Moving with Spirit
by Jane Alexandre and Tom Goodridge
About 2 years ago, we began a conversation about movement, worship and spirit. We are restless movers, both: Jane Alexandre is a dance artist/scholar whose current practice and concerns center around community, obligation and belonging. Tom Goodridge attempts to worship through Spirit-led movement.
We began this experiment in movement at Morningside Monthly Meeting with a 30-minute session before meeting for worship, held in the meeting room. It was not the first time some Morningsiders had experimented with Spirit-led movement; perhaps ten years ago a group of up to five Friends practiced moving in the spirit, seeking to center and prepare for worship.
As we renewed our experiment in movement, we wondered whether our movement was preparation for worship, or was it worship?
We sought guidance in NYYM’s Faith and Practice, 2015:
“We value our times of waiting silently in holy expectancy. Many of us have quiet periods alone regularly; we share quiet before or after meals or with others in our meetings; silence is the context of our worship. Silence is also the context in which we come to inward reliance upon God. It brings us to our true commitment, our concerns, and our leadings…
“Our prayer is communion with God. We may express it in expectant longing for wisdom and help, or in praise, confession, petition, intercession, thanks, relief, awe, or grief…We lay before God not only our personal needs but the needs of others as well…In bringing our concerns before God we must be ready to accept God’s guidance.
“Quaker Community and Fellowship:
Our worship together gives us an opportunity to commune with God and one another.
1. Are meetings for worship…held in expectant waiting for divine guidance?”
Thus, our initial invitation to Morningside Meeting was as follows: “Friends’ worship has been characterized as a listening for the promptings of the still, small voice. Quaker practice seeks to attend to this quiet call, which seems to emerge from the interior of a gathered body of expectantly waiting Friends. Typically, Friends have together waited on Spirit in a seated position. Might there be other ways to wait expectantly?”
In some of our experiences with movement we have felt the promptings of Spirit. We have begun our sessions warming up to selected music. Sometimes Jane has offered us words, phrases, or emotions that we attempt to embody or which we allow to move us. Our movement experiments include both individual and collective movement.
Our experience of these past two years seems to be that we come together out of various urgings: of the spirit, of the body, of the community. Together we seek action, calm, release, intellectual exploration, and immersion in embodiment and music. Our practice has not been to process our experiments with words: only to move as worship, or as preparation for worship, or as something else, concluding in a silent gathered circle.
The Morningside movement group has continued to meet virtually since May, exploring together with the benefit of our shared experiences over the past couple of years. At our virtual NYYM Gathering we held a Meeting for Movement Interest Group that highlighted the distances, the remoteness, the challenges, the loss—yes, all of that—with which we struggle during the pandemic. At the same time, we presented the possibilities, the comfort, and hope that we seek by moving, together, with the spirit.