Contemporary Worship Gestures

2 February 2017

Running head: Contemporary Worship Gestures Contemporary Worship Gestures Contemporary Worship Gestures Every Sunday in churches across the globe, Christian believers come together to worship. These people come from all walks of life and various denominational backgrounds to experience and glorify God together.

Just as verbal cues are important, non-verbal gestures are also important and play a large part in these church services. ET Hall (2010) stated that “those of us who keep our eyes open can read volumes into what we see going on around us” (as cited in Knapp, M. nd J. A. Hall, 2010, p. 3). However, one might question whether gestures (particularly in the contemporary environment) have actual meaning as opposed to the solemn gestures associated with the traditional forms of worship.

Contemporary Worship Gestures Essay Example

Therefore, this paper will discuss several non-verbal worship styles and the meaning of these in the contemporary worship environment. Population: Contemporary Worship Gestures I chose to focus my research on contemporary gestures in worship, because often these gestures are misunderstood.The gestures associated with this type of worship have been around for centuries, but still many see gestures such as lifting of hands, dancing, or clapping to be signs of disrespect to God. The bible says in the Old Testament book of Lamentations 3:41 (English Standard Version) that we are to “lift up our hearts and hands to heaven”, and in the book of Psalms 47:1 The bible says “clap your hands, all you people; shout to God with the voice of triumph”.I believe that gestures performed in these services create a language of their own, and by researching differences in meanings of these gestures, there can be a more complete understanding of these communications. . Thus, I find this topic will be of interest especially to those who have had no prior knowledge and or experience in contemporary worship styles.

It is also important to note that there is no one wrong or right way to worship. The bible simply says “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. ” (Deut. :5) Whatever way an individual chooses to worship God is personal and does not have to reflect any one particular style. Contemporary Worship Gestures Hands in Worship- Where the traditional style of worship generally follows a solemn style of reverence by standing and reciting prayers or holding of hymnals while singing, a large portion of the contemporary approach involves the using of hands as a non-verbal expression of worship. Author Keith Drury states, “Hand-raising is a cultural expression—a means of non-verbal communication that carries meaning.What we do with our hands are often non-verbal words.

Gestures with the fingers, hand or hands do mean things. Like words, they are used as expressions in worship. ” Drury outlines five postures for the hands in worship today and how North American people tend to see their meaning. RECEIVE The posture of receiving is two handed, hands raised, palms facing up. The modern worshipper says with this posture, “God, respond to me, touch me, give to me, speak to me, fill me. ” It is an expression that symbolizes openness for receiving from God a touch, a work of grace, or a gift.Receiving hands were periodically used in camp meeting revivalism, especially during the third part of worship, called the “altar service.

” The worshippers or persons kneeling at the altar might be encouraged by the leaders to raise both hands to receive from God. STAND-IN-AWE The stand in awe gesture is two hands raised above the shoulders with palms facing up. The praise and worship movement has popularized stand-in-awe music and this posture has become an expression of engaged praise to God. It is a symbol of bowing to God in reverence and acknowledging his majesty and kingship in the life of the worshipper.SURRENDER This gesture is two hands raised in the universal symbol of surrender with palms facing out. Drury describes it as a physical act that represents absolute surrender to God. Worshippers use this type of gesture when connecting to God as a newly consecrated believer or exchanging personal will for God’s will.

TESTIMONY The testimony gesture is one hand raised with the palm facing outward. When a courtroom witness is sworn in, this gesture is used to symbolize truth telling and the sworn word of the witness.The church has used it as a testimony-witness posture, which allows the worshipper to agree and say “I testify that this is true in my life. ” Sometimes coupled with an Amen, many traditions use this gesture of agreement. COMMITMENT/VOLUNTEER The second use of the single hand posture is an act that says “I will” or “I volunteer. ” It is also one hand raised with the palm facing outward. It is an act that emphasizes willingness to do whatever God requires.

Dance in Worship- Another part of contemporary worship in gesture is in the form of dance.Dance is not generally seen in a traditional worship setting. The traditional style encompasses a reverence in gesture through the bowing of the head in prayer or by kneeling at an altar. These gestures are also embraced in the contemporary style of worship but unlike the traditional; dance is also an acknowledged part of worship. Dancing in the contemporary setting has been embraced and become an integral part of non-verbal expression. Praise in dance is mentioned throughout the bible. Sam 6:14 says “And David danced before the Lord with all his might.

Reverend Robert Ver-Eecke (2010) said, there are explicit references to dance as a form of worship in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures, especially in the Psalms. Traditionally, untrained members of religious groups performed basic movements that were incorporated into prayer rituals. But in the past few decades, more and more secularly-trained dancers have also started using technical dance vocabulary’ to express devotion to a higher power, both inside and outside of their places of worship. ” Bohen, C. (2010), Dancing for a higher power.Dance Spirit, 14(10), 58. One of the premier Christian dance groups in the United States is Ballet Magnificat.

This group teaches and performs liturgical dance in churches and auditoriums all over the world. Liturgy as defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary means rite or body of rites prescribed for public worship. Dancers using movement in this way are often referred to as “liturgical dancers. ” Though many liturgical dance choreographers rely heavily on lyrical, modern and contemporary dance vocabulary, any style of dance could be “liturgical,” as ong as the primary goal motivating the movement is honoring God. Bohen, C. (2010). Dancing for a Higher Power.

Dance Spirit, 14(10), 58-59. These professionally trained dancers, not only believe in the praise aspect of dance, but also adhere strongly to technique and form. Director Kathy Thibodeaux (2010) said, “there are a lot of people who have no dance training, who dance before the Lord as prayer time, but for what we do, we must have a technical background. ” Dance has a vocabulary, she says, and “it’s hard to speak if you don’t know the words. ” Bohen, C. (2010).Dancing for a Higher Power.

Dance Spirit, 14(10), 58-59. Sheri Hayden, is a 22-year-old dancer with Oklahoma City University’s Spirit of Grace Liturgical Dance Company who witnessed enthusiastic reactions last year while performing a lyrical jazz piece set to the well-known Christian hymn “Amazing Grace” “It was awesome because everyone was glorifying God in their own ways,” says Sheri. For the six dancers in this piece the performance was their praise. Bohen, C. (2010). Dancing for a Higher Power. Dance Spirit, 14(10), 58-59.

Liturgical dance is also instrumental in the art of storytelling.Stephanie Burklin is a nineteen year-old member of the Ballet Manificat’s training program and says one of her favorite dances is called Will you or Won’t you. This dance is inspired by a story in the Book of Daniel about three men who refuse to follow their king’s orders to worship a gold statue. In the biblical story, the men are sentenced to death, but God saves them. Created by Jiri Voborsky, the dance focuses on young people today and “how society often looks down on those who take a stand against things that have become the norm in our culture,” Bohen, C. 2010). Dancing for a Higher Power.

Dance Spirit, 14(10), 58-59. Conclusion Learning from these examples of nonverbal gestures in worship, I can attest that these gestures play an important role in worship styles today. While many people do not embrace these non-verbal gestures in worship, it’s clear that these expressions continue to grow in contemporary settings. Writing this paper has given me the opportunity to reflect about my own experiences in regards to non-verbal gestures in worship.I have also had the pleasure of being part of many worship services in my life as a worshipper as well as a leader of worship. I have viewed both ends of the spectrum. I’ve seen pew hopping Pentecostals to slow strolling southern Baptist and most variations in between.

I remember an experience a few years ago when I was approached by a woman after a service that I had lead. She expressed great pleasure about enjoying the musical group and the songs that were played, but said that the people were frozen and non-participating.She could not believe that individuals could be so restrained. She said she could not be herself in this type of atmosphere and would not be back again. At first, I was a bit taken back by her directness, but I also realized that she had a point. I went away from service that day a bit frustrated and a little down. After taking some time to reflect, I was reminded that true worship comes from inside the heart and each person has the right to expression in their own way without the judgment of those around them.

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