Dance into Worship Workshop

A description by Angela Wilford of a day workshop at St. Paul's Church Centre inLondon on 9 November 2002 followed, by the Liturgy composed by John Brassington.

'What is it to die?' - from The Prophet by Kahil Gibran

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt in the sun? And what is it to cease breathing but to free the breath from its restless tides that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered? Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing, and when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly DANCE.

"The person who loves God is not afraid of death because it is looking into the face of God" - lgnatius Loyola

Death is a word that we all dread and yet one that has to be faced by all sometime, either for our loved ones or ourselves. When John Brassington suggested it should be the theme for our next DIW workshop I must admit to having misgivings as it is only a matter of months since I lost my own mother and I was concerned as to how I should react. It is probably the last topic in life that is not discussed freely, and this was brought home to me by the people who telephoned me to say they were so disappointed at not being able to attend the workshop, as they felt there was such a need to look into this subject.

Although a few people were unable to attend at the last moment due to illness, approximately 25 dancers congregated in the pleasant surroundings of St. Paul's Centre in London. After meeting and greeting each other, John led us in a warm-up that he followed by teaching us a beautiful dance to 'Amazing Grace'. The sustained movements made for a very spiritual dance, lifting us up and leaving us full of hope and love, and setting the tone for the day.

We then had to make the difficult choice between two dances choreographed by John and Sue Sinclair. Sue chose music from Dido and Aeneas, composed by Henry Purcell in the seventeenth century. She explained her dance as being based on the fact that we each have people we love in our lives but sometimes have to accept losing that person, allow ourselves a time of mourning but then let go and move forward. John's choice of music was John Tavener's Funeral lkos - a very moving chant. Both dances were very different and whereas Sue's was carried out working with partners, John's was broken into two groups, each of seven dancers, who came together to dance a chorus of 'Alleluias'. John's piece was eight minutes long and took a great deal of hard work to bring it together, in a relatively short time, for the Liturgy at the end of the day. However, as so often happens, the Holy Spirit stepped in with a helping hand at the right time.

I found the Liturgy, which John had devised, to be memorable and well worth all his hard work. It was a Service with just the right level of honest emotion and respect for those vvho have gone before, who each one of us held in our hearts that day. The meaningful words vvere beautiful and the colour of the autumn leaves, rose petals and rosemary that were strewn on to the 'coffin' (actually a shrouded trestle table) by each one of us at the beginning of the service, joined to give us all food for thought to take home and gave a new dimension to the funeral service.

The order of service, by John Brassington, now follows:


God be at Mine End

A liturgy at the time of remembering All Souls.

9 November 2002 at Saint Paul's Church Centre, Marylebone, London.

1. The Gathering
Entrance music.. Dead March from "Saul'- George Frederic Handel (1685-1759)

Dancers enter the Church. They come forward to scatter leaves, herbs and flowers over tbe coffin. When the music ends there is a moment of silence. Everyone remains standing for the Dialogue of the Pilgrim and the following Prayer.

Our days on earth pass like a shadow:
We are strangers and pilgrims on earth.
We are looking forward to the city with firm foundations:
whose maker and builder is God.
You have come to the city of the living God:
before the assembly of the citizens of heaven.
You have come to God Himself, the supreme judge:
and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant.

The Lord be with you:
And also with you.

Father in heaven
Nothing can separate us from your love in Christ.
Whether we live or die, we are yours.
When we waik through the valley of the shadow of death
we fear no evil, for you are with us.
We come beneath the cross of your beloved son
asking that in your mercy you will forgive our sins
and prepare us to rejoice with all your people in the holy city,
where there is no mourning nor crying nor any more pain.
May your life giving Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead,
raise us, heal us and save us
to praise you in all eternity. Amen.

Adapted from 'Prayers for Healing' by Canon John Gunstone.

Dance - Amazing grace

Amazing grace (how sweet the sound)
that saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind, but now I see

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
and grace my fears relieved;
how precious did that grace appear
the hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils and snares
we have already come:
'tis grace that brought us safe thus far,
and grace will lead us home.

When we've been there ten thousand years,
bright shining as the sun,
there's no less days to sing God's praise
than when we first begun.

Amazing Grace (how sweet the sound)
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind, but now I see.

Words by John Newton (1725-1807), American folk melody arranged by Edwin Othello Excell (1851-1921)

Everyone sits.

2. Readings

Ecclesiastes 12:1-8

Remember your creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come, and the years draw when you will say, 'I have no pleasure in them'; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return with the rain; on the day when the guards of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the women who grind cease working because they are few, and those who look through the windows see dimly; when the doors on the street are shut, and the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up of the sound of a bird and all the daughters of song are brought low, when one is afraid of heights, and terrors are in the road; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags himself along and desire fails; because all must go to their eternal home, and the mourners will go about the streets; before the silver cord is snapped, and the golden bowl is broken, and the pitcher is broken at the fountain, and the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the breath returns to God who gave it.

Gospel of John 11:25-26

'I am the resurrection and the life,' says the Lord. 'Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who believes in me will never die.'

Dance - Funeral Ikos.

Why these bitter words of the dying, O brethren, which they utter as they go hence?
I am parted from my brethren. All my friends do I abandon, and go hence.
But whither do I go, that understand I not, neither what shall become of me yonder;
only God, who hath summoned me, knoweth
But make commemoration of me with the son: Alleluia.

But whither now go the souls? How dwell they now together there?
This mystery have I desired to learn, but none con import aright:
Do they call to mind their own people, as we do them?
Or have they forgotten all those who mourn thern and make the song: Alleluia.

We go forth on the path eternal, and as condemned,
with downcast faces present ourselves before the only God eternal.
Where then is comeliness? Where then is wealth? Where then is the glory of this world?
There shall none of these things aid us, but only to say oft the psalm: Alleluia.

If thou host shown mercy unto man, O man, that same mercy shall be shown unto thee;
and if on an orphan thou hast shown compassion, that same shall deliver thee from want.
If in this life the naked thou hast clothed, the same shall give thee shelter there,
and sing the psalm: Alleluia.

Youth and the beauty of the body fade at the hour of death,
and the tongue then burneth fiercely, and the parched throat is inflamed. The beauty of the eyes is quenched then, the comeliness of the face is altered;
the shapeliness of the neck destroyed and the other parts have become numb,
nor often say: Alleluia.

With ecstasy are we inflamed if we but hear that there is light eternal yonder;
that there is paradise, wherein every soul of righteous ones rejoiceth.
Let us all, also, enter into Christ,
that all we may cry aloud unto God: Alleluia.

(From the Orthodox liturgy for a dead priest; music by Sir John Tovener (1944-))

3. Prayers

Everyone sits or kneels for the Prayers. The response from Gospel of Luke 23:42 is sung; everyone repeats it immediately and again after each petition. Music for the response is by Jacques Berthier, Taize Community.

Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

Eternal Father, give to us, who are still on our earthly pilgrimage, and who walk as yet by faith, your Holy Spirit to lead us in holiness and righteousness all the days of our life.

Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

We lift up our hearts in gratitude for all those who have died and whom we remember now, for everything in their lives that reflected your goodness and love.

Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.

We ask you to bless and inspire those who work in the creative arts, that their imagination and skill may be used to your greater glory and the enrichment of human life and society. Fill us with your Spirit as we dance into worship - as we embody prayer.

Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.

We ask your mercy and peace on those who suffer - victims of the suicide bomber and the terrorist attack; the oppressed, the hungry, the homeless and refugees; all who have lost heart and lost hope.

Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.

Be close to those who sorrow and mourn the loss of family or friends, strengthen in them the gift of faith and give to their troubled hearts the consolation of your love.

Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.

There is a moment of silence, then everyone says the Lord's Prayer.

Lord Jesus, remember us in your kingdom and teach us how to pray:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed he your name,
your kingdom come,
your will he done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Do not bring us to the time of trial
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and forever. Amen.

4. Commendation and Farewell.

We offer thanks for those who have gone before us and through whom life has flowed to us, for those from whom we have received, whose understanding and wisdom and acts of love and kindness still live among us in our memories of them. We give thanks for those among whom we have lived and loved, for the delight and shelter of their friendship and for the moments of joy that have opened and expanded life for us.

(From 'An Earthful of Glory' (1989) - Philip Newell.)

People may speak the names of those who have died and others who may be dying. Please speak the names clearly. This is concluded with the response...

Into your hands, O Lord, we commit our living and our dying:
Into your hands, O Lord. (from Psalm 31)

Silence is kept for the thoughts and prayers of each individual person.

Dance - Dido's Lament

When I am laid in earth,
May my wrongs create no trouble in thy breast:
remember me, but ah! forget my fate.

(Music from Dido and Aeneas - Henry Purcell (1658-1695))

5. The Dismissal

Support us, 0 Lord,
all the day long of this troublous life,
until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes,
the busy world is hushed,
the fever of life is over
and our work is done.
Then, Lord, in your mercy
grant us safe lodging, a holy rest, and peace at the last:
through Christ our Lord. Amen.

May God in his infinite love and mercy
bring the whole Church,
living and departed in the Lord Jesus,
to a joyful resurrection
and the fulfilment of his eternal kingdom. Amen.

Let us go now in peace
In the name of Christ. Amen.

Everyone departs in silence.

The Service was prepared by John Brassington for Dance into Worship - October 2002. It follows the liturgical shape of the Funeral Service in Pastoral Services of Common Worship, authorized by the Archbishops' Commission for use in the Church of England, except that there is no actual committal of a body to its resting place. (This would follow section 4 - Commendation and Farewell) and there is no sermon with the Readings.

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