In the weeks leading up to Easter, a group at Zion CRC in Oshawa, Ont., prepared for worship by learning and practicing messianic dance—a tradition that incorporates Israeli folk dance set to contemporary worship music. They got three weeks into their six-week workshop before restrictions on gathering (put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19) caused them to stop meeting.
Still, workshop leader Maaike Vandermeer sent dance step recordings to her participants and to other members at Zion CRC so they could continue to practice worshiping God through dance.
Vandermeer first learned messianic dance while she was a student in Texas, and though she had never seen dance at Zion CRC before, several people from the congregation have told her that Zion CRC included liturgical dance in their services decades ago.
Vandermeer said, “As Christians, we are called to live with our hearts, bodies, minds, and souls unified in worship, but we often leave our bodies out of it. To me, dance is like fasting, in the sense that your whole body is joining you in prayer.”
The workshop included six to 10 participants of various ages each week. Joann Wynia, a member at Zion CRC, participated in the workshop. Wynia said, “I have seen dance as a part of a worship service, but participating and learning the steps and then putting that to the music while focusing on your whole body being involved is such a beautiful way to worship.”
Zion CRC is not alone in exploring the tradition of liturgical dance. Dorette Pronk has been dancing at All Nations CRC in Halifax, N.S., since 2002.
The children at First Nations CRC use flags during the beginning of most services, Pronk said. “The children know that it is more important to worship Jesus through the songs and tell him they love him than that they make the right dance movements.” Later in the service, Pronk and some of the older girls will often worship together through dance. They use movements from ballet, jazz, and modern dance, and they also use flags, ribbons, and fans when it seems fit.
Pronk said, “I hope that dance, like the visual arts, can paint a prophetic picture to go with our (worship) songs. It can be a declaration or a petition—directed at God or at his people or the world—one more way to express our worship together.”