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Something Old, Something New

How does your congregation celebrate the Lord’s Supper? Is it a celebration, or is it a more somber, reflective experience? Do you take communion as a community, or is it more individualized? Maybe your answer is that it’s a little bit of everything, or maybe it depends on the time of year.

My home congregation celebrates the Lord’s Supper the same way about once a month. At certain times of year we may mix it up a little bit and go forward to the table rather than receiving communion in the pews. Other than that, things remain fairly static.

When I became a professing member, I was excited about being able to partake in communion. But then, as I got used to the words and motions, I began to pay less attention to the significance of the celebration.

Dance is a wonderfully effective way to freshen up what may feel like “old liturgy,” including the celebration of communion. Dance can bring about a beautiful marriage of literal and abstract, inviting those who are “untrained” in their eye for art to see things in a different way, while also drawing in those for whom art is a vital component of worship.

When sharing a meal, there is dialogue between the host and the guests. The same is true in worship—worship is dialogical, movements toward God, words from God toward his people, and also experiences shared between all God’s people gathered together.

The Worship Sourcebook identifies five elements of a Lord’s Supper liturgy. Depending on your background, this may look familiar, or it might not. But let’s walk through the five elements to see how dance may be incorporated into celebrating communion. As we do this, remember: because the focus of communion should be on Christ, the focus of your movements should be on Christ.

Declaration of God’s Invitation and Promises
The declaration often uses words from Scripture, and moving to those words is a beautiful way to enhance them. You could even use two groups of dancers to create movements for a responsive reading: one group representing the congregation’s spoken word and another group the leader’s words.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
The Lord’s Prayer is a great way to involve your congregation during this portion of communion. If the people in your pews are uncomfortable with doing movements themselves, then have a small group of dancers lead the congregation in prayer. Remind whomever is leading this part of the liturgy to invite the congregation to keep their eyes open during this prayer. Also consider inviting them to keep their hands open as they pray, so that they may see and receive the blessing of the movement. You can find a video with simple movements to the Lord’s Prayer online at tinyurl.com/LordsPrayerDance.

Preparing the Bread and Cup
Having a dancer bring the elements forward can be very effective and is one of my favorite parts of dancing during communion. Playing quiet background music or singing a verse or two of your congregation’s favorite communion hymn provides a wonderful backdrop to placing the elements on the table. Ask a dancer to carry a plate and cup down either the side or middle aisle (I usually balance a piece of bread on the plate but leave the cup empty.) The dancer can simply walk the elements in or dance them in with simple gestures. Once the elements are placed on the table, the dancer can use arm motions to invite the congregation forward to the feast.

Communion
For the actual communion portion, it might be difficult to have dancers moving while the elements are distributed or while members of the congregation are coming forward. Consider asking dancers to act as ushers, inviting certain rows of people to come forward at the appropriate time. The dancers could also hold ribbon streamers whose colors match the liturgical season.

Response of Praise & Prayer
Consider including dance during the responsive hymn or during a spoken or sung prayer.

I hope these ideas help you use movement to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, or any liturgical element, in ways that are new and fresh.