I’ve spent more than 10 years of my life now processing through my faith, thinking critically, reading widely and experiencing church life more broadly. I have swung between abject despair and high hope. I have attended the mega-McChurch, the smaller, organic communities and traditional mainline and none at all. I’ve criticised and analysed, doubted and rejected. I’ve picked through theology and eschatology, pneumatology and ecclesiology. I’ve argued. I’ve decided I finally know something for sure just to have it deposed from its throne in no time flat. 

I’ve been part of the emerging church (and I kind of still am in the truest sense of the word) but sang its swan song while secretly hoping for its resurrection. I was talking postmodern and missional living before it was TMd by the book/blog industry. I’ve rounded out the faith traditions of my younger years with ancient and new thinkers. This nondenominational charismatic kid embraced liturgy and hymns, monastics and mystics (charismatics find it a bit easier to love those ancient mystics, let’s be honest). This evangelical product of the apologetics movement of the 80s has embraced nuance and subtleties, even a few heresies (hell, anyone?).

But the truth is that I hold myself a bit aloof in church, struggling and over-thinking, feeling a bit apart from it all. I’m wondering as we sing and preach about the truth of the words. I’m clapping on beat (most of the time) but I’m not feeling free.


I know what I think but I’m not sure what I feel.

So here I am in church on Sunday morning. I am the mother now, you see, the one juggling three tinies, the skeptic for every ritual and statement, wearing jeans and purple shadows under tired eyes on Easter Sunday, and I’m so not cool.

But the music starts and I’m weeping through the songs about the wonderful cross while two tinies colour pictures at my feet on the gym floor and I sway with the newborn in one arm, the other raised to the gym lights.

There is a rough-hewn cross, 12 feet high, at the front of the church and we all flood to the altar, covering it with sunshine coloured daffodils and pink hued tulips until the entire cross is covered in a bower of spring flowers and I can’t even look at it without wanting to shout out loud words like “Hallelujah!” This is no sober, somber day. The music is loud and everyone is moving and dancing – it’s a celebration, a party, full of life.

I think I’ve never seen more beautiful people in my life. 

My tinies spotted the flags waving, the girls spinning, the mamas bouncing and the men – even the men! – laughing out loud, arms outstretched and they want to know, can we do it, too?

I am too cool for this surely. I am too smart. I know too much. I have opinions on everything and can critically weigh the benefits of dancing or not, of flags or not, of motivations of the heart and spectacles and performance based worship, let alone the viability of Sunday morning gatherings and theology of place.

But you know what? It comes down to this:

When you see people dancing, do you judge and belittle and reason it away? 

Or 
do 
you 


dance?
We had a purple flag and a yellow flag. I waved my flag, tentative, and I began to dance. I haven’t danced in church in over 20 years. I felt awkward, like a spectacle, like an idiot. I don’t know if I’m even capable of dancing anymore.
Anne was hopping from one foot to the other, Joe was stomping like a dinosaur. My voice was loud and proclaiming even while my mind fought for control of that moment.
But for just an instant, for a moment, I was 8 years old again, dancing in an old community centre with a bunch of misfit-saints and loving Jesus so much that it felt like the skin I was wearing was soaked in Love. 
I danced and, correct or not, traditional or not, weird or not, it felt like life and holiness, sacrament and community, justice and mercy planting seeds in my tired heart, joy spinning in a thick Presence of Love.

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photo source: abby vineyard facebook group

In which [it is Holy Week and] we were loved right to the end
In which we use our words to love each other [and The Other]
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  • Sometimes I long for the freedom of a child, they are not so worried about what everyone else thinks, it is us that teaches them that. I love that cross, it is beautiful, it makes my heart smile.

  • We should dance. Church should feel so free. The psalms speak of dancing and joy in worship all the time. I’m glad you danced. I’m glad you felt surrounded in love.

    P.S. – Love, love, love that cross. I think it’s one of the best ideas I’ve seen in a long time. Will have to file that away for the future. 🙂

  • I’m with you – I wish I could dance with abandon and joy before my God. But I’m so self-conscious, clinging tightly to intellectual fact and control. Which is exactly the opposite of what dancing with abandon and joy is. Silly me.

    Have you seen this youtube video? I think something like this could help me break my own ice. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KX2-J6uS-o

  • So lovely! You gave me chills! Kudos to you for actually making it to service on Easter, especially with your newborn! We started out with the best of intentions, but a toddler tantrum set us on a different path. I love Easter, and was so sad that I couldn’t share it with my new little one, because of my older child’s needs on Sunday morning. . . but reading your post, I felt like I was right there with you, so thank you! I needed that! 🙂

  • Mary1912

    Awesome! In fact, I was just thinking about this very subject today. I was reflecting on how glad I was to be back in the Vineyard and the impetus that pushed me back there. In the chuch I was attending there was a Sunday in which the worship band played “Undigified”. Some in the congregation took to dancing together in a chain. It was awesome. In a church I felt was pretty buttoned up, it was refreshing to see that happen.

    A short time later (a few days or so), I was told that there was a big hoopla about that little “incident”. That some were not happy with that display and made their opinions known. And the band was instructed to not play that song again to prevent a repeat incident.

    My heart sank! My husband cautioned me to not judge based on one person’s report of the incident. Yet at the same time, regardless of the minor details, there was a paradigm of not letting this type of expression happen if it upset someone else.

    I could not help think of Michal who despised David…that VERY song pulled from scripture about that very incident and how God cursed Michal for despising David’s dancing (nearly naked) before God.

    That was the impetus for me. I may not always be a dancer…but I love it when I see others dance. And sometimes I join in.

  • Theresa

    Yes! I’ve spent so much time analyzing, thinking, needing everything to be right. That stuff is all good, but its so good sometimes to just forget about it and be.

  • We were able to visit friends in Chicago over Easter, and attended a small church that was much as you described – flags, dancing, general excitement, kids running about – and the entire time I was thinking to myself how much our young daughter would love a church like that where she could be involved and the adults weren’t so straightlaced. Kids understand making noise and jumping around when they’re excited. It’s only when we grow up that we learn to be uncomfortable with it, and it’s good for us sometimes to lay aside our cynicism and come to Jesus like children. Thanks for the reminder.

  • This is too funny Sarah. I go to church to dance.

    Our family does not “do” organized church right now for many reasons I will not go into right now. But yesterday I definitely wanted to be visiting our old church where I knew the music would rock and we could celebrate with arms outstretched, feet dancing worship. This is RESURRECTION sunday (not yelling just really excited about the resurrection) how can you possibly sit still (not personal you, but collective you).

    I can’t help myself. I dance at home. I’ll dance at weddings and I’ll certainly dance in church. There’s no
    better place in my mind.

  • Amycnnn80 (PWAmy)

    Friday night we were able to attend a fellowship service (LOVE fellowship!). Even though I’m 39 weeks pregnant, feel as big as a house, and had to sit on the front row w/a 3 year old… I couldn’t help myself. The choir was singing a favorite, and all of a sudden I was bouncing just a little… before I knew it I was dancing! Oh what Joy!!!!!!

    As a pastor’s wife & music minister, it seems that services are usually stressfilled for me. I’m the one making sure the bathrooms are the cleaned, the visitors have been welcomed, the visual media is playing correctly, all the musicians have sufficently practiced and I’m staying focused on what God wants for the service. In all the ‘busy-ness’ of having the effective service…. sometimes I miss out on just basking in His love and joy. I’m too busy making sure I’m singing the right song to usher in His presence for EVERYONE else.

    I’m definitely learning to let it go. Learning to just let God!

  • This is so beautiful! Love those moments where we have no choice but to dance, where nothing else will express our joy but dancing.

  • I had seen your Tweet about taking all three tinies to Easter Sunday church–on your own, and quietly prayed a prayer of desperation on your behalf. Your post made my day!

  • drgtjustwondering.blogspot.com

    YES! And amen. And you go, girl. Haven’t danced myself in years and years – but man, do I get the freedom it can bring, the joy of life infusing the body right down to the fingers and toes. Head and heart meeting in full bodied praise and joy – lovely, lovely.

    And I LOVE that flowered cross!

  • This is what the cross and resurrection really are all about.
    Blessings!

  • Emily Wierenga

    i’m dancing with you, friend. beautiful post.

  • Thank you – this post has drawn me out of stalking-lurkland where I’ve been for a year and a half…
    shivers down my spine and thankfulness that our Saviour is everywhere (even with us quietly camping in the bush on our year long Sabbath trip around Australia)…
    My eight year old daughter dances without concern and isn’t it just right!
    May I begin to be a sister-friend in Him?
    Blessings, Renee.

  • surfwood

    P.S. sorry – new to this talking by the written word so forgot to sign in correctly… have done for this comment…

    Renee

    I think…

  • Stephanie

    You so often put into words what I am thinking…only better.

    Tim & I are visiting all kinds of churches as we travel – and it’s been fascinating, heartbreaking, boring, and invigorating all at once. Wish we could sit down and discuss it all w/ you guys. Maybe someday…?

  • Tallskinnykiwi

    Dance away!!!