Before sunrise on 125th Street, before the vendors and employees arrive at the buildings along the boulevard, two men greet each other with a hug. They begin to unload vans and unfold tables, arrange incense and small colored bottles and soaps, accessories for small electronics and hand crafted beanies. While doing this music plays.

The men stop when they recognize a communal favorite and finish their morning routine stepping together, in tune and time to the music. They dance.

Like the ring/shout dances done by Africans during slavery, Serena Williams invoked the Holy Ghost when she performed her joyful crunk-style dance after winning the U.S. Open in 2012. Or the Sunday morning shout festivals that usher in the spirit of Pentecost when a congregation lends itself in physical worship. The call and response to the feel good atmosphere is what happens naturally when we answer the cry for worship. More often than not, we’re compelled to join the dance.

When we use our bodies as instruments to express the beauty of God – our offering brings the gospel to life. Dance is sacred, a basic, intrinsic way to bring glory to the God of creation. With our bodies…we become the prayer. The temple come to life as the word becomes flesh and dwells among us. Jesus in me. Jesus in you. Each gesture, step or turn is an opportunity to meet God in ecstatic, euphoric liturgy.

In May I attended the Jumping Tandem retreat in Lincoln, Nebraska. Hosted by Deidra Riggs, the theme “grace” opened the door for thoughtful contributions from a delightful gathering of speakers and presenters. I had the opportunity to minister in dance and lead a movement workshop. My students would be women of various ages and abilities, some confident from experience…others determined to break free from deep seated insecurities.

Image by Brandee Schaffer

Image of Lisha Epperson by Brandee Schaffer

Afterwards participants spoke of feeling free to move or encouraged to express themselves in physical worship in a way they’d not explored before. Witnessing the glorious abandon in the dance offering of Tammy Belau at an open mic event later that evening reaffirmed my faith in dance as a fully embodied worship experience. Dance is an art of hospitality, a point of contact for an ever-widening circle – an open call for generosity and grace.

Beyond teaching some of the technical aspects of dance, what I hoped to extend was an invitation. The very invitation offered by Christ when He suggests we break free from the voice. The voice that urges we sit still, shut up in our seats when our hearts hold a song, bound in our bodies when His love begs we dance.

Hear now the call to worship. Hear now the call to praise.

When Miriam the prophetess, took a tambourine in her hand, all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. This is the perfect image of a woman surrendered to the call – extending an open invitation to the ones who watch.
Come, now is the time to worship. Come.

 

This article is part of our series on the Hospitality Of Art. Read more from this series HERE.

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Lisha Epperson / Posts / Blog
Lisha Epperson is a hopeful romantic, lover of Jesus and most things antique. A happy wife and mother of 5, she joyfully shares a warrior song about her 14 year walk through infertility and the semi-sweet miracle of adoption. Lisha works out a life of faith with fear, trembling, and a whole lot of grace in New York City. Follow her blog at www.lishaepperson.com, and here for Facebook and Twitter
  • Kris Camealy
    http://kriscamealy.com/

    I so appreciate this, Lisha. I love the way you share your experiences and faith through movement. I wish I had been there at Jumping Tandem to witness and participate in the flesh.

    September 16th, 2015 13:54
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    • Lisha Epperson

      I always feel a special connection with the writing women who dance. You’re one of them Kris. We missed you at JTreat but our time will come. I’m looking forward to moving with you.

      September 16th, 2015 16:09
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  • Shannon Evans
    http://www.agreatparade.com/

    I love this. It brings to mind the spontaneous dance sessions I have with my children. I’m not a “good” dancer by any stretch of the imagination but I feel no self-consciousness when I dance with my kids, and I love that. I guess there will come a day when they don’t want to do it anymore 🙂 so I’d better do it while I can!

    September 17th, 2015 23:37
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    • Lisha Epperson

      Mine are aged 5 -14 at home and we still enjoy spontaneous dance parties. You wouldn’t believe how hard they laugh at me when I attempt the ladies urban dance grooves. It’s quite hilarious really, but it’s not about what I look like. It’s about us moving together. thanks for being here and keep dancing.

      September 20th, 2015 9:29
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  • Kimberlee Conway Ireton
    http://www.kimberleeconwayireton.net/

    I grew up in very conservative Christian circles where dancing was taboo. My mom enrolled me in ballet anyway. And jazz. If there’d been a tap teacher in my town, I’d have taken that, too. Movement is seriously overlooked as an authentic (or any!) way to worship in the Christian communities of which I’ve been a part, so I very much appreciate your writing about it here. I’ve always loved live theatre and thought of it as an incarnational art. But it never occurred to me to view dance the same way. “We become the prayer. The temple come to life as the word becomes flesh and dwells among us.” Yes! That is beautiful. Thank you!

    September 18th, 2015 1:06
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    • Lisha Epperson

      ‘Incarnational art” – I love that. It completely embodies the spirit of the moment when I dance before the Lord or anytime I truly give myself to the music, the form. What a gift those lessons must have been. Here’s to breaking free to dance in worship. I’m sure you have quite a few cool moves in you. Happy Sunday!

      September 20th, 2015 9:33
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