I LOVE to share, teach, learn, and dance to the glory of our Lord! Some 20 years ago, when I was in my early twenties, the assistant pastor of my church, Rev. John Welge, asked me if I would like to put my faith and dance together and serve as a part of worship services. I said; “What? In our church?” I had been dancing since I was a little girl, but I had never considered liturgical dance, and I didn’t really know what it was about. To me, dance was a performance. But I was being asked to present dance not as a performer, but as part of the worship experience.
I thought and prayed about it, and finally agreed to dance in a worship service. Pastor Welge thought it best to introduce liturgical dance to our congregation at an outside venue: our annual church picnic. My dance was well received by almost everyone. Several people told me that day that they could see the words of the song through my facial expressions and movements, and I felt the Holy Spirit had started something in me.
I went on to dance at worship services at New England District youth gatherings and at a New England District pastors’ convention. After seeing me dance at a training session for district youth ministry directors in St. Louis, Rev. Terry Dittmer called and asked me to dance as a soloist at the 1983 National Youth Gathering in San Antonio, Texas. After that, I was asked again to be a soloist at a youth gathering in Washington, D.C. I have been the choreographer for the Liturgical Dance Troupes at three more National Youth Gatherings. I have had several dances published, been part of many worship services, and taught many workshops throughout the United States.
God continues to bless me! Who would ever think all this would happen because my pastor asked me a simple question?
To dance to the Lord is to give Him praise. David and Miriam are among those named in Scripture as dancing to the Lord. The Psalmist repeatedly says, “To praise His name with dancing” and “To praise Him with timbrel and dance.” Maybe you have considered yourself or someone in your church to be part of worship in liturgical dance. Anyone can participate in sharing dance and movement to the glory of God. I have met many people who said initially that they didn’t think liturgical dance could be part of their worship, but who changed their minds after experiencing it. You never know until you try. It takes time, study, practice, and lots of prayer, but it is worth the effort.
The Lord has given us all different talents, gifts, and skills to spread His Gospel. His gifts in us draw others to join in glorifying Him. Dance is one of those gifts, but all people, despite talent, background, or age, can participate in some type of liturgical movement or dance. The reason I say ‘movement or dance’ is because this movement can be as simple as a hand gesture while sitting or simple moves that children can do, or as complicated as the dance of a well-rehearsed, trained, studied, choreographed dance troupe.
When worshiping with liturgical dance or movement, the person leading must remember to stay within the talents of the group. An important thing to always remember: keep things simple and clean, and remember what it is you are trying to express in your dance, be it an interpretation of a song, prayer, or Bible verse. You must always remember that your face is the most important visual aspect. If you are doing a beautiful hand movement and your face isn’t expressing the words of your script, the love and joy of the words will not be adequately portrayed. Liturgical dance is worship in motion. Before choreographing, start with prayer to open your mind and heart to the Holy Spirit. You will be filled and your gift of dance will be a wonderful worship experience for others to share.
If you have youth who would like to dance in church, you as the leader must first of all determine what level of talent your group has and in which part of worship you wish to participate. I once led a workshop at an International LWML convention on the Lord’s Prayer. I had a very large class of women, most of whom had never taken a dance lesson in their lives. We broke into groups and after teaching them a few ground rules they created one of the most beautiful interpretations of the Lord’s Prayer I have ever seen. Even if you, as the youth leader, are not a dancer, maybe someone in your church or community is, and they can help you start a liturgical dance program. I would be glad to give you any advice I have or just brainstorm with you. Feel free to email me at Dwardenburg@charter.net, anytime!
Blessings as you consider, begin, or continue to “Praise the Lord with Dance!”
Diane Wardenburg serves as choregrapher for the National LCMS Youth Gathering Mass Worship dancers.