Friday, July 14, 2017

Dancing in Church

I do most of my dancing in church.  That's when I engage most with music.  Otherwise, my dancing consists of rocking out to end-credit music after a kids movie at home (sometimes the kids dance with me, and sometimes they're just barely tolerating my shenanigans), and the very, very rare wedding dance.

I'm not good at dancing, don't get me wrong.  I am at least orthodox enough in my Adventism to have no experience and little rhythm. In fact, if you watched me in church, you probably wouldn't call it dancing.  It's kind of a sway, with a little bounce.

There's a secret to it, too.  If you want to get away with dancing in church, hold a child.  Babies are best.  They always need soothing, and motion is soothing, so moving in time with the music makes sense.  When they get past toddlerhood, it's trickier. My twins are 4 years old, and A still wants to be held while we sing.  The excuse there is that, with the swaying, I'm engaging her in the worship singing, even though she's not singing along yet. I'm not sure what I'm going to do when she stops wanting to be held.

You may guess, we go to a church (at present) with energetic worship music. The volume on the drums is usually turned down too far for my taste, but the music is joyful, and the song leaders sing like they mean it. Moving a little to the music feels natural.

Last week, however, I visited a former church of ours, one where all the songs were sung from a hymnal.  Of course, the worshipers here are just as real about their worship.  But the young people can remember leading the songs when I preached there.  I used to sit on the platform behind them and sing each phrase marginally faster than the congregation, impatient.

This time, the new pianist kept a time I couldn't reasonably argue with, but that didn't mean I couldn't get in trouble.  Someone had a slideshow from her mission trip, and played a song I loved with it. I wanted to sing it so badly--I lip-synched, and I may have been doing a sitting-down version of the sway-and-bounce thing. About a minute in, I realized I might be embarrassing my friends.  I leaned back against the pew and restricted my motion to my feet, out of sight.

Dancing in church is biblical. If there's one idea about dancing you can prove from the Bible, it's that is was used for worship.  All worship, the good and the bad. There's a bit of dancing as a performance,* and apparently no social dancing. If it happened in their time, the Bible doesn't comment on it, so we'll have to use our own judgment.

Music and dancing and worship (whether it's Christian or pagan), all go together for a simple reason.  They involve feeling things.  Music makes us feel things.  Worship may make us feel things (and feeling things may prompt us to worship).  Dancing, like singing, is a way to express feelings--all kinds of feelings, both the light and the dark.  And if we cannot ever dance to worship, we have relegated dancing to the dark.**

I don't think I'm ever going to get past the sway-with-a-bounce mode of church dancing, just in case anyone was alarmed with where this is going.  And when my daughter outgrows this stage, or when I no longer have the same church music, I may be losing even that.  I can live with it.

 Dancing in church is no more required than it is forbidden, Social comfort is a thing, and it effects our worship experience, too.  Some churches, like some people, are more comfortable moving to the music than others.  What I want is to be free to admit that it's not bad.

I'm not writing today in the hope that all of you will start dancing in church. Instead, what I hope is that you feel the things that make me want to dance.  I hope your worship moves you.  I wish for you, not only to understand God's greatness, or his grace, but to feel it, to experience it in a way that reaches all the way down to your toes.  And if your toes respond to that feeling, well it's all good.

*Salome dancing for Herod. And if all, or even many men responded as stupidly as he did to a woman's dancing, I guess you could make the a case against dancing as entertainment.  As it is, Herod's rash stupidity seems to be an outlier.

**Okay, we can also dance to express non-worship-related joy, but then we're excluding the things we should be most joyful about.


  1. I'm so torn on this. Ive been to services that where what I would term "hipster" and I hated it so much I was angry. Ive been to others that seemed appropriate and sincere. Whatever your worship style and music, just shoot for authentic.

    1. I find this material about dancing to be contrary to real Adventism.