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How Black churches brought dancing back to the church


Terracotta displaying King David dancing before the Lord.
Credit: Yair Haklai/Wikipedia/Creative Commons 3.0

An interesting article on Metro News explains how Black churches brought dancing back to the church in North America.

Throughout the Bible we see several references to religious dancing as an expression of joy and worship to God. Miriam led the women in a dance after God delivered Israel from Egypt (Exodus 15:20). David danced before the Lord as he brought the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:14) and the psalmist encourages us to praise God with the dance (Psalm 149:3).

But during the first few centuries following Christ’s death and resurrection dancing all but disappeared as church leaders condemned the practice.

But the Black church in America introduced dancing as part of its worship. Metro News explains:

In the PBS documentary series “The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song,” scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. shows how African Americans introduced new rhythms, music and dancing to Christianity from the days of slavery to the present. African American spirituals and the ring shout, a type of religious dance, provided some enslaved people with hope and perseverance.

While the Black Church enlivened Christian worship, there is an even older story of Christian dance that I tell in my 2021 book, “Ringleaders of Redemption: How Medieval Dance Became Sacred.”

Evidence from the ninth through 15th centuries in Western Europe suggests that Europeans not only tolerated dance, but incorporated it into religious thought and practice.

The article is a fascinating read on the history of dance in the church.

READ: Why Christianity put away its dancing shoes – only to discover them centuries later

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