Dancing and/as ministry

This particular post was inspired by my awesome, inspiring, beautiful friend Toya! She has a posting on her blog and I wanted to write, like, a 500-word essay but that's her blog, not mine...so I had to try to keep my comments "short"! Her post got me thinking about being a liturgical dancer, what "ministry" really means and my place in the world! This post may just be a "brain dump" so please follow along as best you can! :-)

Well, I should probably start with this: I have been a liturgical dancer for, I think, 8 years now. It all started at my former church when the director of the dance ministry asked if I wanted to join the group! At the time, it was comprised of three formally trained dancers who were svelte and, well, seemed like "dancers". I was, at the time, 250 pounds and, at 22, hadn't danced with any kind of group or "formally" since about 3rd grade. The funny thing, I'd wanted to join them for a few months by the time she asked. But I felt silly for wanting to join. I mean, how would I look in the leotards and skirts (at the time, that's what they wore) with all the "extra-ness"?? How would my hands, feet, arms & legs fare compared with their trained limbs?! But when I heard music or thought about expressing myself to God, I wanted to do it through dance! So...I asked her if she was sure?! She assured me that she seriously wanted me to join because she said she was looking for worshipers and that she'd teach the dancing part. So, I told her "yes" because I had been interested anyway! Shaking in my boots and unsure of how it'd be received, I joined the ministry! Long story short, it's one of the very best decisions I've ever made in my entire life! Not only do I believe that God gets the glory from my dancing but it also enables me to inspire people who may not have seen themselves as "dancers" before seeing me. My weight has moved up and down the scale (actually right now, I think I'm back at about 250...for those who have never had the pleasure of seeing me in person, ;-), I stand at 5'6") and there have been plus size or full-figured women who say to me "I am considering dancing now that I've seen you" or "I love to see you dance! You represent us". As much as I love the fact that God is pleased by my dancing (and the consecrated lifestyle that I believe should be lived by a liturgical dancer!), I am proud to be an inspiration to my plus size sisters and hopefully others who previously thought "there's no way I can dance"!! I also like the fact that while dancing, I get to be vulnerable in a way that I am not in my everyday life, save for a few select people! I had to learn to be open and be transparent--and for someone who doesn't like people looking at her, this proved VERY interesting for the first couple of, well, years! Right now, it'd be easier to get up and dance a selection than talk for 5 straight minutes about myself. (Even though, I'm at a place where I could do that, too, if pressed!)

There are people & churches who don't value/agree with the idea of dance as a ministry, but I try my best to advocate and change minds as much as possible. What is "ministry"? I would assume that if you asked the average person what the word means, he or she would say some variation of "service in/for/during/at a church"...and yes, this is partly true. One of the definitions (for the Hebrew word that means "ministry") IS "service in the tabernacle"...but that's only a part of it. But that same word, "ministry," also means to serve food and/or drink, like waiting on tables! The very same word means to care for the poor and to give them money. What's my point? That we, as a whole (church) world, have the idea of ministering/ministry slightly skewed or should I say we only have a piece of the puzzle! Ministry should NOT only happen inside our local churches!! Who, then, is helping the poor (in finances) and poor in mind/body/spirit? What changes are being made in our world if we are all simply ministering to one another inside the four walls?! People say that 'dance is universal' and things like that! Having been a part of dance ministries, I can say that it truly is. I've been able to "reach" people, and "be reached" by those whose language I don't speak, people with whom I have nothing (but dance and/or loving God) in common and with folks I wouldn't otherwise meet! I've effectively been ministered to, and I think effectively ministered to others, through dance on countless occasions!

Lastly I think that it's vital that we all get to a place where we realize that God created us ALL to do SOMETHING! Some of us may become famous or known worldwide as the first Black president who lets little children know that dreams can become reality or as the guy who created a computer corporation and became a billionaire who gives away more money than most people will ever earn in their lifetime. However, there are others of us will touch lives in a much quieter way, such as becoming a professional belly-dancer who inspires women to get up and dance and love themselves while doing it...or by being the best mother to her children who inspires & encourages them to become someone great or by being the best husband to his wife and therefore sets an example for other men!

My very long-winded point is that ministry is SO much more (and at the same time, so much LESS) than what people would have us to believe! So, dance, sing, serve food at a soup kitchen, go read books to a child at a library! Most importantly, just spread God's love and lift up Jesus' name!


Toya said…
What a beautiful post and I thank God that my post inspired you to write this one.
Tonyette said…
Thank you, Toya!! I really was inspired by your post...and I really MUST see you dance again because it really is quite beautiful and inspiring! Did I tell you my MOTHER wanted to learn after seeing you?

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