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Personal Reflection: Experiencing Liturgy through the Senses


Carol Pierce-Davis

I’d arrived late for the Wednesday evening Healing Service. Add to that I still had my dog in tow. Obviously, marching down the center aisle of the sanctuary to join the small group in the side chapel was not the thing to do. So Ace and I sat in the narthex and listened.

In the solemn quiet, with only the sounds of liturgy drifting in the air, I was moved. I was hearing liturgy in a way I’d never before experienced. It wasn’t just the words. It was the rhythm of the spoken word that powered it up and moved my heart and made me want to move my feet. I don’t know why it felt like some new thing. We all know that when words are accompanied by rhythm, something dramatic can happen and has, since the beginning of time.

When the Holy Spirit moved across the waters, creation began. It started with rhythm, the rising and setting of the sun in the first song of day and night. It grew into the rhythm of breeze in the trees, the flutter of birds’ wings, and the heartbeat of a man and a woman breathing in synchrony to the music of love and discovery.

Throughout my early adulthood, I danced in recitals, concerts, musicals, festivals and churches. In those venues, preceded by hundreds of classes and rehearsals, I grew in grace, strength and connection in ways that don’t come when sitting around, doing nothing. As unabashed Episcopalians, we know that! We don’t sit idly in our pews on Sunday morning. We perform worship! We bow and genuflect and kneel in a choreographed dance of worship, growing in grace, strength and connection with each other and with God.

From beginning to end of worship, we are transported – moved – to a different sense of who God is in our lives and what he would have us do. We may not recognize it at the time. But once the drumbeat of the spirit has moved you, the doors to a new venue will be opened. When the words of dismissal ring out, “Let us go forth into the world rejoicing in the power of the Spirit,” we will hear the drumbeat and go in grace, with a song in our heart and the strength to dance with David to the rhythm of our life. “Thanks be to God!”

6thSense: The vestibular system is the sense that lets us know where our body is in relation to gravity; it allows us movement and balance.
7th Sense: Proprioception is the sense that lets us know exactly where our body parts are. It is how we position ourselves in space and plan our movements.
2 Samuel 6:14-15 Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.
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