Monday, February 11, 2013

Making my Lord's Prayer choreography even more communal!

The revised movements showing the full range of forgiveness.

So, my video, Movement Meditations on the Lord's Prayer, is now obsolete, but that's o.k. I'm actually kinda excited about it. The choreography I developed for congregations to pray the well-known prayer continues to evolve: it's even better now!

In preparation for the retreat I gave in January for the Northern Illinois Chapter of the Christian Educators Fellowship of the United Methodist Church, I prayed the Lord's Prayer in movement by myself. Even when we pray the prayer alone, we are praying it as part of the community of believers. Alone, I was conscious of the communal essence of the prayer: the very first word is "Our" and the choreography is to hold hands. The "give us this day our daily bread" didn't feel as communal as I thought it could be. The movement was feeding ourselves and then reaching forward offering food to others. I thought, instead, let's go from side to side: receive from the right, partake, and pass it on to the left. Part of a continuous chain. Much better. The retreat goers agreed. 

The next question was how to make the next line communal: "Forgive us our trespasses." At the retreat, I taught the movement in the video: each person individually bowing her head with arms folded over her chest. We had a good discussion of individual responsibility within groups: one woman commented that it was good for individuals to feel their individual contributions to communal sins. We tried coming closer together in our circle, with our arms around each other, hands on the center of our neighbors' backs between their shoulder blades (over their hearts). We concluded that bowing our heads in that position was very powerful, but most appropriate for smaller groups where people feel comfortable being physically close. When we moved further apart, still touching, and bowed, it wasn't as powerful. We agreed that it was better to bow individually in larger groups.
In the retreat, I taught the movements to the participants without explaining the meaning that I had intended. Instead, I asked the participants what the movements evoked for them. For "as we forgive those who trespass against us," the movement I taught is in the video: putting hands up high in front with palms down as in a blessing. A woman brought up that she was really working to forgive a particular person and putting her hands up over him felt like she was lording it over him and that didn't feel good. She suggested reaching her hands out waist high with palms up as an offering. We explored that movement and decided to begin with it and from there move into the original hands high blessing movement. 
So, I'm excited because even though my video is now obsolete, the choreography is growing and evolving and getting better and better! Thank you to all the participants for communally choreographing this communal prayer!

This was a two hour retreat that I'd love to offer to more groups. Please let me know if your church or ministry might be interested in learning to move the Lord's Prayer. The gestures are simple and easily learned. While initially apprehensive, retreat participants ended up thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to pray in a new way. As one wrote afterwards: "I needed this! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Movement is not my most comfortable way of expressing myself, my feelings, or prayers. However, I felt very safe in this space."

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