Everyday God-Talk explores the joy of dancing

Learn a line dance with host So Jung Kim, taught by West Coast Swing dancer Michael Gehrling 

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

Michael Gehrling takes So Jung Kim through a series of dance steps during an Everyday God-Talk episode called “Everyday God-Dance.” (Screen shot)

LOUISVILLE — When he first saw the Everyday God-Dance video, the Rev. Dr. Barry Ensign-George, the coordinator of the Office of Theology & Worship, said he loved it.

“It reminded me in this difficult time that there’s such a thing as joy,” he said. “It was so hopeful.”

Ensign-George Is referring to one of the latest conversations on Everyday God-Talk with host So Jung Kim.  The Associate for Theology in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.),  Kim learns to dance from a colleague, the Rev. Michael Gehrling. The director of assessments for 1001 New Worshiping Communities is also an intermediate amateur West Coast Swing dancer.

Gehrling said he was excited when Kim came up with the idea for him to teach her how to line dance on Everyday God- Talk.

“Dancing has become spiritual for me,” he said, “where I experience communion with God.”

Before teaching So Jung three basic dancing steps, “The Charleston,” “The Grapevine” and “The Sideways Block,” Gehrling and Kim talked about how dancing has traditionally been frowned upon in the Reformed tradition.  The only reference in the PC(USA) Book of Confessions — in the Westminster Larger Catechism— cautions it might be ”lascivious,” or sexually offensive, which a laughing Gehrling said wasn’t the kind of dance he’d be teaching.

“In our tradition I think we placed such an emphasis on our mind and being cerebral to a fault,” he said.  “We don’t place a whole lot of emphasis on the aesthetic.”

Gehrling said dancing has helped him appreciate his body and think more deeply about God sending God’s son, Jesus, into the world through the incarnation. It’s made him realize that while there is something fundamentally holy about our bodies, churches in the Reformed Tradition haven’t spent much time affirming them.

During this time of separation in the pandemic, where many are meeting and worshiping online, Gehrling said it’s easy to get fatigued very quickly. He believes this happens because we’re unable to communicate with body language as we would during in-person conversations — and that we must make up for that deficit with even more verbal and mental energy.

“Zoom denies our embodiment,” he said. “We often don’t use our bodies like we would if we were physically together.”

Michael Gehrling smiles while teaching dance steps during “Everyday God-Dance.” (Screen shot)

Gehrling hopes those watching the video might consider taking the steps Kim learned back to their churches to try in worship. He said all you need to be able to do to learn the dance taught here is to walk.

“My 90-year-old grandmother can do this dance,” he said. “Dancing helps us all with courage.  It connects our bodies to what we’re feeling and thinking creatively. It does wonders for us.”

Kim said mastering the steps Gehrling taught her in the Everyday God-Dance video was very energizing — and even spiritual, as if she could feel the movement of the Holy Spirit.

“Michael and So Jung’s own enjoyment of the moment is clear,” Ensign-George said. “I’m hopeful this Everyday God-Dance will bring the joy of the Lord to others.”

Watch and learn along with So Jung Kim the 32 counts of  Gehrling’s line dance on this edition of Everyday God-Talk.

 Frank Trace is the choreographer of this line dance — and the song used is “Step in the Name” by Bryan Popin. Gehrling said any song with 130-140 beats per minute and a straight rhythm in 4/4 time would work in worship.


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