Radical inclusion. Subversion. Breaking down barriers, challenging oppressive powers, lifting up those pushed down. And just plain shak'n to the beat!
What happened the other week during our dance/service in the alley behind our building was both simple and profound. It was a ton of fun and a serious statement. It was an intentional reclamation of space and a spontaneous scene. What happened? We moved our dance party (a twice-yearly Mosaic tradition) into a public sphere. We danced, shared testimonies, took communion, and danced some more. It was both challenging and freeing, for many reasons.
First, I confess, I have a need to draw out its meaning, I feel compelled to put my finger on its significance, to honour, share and learn from it. So here are my thoughts and reasons. . .
Aaron: We all responded to the God-giftedness of our friend Aaron Leakey (a.k.a. DJ Samson) as he blessed us with his talent. Aaron was made to spin, and has a heart for doing so in the context of commissioning his audience to meditate on social justice issues. Watching him in his element, doing what he loves, everyone was touched by that gift as we felt our convictions stirred and inner dancers released.
The Dance: Ever since our first dance a few years ago (a trepidatious experiment which we are very happy we tried!), we have discovered how dancing is a chance to celebrate, be free and enter into honest and life-giving worship. Aaron began his set by quoting a friend who said "let's dance as if no one is good-looking!" -- this apt call gave us permission to dance free of cares and egos. It took some people a while to heed it, and some enjoy dancing more than others of course, but eventually everyone was on their feet. Our 2-year-old running-around dancer, our 82-year-old champion ballroom dancer, and everyone in between. The healthy and weak, the middle-class and impoverished, White, Asian, Aboriginal. . . we danced together. In all the things we've done as a community, our dances have been some of our most participatory and inclusive times, and this night was no exception. And when passers-by stopped and joined too, they actually danced with the least abandon of all. What a blessing.
The Alley: Our parking lot, in a light-industrial zone of Vancouver, devoid of trees, only a few homes, very little life really. Southeast False Creek is full of creative people, but the streets themselves are barren and boxy. The alleys are strewn with garbage. In this place, a concrete space made for cars and not for people -- here beautiful, energizing music poured out, lights shone, we shuffled, leapt and laughed. I felt we were reclaiming the land as a living space, a space for experiencing God the Creator, the Artist. The sterile commercial building faces were suddenly receptors of colour and light, dancing shadows, echoing rhythms. . . infused with redemption and life, if only for a night.
Spontaneity: We had planned to hold the dance at our space, as usual. But the weather called for summer heat and an uncomfortable (west-facing) venue. On Thursday, Miriah suggested we hold the dance outside, in the parking lot. I hesitated: umm. . . yeah. . . sure. . . why not? Well, why not? Aaron jumps on the idea. Questions ran. Would it rain? Were the police going to shut us down? Would anyone come? Would they actually dance in public, or would it be embarrassing and silly? We couldnâ€™t know, and we chose not to care and just go for it.
I've found that when we are open to unconventional ideas that put us at risk of opposition or reputation, then God gives us so much room to work. And work he did, in me, in everyone who danced, and in our neighbourhood, powerfully.
So, was it a breaking in of the kingdom of God, or an undignified motley of dancers in an alley. . .? It was both.