Gail and I are northbound on US31 this sunny afternoon headed to our tent site at Ludington State Park.  We are taking several days to enjoy Michigan before returning home to prepare for Jamboree (tenting) and CBLI (no tenting).

I wanted to share what I saw this past weekend in Merrillville IN.  Bandsmen, singers, dancers, and some very funny people gathered at the Star Theater.  Every three years the Salvation Army sponsors a gospel arts festival that draws a couple thousand of us for a marathon weekend of performances and worship.  By the end you have heard and seen over a hundred presentations.  Some are, well, okay.  But most are stirring and wondrous.  And a few are transcendent.  I was transfixed many times, especially by the creative and imaginative ways some were able to work with what they have.

By noon Saturday it was apparent that worship in movement has finally come into its own in our Army.  Years past we’ve had interpretive movement, a little shuffling of the feet, a liturgical dancer here and there.  Rarely have we been stunned in awe.  And if the artists did dance and move, we Army people haven’t been sure we ought to appreciate it.  We yet have cobwebs gracing corners of our aesthetic sensibilities.

But this weekend, the Army danced!  It was pure joy to see onstage the young women ensemble from Minnesota, especially the littlest girls dance, dash offstage, and then dash on back for the finale.  Iowa City’s young people in mime and motion.  And the three young women from Kansas City Bellefontaine were absolutely stunning.  Full of grace and truth.  And numerous other times in small ways showing that we are learning something about the good news artfully presented in movement.

And we all got it.  Around me was nothing but appreciation and joy at watching grace and truth in motion.  We still appreciate the brass band (Kansas City Northland Corps, what fine ensemble playing).   But we are getting it, and getting into expressing our faith in movement.

The fluid play which dance and movement allows was paralleled by hip hop poetry from Detroit’s GCF (God Comes First).  St Louis Temple’s robed young people sang (they were a little nervous). 

Gospel arts from urban places have not always been able to escape their place in the margins of Salvation Army life and culture.  This past weekend they moved onstage at the Star Theater in a way that may show we now are beginning to see and hear urban worship in this Army.

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