Ok, I’ll admit it. I caught the Zumba bug. I can’t help it – I LOVE dancing (which is not to say I’m any good at it). It’s one of the reasons I wanted to be a camp director – camp is one of the only places in the world where it’s socially acceptable to break into dance at any time. Zumba also allows me this luxury as often as four times a week. The music is so loud, and I’m in a whole room full of friends (because when you’re dancing together, you’re friends. That’s just how it works.) and I don’t have to think about anything except the next move. It helps that I have the BEST. INSTRUCTOR. EVER. I’m not sure how she always makes it seem like she’s having the time of her life all through every single class, but somehow she does, and her energy is completely contagious. She’s having so much fun that you can’t help but have fun with her. I leave in the best mood. And then I hear some of our songs on the radio, and I get to re-live the whole experience in my car in the middle of the work day, and that’s pretty awesome too.
When I have to miss Zumba, I’m not a very happy camper. (Get it?? Camper? I’m a camp director! I know, I’m hysterical.) But really, if a meeting comes up, or I have to pick up someone at the airport, or if I have some other work commitment – it’s hard for me to know I’m missing something so great. I know an incredible experience is being had, and I’m not there to share in it.
So it was a little hard for me when my instructor scheduled a new class for Sunday mornings. Clearly this is not a good time for me. I’ve tried to be a big girl about it. After all, I feel incredibly blessed to be doing what I’m doing as a priest. But on some mornings when I’m driving to a church around the Diocese, I can’t help but feel a little twinge of sadness that I can’t also be dancing. If only I could be in two places at once!
Last Sunday was like that a little. I was really excited to be at Church of the Redeemer in Providence, but I was really sad to be missing Zumba. That’s what this picture is all about – I wanted my Zumba peeps to know I was with them in spirit. Admittedly this picture, or the taking of this picture, caused me some embarrassment when a member of the parish pulled up along the side of the road as I was posing in front of the church sign. I had not yet met any of the members of this church, and this wasn’t exactly the first impression I was looking to make: “Oh – hi. I’m your supply priest today. I was just dancing. In front of your sign. On a very busy road. It’s nice to meet you.” Sigh.
But then I got to thinking – is it that terrible for parishioners to see me dancing on their church lawn? In my sermon that morning I talked about joy and about how sometimes, in the midst of balancing all of our other callings as Christians, we forget that we are called to joy. For some reason it’s easier to remember that we are called to be compassionate, forgiving, generous, penitent, service-oriented, prayerful, etc, etc, etc. And those things are all an important part of our Christian life – without question. But we are also called to be joyful. And it is my personal opinion that if we could share more joy with one another we might just be more motivated to do all of the other things that come with following Christ. If we woke up on Sunday mornings and couldn’t WAIT to get to church because the experience of being there swelled our hearts and made us want to sing and dance and celebrate, how much easier would it become to give more of ourselves and our resources to better our church community and consequently our wider communities?
What would happen if church were more like Zumba? If the priests and deacons and acolytes and vestry members came every week and offered the same kind of enthusiasm and energy that my Zumba instructor gives us in class? What would happen if we truly didn’t want to be ANYWHERE else but with one another for those hours of the week? How great would it be if people didn’t want to miss church because they knew they’d be missing an incredible experience? What if we spent the whole week driving around in our car and re-living our worship together on Sunday morning? What if church was just a little more fun?
Now, I want to be clear about something. Just because I want church to be a little more like Zumba doesn’t mean I don’t take church seriously. I take church very seriously. I take following Jesus very seriously. I believe – without a doubt – that if we really take part in this holy journey that we can change our own lives and that of others, and that we can glorify God in the process. I just also believe that our Christian journey doesn’t need to feel like a burden or an obligation – something we have to do. Instead I think it should be something we are excited to take part in. I also think it’s important to note that there are churches that are making this happen, and people that wake up excited to go to church on Sundays. So I know it’s possible. I want us to enjoy being with one another so much that we wouldn’t want to miss it for the world. I want church to be so great that it makes us feel like dancing. I want us to practice abundant joy in everything we do. Because JOY is contagious. Joy is inspiring. Joy motivates us to make the world we live in a better place. We are called to be joyful. So come on people… let’s dance!