By Rev. Lori Ethridge
Minister to Senior Adults
As a clergyperson in the process of ordination in the United Methodist Church, I am required to meet monthly for a period of at least three years with other ministers under supervision. In these meetings, we discuss Wesleyan theology and best practices for ministry within our various contexts. Last month, I was asked in a mock interview how I might make the sacraments more engaging. The question made me think of an
experiment I had heard about recently, done at the University of Oxford, on the health benefits of dancing with others.
In this study, the pain tolerance of two groups of volunteers was measured using a blood pressure cuff on the biceps before and after the volunteers danced. In the study, one group was taught a choreographed dance, yet the control group was taught no dance steps. What the
researchers found was that those who had been taught the same dance steps synchronized their movements with others on the dance floor. Oddly enough, these volunteers were able to withstand significantly more pain when tested with the blood pressure cuff the second time. In other words, their pain threshold increased. However, those who were not taught any choreography experienced either no change in their pain perception or an increase in their pain perception, meaning some actually reported feeling more pain than they had initially felt.
There are two sacraments recognized in United Methodist theology, baptism and Holy Communion. According to John Wesley, both are means of grace and are outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual reality. What, you might ask, does the dancing experiment have to do with engaging the sacraments? If we dare to think about the liturgy as the music, then in some ways, our moving together toward the altar to
engage the Divine is a dance. The first Sunday of the New Year, we will celebrate Holy Communion and the second Sunday of 2017, we will
remember our baptism. On both occasions we will get up out of our pews and move, as if choreographed, to participate in the sacraments. The Lord is inviting you; let’s not sit these dances out. Let’s kick up our heels and join in the divine dance together this New Year; after all, dancing is good for your health!