The Dance of Diversity
A church isn’t exactly the first place you think of going to be inspired by dancing – especially dances with names like “the Dougie,” “Cha Cha Slide” or “Cupid Shuffle.” What happened at the church my wife and I attend last Sunday afternoon, however, was inspirational beyond, well … beyond belief.
But first, a brief meandering down memory lane.
As far back as I can remember, my family has attended church. I was raised in the Presbyterian church. My grandparents were prominent members of Glendale Presbyterian. My parents belonged to La Crescenta Presbyterian and my siblings and I were regulars at the various youth activities there. Now, if you know anything about the Presbyterian denomination, it’s not exactly a hotbed of wild celebration and emotional release. Trust me, they don’t call Presbyterians the “Chosen Frozen” for nothing.
How dull and dry were our services? Even the Catholics showed us up. When I was in high school during the ’70s, two members of my rock band whose families attended local Catholic churches would often invite me to play drums at their contemporary “guitar mass” services. Okay, so we didn’t exactly rock the rectory, but six- and 12-string guitars, electric basses and drums were a whole lot more praise-worthy to my teenage ears than a matronly organist laying down a dusty hymnal groove for a purple-robed choir. Ahem. I mean, Amen.
Okay, scroll forward a few decades. As an adult, my faith ‘evolved’ (to coin a phrase ripped from recent headlines) towards the more evangelical, non-denominational church and – after spending years at a couple of different local churches – my wife and I became members of Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena. Having transitioned from a less-than-200 member church to a so-called “mega church” of over 5,000, it took us a while to adjust to worship services that often included a full concert orchestra, professionally produced dramatic presentations and a video monitor the size of a drive-in movie screen (for readers under 50, Google “drive-in movie”). After attending for more than 11 years, however, the numbers of people and production-values of the services seemed totally normal to us.
That said, early this year, my wife and I found ourselves as part of a new church plant called Fellowship Monrovia. We were drawn to the new church not only by the powerful, biblical teaching of its force-of-nature pastor Albert Tate, but also by its mission to be a church of unique diversity.
Sure, it’s a schlep to drive way out the 210 from La Crescenta every Sunday morning, but it’s been nothing short of a weekly blessing to witness and be a part of not only the miraculous growth of this new church body, but also of its remarkable diversity.
Take this past Sunday, for example. After the second service, we all gathered together with blankets and lawn chairs across from the Monrovia Civic Center in Library Park for our first ever all-church picnic.
There on the green expanse of lawn, under the stately oaks and a remarkably blue early-June sky, it was a vision of heaven-on-earth to watch singles, couples and whole families of many colors and backgrounds, political views and economic statuses – from newborns and toddlers to teens, college-age hipsters, middle-aged grandparents and walker-wielding seniors – thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to fellowship together.
After we ate, and water-balloon battles were waged, the church’s diversity was even more apparent as an impromptu dance crew assembled in front of speakers set up on the park’s outdoor stage and many of our group began (each to the best of their abilities) to dance.
To watch members of this beautifully dissimilar group teach each other to how to dance the Macarena, Electric Slide, Cupid Shuffle, the Samba and other wonderful (and yes, somewhat cheesy) line dances was an experience I won’t soon forget.
I have to believe that watching the scene below, God was doing a happy little seat-dance on His heavenly throne.
I’ll see you ’round town.