a bit counter-intuitive: to get closer to Jesus, go away from him.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ribbon banners welcome all

Kay dancing the Pentecost tongues of fire!
It was truly the Holy Spirit at work. I was asked to lead ribbon banners for the entrance processional and ending recessional at the Inauguration and Installation of the Rev. Dr. Frank Yamada as the Tenth President of McCormick Theological Seminary. McCormick is Presbyterian but the inauguration took place at the Apostolic Church of God at Dorchester and 63rd Street in Chicago on Thursday, February 9th. (Long ribbons of varying lengths attached on a swivel hook to fishing or banner poles swirl beautifully in the air.)
   I brought all the poles that I have: three 12 foot banner poles and two short 2 foot ones, and, what do you know, there ended up being five of us -- one for each of us! I also brought all the ribbons that I had in all the colors I had.
   I am always concerned about sight lines when dancing in churches. On the ground floor, the shorter banners would not be visible to those seated in the back. So, we kept the three taller banners on the ground floor with the two shorter ones going up onto the raised stage-like altar area.
Kay and I had fun with the short banners. Her big smile exuded joy. We have a similar movement style, so for people who had not moved together before, we were well coordinated. And, the three tall banners looked great, gracefully moving up and down the aisles. The video begins with the entrance procession to the song, "All Are Welcome," by Marty Haugen. The banners appear in the video at 5:30.
   Another issue to work out was the ribbon colors. We made one of the tall banners in blues, one in greens, and one in lavenders. The two short ones were red and orange.
   I feel strongly that if the ribbon banners are bracketing the service in the entrance and exit, they should also emphasize a high point in the service itself. So, Kay and I brought the short red and orange ribbons out during the scripture acclamation, "Preparing for God's word," seen on the video at 21:15. And, the red worked great because the gospel was the story of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-21). The photo of Kay really brings the Pentecost fire to life, doesn't it!

My prayer for dance in the church.

   After his inaugural address, the Rev. Yamada did something that he admitted was "unconventional." He asked people to share their dreams, hopes, and visions of theological education in the church via whatever method they felt comfortable: tweeting, journaling, talking out loud, praying silently. His prayer invitation begins at 1:51:50 in the video.
   I often feel moved to dance during worship services but I seldom act on it unless I've been invited, but this time with his invitation to pray in the form in which we felt comfortable, I acted on my impulse. My danced prayer that dance be part of future theological education is at 1:55:40
   The banner bearers appear again in the video for the ending song, "Going Forth in Song" at 2:04:15. I want to thank Mark Bowman of the worship planning team for inviting me to minister for this momentous occasion. I enjoyed ministering with such wonderfully gifted people: great music, and preaching, and praying! A good beginning for the new President Yamada!