August 2019 - Rector's Rambling


On 16 June, the Church of England celebrated Trinity Sunday; and during our mid-morning act of worship at St John the Baptist Church, I called my wife, Karen, onto her feet and offered some vague approximation of a dance with her to illustrate an aspect of my sermon.  This hauling onto the dancefloor was both an entire surprise to the lady herself and probably of mixed approval to the onlooking congregation: some of whom were perhaps horrified at the stylelessness of my dance steps and as to the depths to which the Church’s preaching had descended that morning.  (Others smiled, and thought it was rather sweet!).

No contracts have been forthcoming from the producers of ‘Strictly, come dancing’; but nor have I finished quite yet with the theme of dancing and God.

My point that summer’s morning was to compare the gentle, respectful interaction of the persons of the Holy Trinity with the courteous ways of a dancing couple: a moving, together and apart; honouring the other; and more beautiful in combination, than alone.  This analogy might be a little too theological for the parish magazine.

The theme of dancing, however, fascinates me, though I have no abilities personally upon the dance floor.  Indeed, I do not enjoy dancing, but rather feel humiliated by the whole experience. Graceful dancers are very clever and talented; but I remain distinctly uncomfortable at the propect of onlookers who will see through my supposedly confident (yet actually, desperate) twirls and arm gestures to an unmistakeable underlying ineptitude.    Like many men, I cling to the seats around the edges of the dancefloor not relishing the journey from the shadows into the spotlights.   Uniquely, though, I do enjoy dancing with Karen;  but with her alone; and in her absence I am reduced to self-consciousness and crippling inhibition.

Others speak of a similar unease.  I’m indebted to Catherine Fox, a novelist, who wrote searchingly of the same experience in a Diary article for the Church Times newspaper earlier this summer.  ‘The fear of being mocked’, she wrote, ‘is a powerful inhibitor’.  Dance like there’s nobody watching?  ‘Yeah, right’.  (She might have added, … ‘in my dreams!’).  And she went on to tease out why we find this unease so difficult to conquer.   Short of drinking ourselves into a state of unbotheredness, is there any sane way of dismissing our demons by a conscious and determined approach?

The spiritual approach might be to consider that it’s only God who matters, not human onlookers; and that one could dance as though ‘only Jesus was watching’.  Nice idea; but in practice, neither she nor I can successfully fool our inner klutz by such a subterfuge.   There is no denying, there are people out there (other than Jesus) who can see me.  If only I could be like an uninhibited infant, who as I watched her doing ‘the dingle-dangle scarecrow dance’ would never evoke from me anything other than appreciative smiles and delight.

But then Catherine hit on an idea.

How about taking hold of the brave notion that it is kind people who make up the majority of onlookers; and, then, trusting this truth?

It’s a device, that doesn’t come immediately to a shy and fearful one like me; but .. isn’t it a great thing, .. to trust people, and rightly imagine them to be good and kind .. and not, in the least, spiteful and ‘out, to do you down’?

It’s just another example of believing well of those around us: an outlook that will bear fruit far beyond the confines of the dancefloor!

After all, as I myself reassure the nervous bride or groom before their coming ceremony:  those people whom you know are behind you, and you can see out of the corner of your eye  ..  (Just believe it).  They’re all on your side!

Happy hoofing, 

Andrew Doye, Rector

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