exploring scripture through movement
“Our bodies are to be seen as essential, not secondary, to our God-given humanity.” - David O. Taylor
Imagine being in a quiet room with people in your congregation. You are moving and working together to explore scripture by using simple breathing exercises, group activities, and frozen images.
Everything you do is done corporately, so that no one feels like they are being put "onstage." You have the opportunity to see each other and to be seen without being in the spotlight, and most importantly, you have the opportunity to hear and explore scripture in a kinetic way.
This is a space to not just hear the words of scripture, but to feel them in your bones.
A Movement Workshop at Laity Lodge, October 2019
What is a movement workshop?
The goal of each movement workshop is twofold: to illuminate scripture by physically exploring the text, and to create community among participating members.
Each workshop is built on the following two principles:
Content is specifically crafted for the church
Workshops are accessible to everyone, regardless of age, mobility, or experience
Because every church or group is different and has different desires and needs, the movement workshops can be tailored in length, content, and style. A typical workshop is 2 hours and will include the following elements:
Individual movement exercises, done corporately
Group focus activities
Hearing scripture read and repeated
Discussion of the text
Physical recreation of scripture, using frozen image
Debrief and questions
Workshops can be shortened to an hour in length or extended to span an entire day.
What is the benefit of a movement workshop?
In many church traditions, the most common experience of interacting with scripture is through hearing it read or reading it oneself. The emphasis is on intellectually understanding the text. While a cognitive understanding of scripture is important, Jesus himself modeled an embodied faith in the way he used his own body to physically interact with the people around him. Jesus could have healed the blind and the lame by simply thinking or speaking it--but instead, he touched them.
By providing opportunities to our church communities to experience scripture in a physical way, we are not just caring for those members who are kinetic learners, we are also acknowledging that both our bodies and souls are essential to our faith. It is one thing to hear the story of the woman who touched Jesus' robe and was healed--it is another thing altogether to physically recreate that touch.
Aside from the benefit of exploring scripture in this way, a movement workshop can be a profound experience in and of itself. In our disembodied culture, it's easy to never take a moment to stop and breathe, and consider what it means to be grateful for our bodies and for the breath God has given us. We seldom have the opportunity to look into another person's eyes and feel like we are truly taking the time to see them, or to be seen--to acknowledge that they too were created in the image of God. As part of the body of Christ, recognizing and honoring the image of God in our brothers and sisters can have a lasting impact on the culture of our church.
A Movement Workshop at City Reformed Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, December 2019
How do I bring a workshop to my church?
I am happy to travel and would love to hear more about your church and its specific needs and desires. Please contact me for more information, or if you are interested in any of the following:
A workshop surrounding a specific theme (joy, suffering, relationship, gender, etc.)
A seasonal workshop (Easter, Christmas, Lent, Pentecost)
A population-specific workshop (women's retreat, youth group, parents, ministry leaders)
A longer workshop, with a short performance at the end
Whatever else you may have in mind!
"Ruthie’s physical theater workshops have been a great blessing to our church community. They have served as a wonderful avenue for us to care for our artists by providing a way for them to use their gifts to serve the Lord. They have helped our members grow in their faith by allowing them to experience the gospel story through the lens of beauty and wonder."
- David Richter, Minister at Seven Hills Church, Somerville
“I wasn’t sure what to expect from the workshop, but any expectations I might have had were blown-out-of-the-water exceeded. Contemplative prayer and movement, along with the scriptural tableaux created by my co-participants, gave me a much more holistic view and appreciation of Esther, Mordecai, and the people of Israel’s story. Ruthie is amazingly gifted at leading this very different approach to Scripture and prayer. When can we do it again?”
- Parishioner at Grace Northridge Anglican Church, San Antonio