Sunday, February 06, 2011

Dancing in Church!!

I remember a church members meeting in Dunstable when stakes were being firmly driving into the charismatic coffin - Stanley Jebb and some of the elders were discussing some elements of charismatic life that they didn't like - and this included dancing. Apparently David Fortune (then elder and now a prison worker in London) had done some research to disprove the practice of dancing as not having biblical precedent.

I've always greatly enjoyed dancing - particularly at the Stoneleigh Bible Weeks or the Brighton conferences. It truly is a marvellous way of expressing joy and celebration in God. And I remember once wondering and pondering whether the more that the church snuffs out dancing as a biblical way of church life, the more Christians will seek out dancing in night clubs to continue to express that emotion.

So I'm absolutely thrilled that Lex Loizides has written a recent blog looking at the history of dancing. Here it is - in fullness;

Dancing in Church!

The Origins of Dancing in Church!

It may be unrealistic to try and specify a moment when dancing in church meetings became popular.

The specific reason for such exuberant joy is obvious to all who know the power of the gospel.

This was highlighted with characteristic insight by CH Spurgeon who noted that Isaiah 35:6 states that the mute man doesn’t merely talk but ‘shouts’ and the lame man doesn’t merely walk but ‘leaps’, when the power of the gospel works in his life!

In the truest sense, then, the origins of dancing in church are in the normative human responses of those who are freed by the power of the revelation of the love of God in Jesus Christ. This ‘gospel revelation’ is communicated to them by the Holy Spirit. This may well be why so many charismatics quote the verse ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty!’ (2 Cor 3:17)

‘This is the Holy Ghost, Glory!’

And now we return to the early Methodists, who at the close of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th Century, began to dance!

This, let it be known, was considered dangerous and divisive, but from this distance of time, the descriptions are humourous:

‘At the spring sacrament at Turtle Creek in 1804, Brother Thompson had been constrained just at the close of the meeting to go to dancing, and for an hour or more to dance in a regular manner round the stand, all the while repeating in a low tone of voice: “This is the Holy Ghost, Glory!”

‘But it was not till the ensuing fall or beginning of the winter that [they] began to encourage one another to praise God in the dance, and unite in that exercise, justly believing that it was their privilege to rejoice before the Lord, and go forth in the dances of them that make merry.’

The Methodists used popular tunes, from the ‘drinking-saloons and playhouses’ and added new Christian lyrics.

Shaking Hands during Worship

Winthrop S. Hudson, in his article, ‘Shouting Methodists’ relates how it was common to shake hands during the close of a service, whilst still singing:

‘Shaking Hands while singing was a means, though simple in itself, to further the work. The ministers used frequently, at the close of worship, to sing a spiritual song suited to the occasion and go through the congregation and shake hands with the people while singing.

‘And several, when relating their experience at the time of their admission into the church fellowship, declared that this was the first means of their conviction.

‘The act seemed so friendly, the ministers appeared so loving, that the party with whom the minister shook hands would often be melted in tears.’

Other ‘Physical Manifestations’

At the risk of casting doubt over the credibility of the main body of these American Methodists, yet unable to resist an hilarious final paragraph, I quote Hudson once more concerning some physical phenomena that was reported amongst some of them.

An eye witness reported that sometimes, before being impelled to dance, a person’s head would ‘fly backward and forward, and from side to side, with a quick jolt.’ This phenomena was given a name: ‘the jerks’!

‘Sometimes…the whole body would be affected. The more a person labored to suppress the jerks, the more he staggered and the more rapidly the twitches increased.’

Although this was observable, it was not considered proper to merely imitate this behaviour in order to appear more spiritual! So that’s sorted that out!

In the mean time, don’t be afraid to truly rejoice in the magnificent salvation that you have received in Christ!

(Quotes from ‘Shouting Methodists’ by Winthrop S. Hudson, Encounter Magazine 1968)

© 2010 Lex Loizides

1 comment:

David said...

Dan, in the first instance you are absolutely right. God created people to express themselves through movement, and this includes by dancing. Rejoicing and dancing are often related in the old testament.

However, the new testament contains no mention of dancing in worship, so any discussion of the subject has to consider this. Pretty much everything we do in church is described in the book of Acts and the various letters, so should we draw any conclusions from the ommission of dance? If the first Christians danced in church, why didn't God make sure that this was included in the Bible? Neither you nor Lex have examined this.

So whilst I'm sympathetic to what you say, you need to make a much better case for it, from the Bible.

In addition, what I've seen called "dancing" is frequently unworthy of the term. Sometimes people call it "dancing in the spirit" (a non-biblical phrase), in which case the Holy Spirit is a bad dancer!!