Faith • Hope • Love in Action
Dancing All the Way Home
More than 6,500 women gathered for worship the last morning of United Methodist Women’s Assembly, which included storytelling and dancing. The closing service expressed hope for healing. The hope was rooted deep in a biblical foundation, in the history of United Methodist Women, and in a creative and forward-looking worship experience. The closing service lifted the minds, hearts and spirits of the members of United Methodist Women as they were sent forth with singing and dancing.
In the morning’s Bible Study, the Rev. Anita Phillips, executive director of the Native American Comprehensive Plan, shared the story of the Cherokee people who were forced on a thousand-mile march, the Trail of Tears. As they traveled, the Native Americans lit campfires in the night, hoping to survive. Ms. Philips urged the healing of peoples, nations and the environment. In response, several young women from various faith backgrounds shared their stories.
Harriett Jane Olson, deputy general secretary of the Women’s Division, also spoke, urging the women to tell their stories, “to move forward along the journey.” She asked United Methodist Women members to continue to braid a prophetic vision into the future. “Our history is a long rope, which God holds. We are holding the line taut for more to cling on to.”
Ms. Olson offered the ministry of Jesus as an example: “The disciples said, ‘Wait! How can you spend time blessing the children when we’re already late? That’s not fair!’ Those were sound objections.” Yet, Ms. Olson assured the women, “In the economy of God, we don’t have limits. There’s still more to do to connect to the needs of the world.”
Ms. Olson especially lifted up United Methodist Women members for their lifelong commitment to work with the marginalized. She praised United Methodist Women members as they help women become leaders and life-long learners, as in the organization’s Schools of Christian Mission, the mention of which drew applause. “You cannot learn without being open to change,” Ms. Olson said.
Throughout the Sunday morning service, new music and performance dominated. DeRance Blaylock from St. Louis sung, “Love Justice. Do Mercy. Walk Humbly with God,” based on Micah 6:8, Also, from St. Louis, the Modern American Dance Company danced while several ascended ribbons strung from the stadium ceiling. On Twitter, Meosha commented, “Holy cow! Cirque de Soliel, Pink – you have nothing on the Modern American Dance Company at Assembly 2010.”
In the past, Methodists have been stereotyped for their refusal to dance, however this United Methodist Women’s gathering ended with a collective dance. The modern dancers and musicians led women in liturgical dance with hand and arm gestures that flowed into spirited dancing.
Women danced in the aisles to a song based on the Psalms 30:11, “Mourning to Dancing.” Jorge Lockward of Global Praise at the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries who coordinated the diverse group of 12 musicians and singers, said the music was chosen to reflect “a new heaven and a new earth.” Mr. Lockward quoted the song by Tommy Walker, “You've turned my mourning into dancing again. You’ve lifted me. I can’t stay silent. I must sing. For your joy has come.”
The dancing spilled into the streets of St. Louis – just as the day before women had taken to the streets in a march for immigrant rights.
In her closing remark, Ms. Olson reminded women to “Listen more. We will love each other. We will extend our influence. Our shadow will be long behind us.”
*Mary Beth Coudal is the staff writer for the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries. Like thousands of other United Methodist Women, she danced at the closing service of the Assembly.