Dancing Through Grief : Thursday Thoughts
     Phillips Memorial Baptist Church

Phillips Memorial Baptist Church
565 Pontiac Avenue
Cranston, Rhode Island  02910



Rev. Dr. Amy Chilton: phillipsmemorialpastor@gmail.com

  Pastor Amy's Thursday Thoughts

Dancing Through Grief

by Rev. Dr. Amy Chilton on 05/30/24

I spent this past weekend at Kripalu (a yoga retreat center in the Berkshires), where I participated in a weekend of yoga, rest, and dance at the “Dance Your Heart Out/Shake Your Soul” retreat.  While I rarely let anyone but my daughter see my dance moves, at Kripalu I found myself in a room of people, sometimes dancing together while the instructor led, sometimes on my own in a room of joyous dancing people, sometimes in partners or triads. I went because the director of the somatic therapy training program I participated in for the past few years was leading and in large part because I want to bring more embodied spiritual practices to our own community.

We Western Christians are good at praying with our brains, but we forget that God also created our breath and our bodies and we can pray with those too. In the second creation story we read that God made a human from the fertile topsoil and then “breathed into [his] nostrils the breath of life, and the [man] became a living creature” (Gen. 2:7). This text kept coming to mind as I did yoga and danced - my breath is God’s breath and my body part of God’s good and joyous creation.

As someone who loves intellectual pursuits, it is a challenge to drop out of my mind and into the rest of me - into my hands and arms and legs and feet and heart that beats and lungs that breathe. But, having spent a weekend exploring prayer and connection to God’s creation through breath and movement, I came home with a feeling of calm that was palpable.

I also arrived home to discover that while I was away and off my phone (Kripalu policy!), Israel had attacked Rafah and women and children already fleeing violence were burned to death in their tents. How does someone look at another human and believe that person should be dead? How does someone forget that the other person is also part of God’s good creation, that their bodies were also given life by the breath of God?

All of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures can be summed up in this way: Love God and love one another. While Jesus proclaimed this to be a new commandment in John 13:34 (I give you a new commandment: Love one another), this was already a teaching in Judaism. Leviticus 19:18 similarly exhorts people to love one another, “You shall not  take vengeance or bear a grudge…but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus showed what loving one another looked like, but God had always expected this of God’s people.

Who here has experienced this imbalance of joy and grief, of peace and turmoil? Who here has been discouraged when the world is so violent and wondered what difference their own peacemaking faith and life can even make? Oh – I’m not alone?!

I won’t be trite and say “just dance your way to joy!” But, I might say that when the news of people hurting people weighs you down, don’t give up your journey toward being someone who brings God’s radically inclusive love to the world. Ecclesiastes 3:4 says there is a time to weep and a time to dance - sometimes we have to do both things at once. And if what you need to do to keep the course of faith is to dance through the grief, then turn up the music and let your muscles, bones, connective tissues, heart, and lungs that God created move in rhythm with the tunes and let your heart break, heal, and connect with the Spirit who enlivens you. Because God knows that this world needs a few more people connected to the movements of the Spirit, able to love the world around them with an overflow of joy.


Pastor Amy

PS - Michael Franti & Spearhead’s “Show Me Your Peace Sign” is a good song to dance to when the violence of the world breaks our heart once again.

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