Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Dancing in Front of the Casket

I went to a funeral recently that was one of the most wonderful resurrection experiences I've ever had. It was for an outstanding Methodist laywoman and friend, held at a Missionary Baptist Church where some of her family attend. It was so amazing, so energizing to attend a funeral of African American style and spirituality. The singing, the constant improvisation, the musical praying, the dialogue of Word and music, and the wonderful processional and recessional was a rich liturgy, though not in the sense I have usually thought of liturgy. It was so freeing, and so joyful. It opened my heart.

One of the most striking moments was when the choir was singing a selection and a woman near the front, dressed in a pink pants suit, jumped up and started dancing in front of the coffin. I don't mean a "liturgical dance" ... I mean it was a holy boogie! She just danced in joy around our friend's body. I'd never seen anything like it, and since I was sitting to the side (near the piano where I shared a musical selection earlier), I got a full view of her face. In some ways, it was the most beautiful worship moment I've ever seen. I found myself swept away for a moment into the glory of heaven.

And why not dance in front of the casket? Do we not believe in resurrection and new life? Do we not believe our friend had been ushered into heaven? How can we hold back this joy?