- Faith & Family
In the past, in many faith communities dancing or movement was considered – at best, something to be left in the secular world or at worst an actual expression of empty pagan rituals. But even David praised God to such an extent, through singing and dancing, that he came out of his clothes. Today, more churches are reclaiming dancing as an expression of a celebration of their faith and another way to praise their Lord.
There has been an evolution of how the body can be used to worship God — one example is mime ministry. Miming has long been a theatrical technique used to display an idea or mood with large, exaggerated movements. When worshippers use this method for their ministry, the result is a dramatic, visual interpretation of gospel music that expresses the heights of joy or the depths of despair.
T. Eileen Martin-Major founded Ebenezer United Methodist Church’s mime ministry, M.A.S.K. (Mimes Anointed to Serve the King) for youth and young adults, 11 years ago.
“I wanted to create an outlet for boys and girls to be able to express through song and dance and to interpret theatrically how they feel about God,” she said.
At the time, Martin-Major had only seen a few others using miming in worship. M.A.S.K. has had up to 16 active members but now has four members on its rosters. They share their gifts every fourth Sunday.
With its growing acceptance, more people are revisiting Bible verses to help provide greater legitimacy. According to “From the Greek Mimes to Marcel Marceau and Beyond: Mimes, Actors, Pierrots and Clowns,” in the Old Testament Ezekiel had to use methods such as illustrations and bodily demonstrations to help explain the message of God’s judgement on Israel. In addition to the exaggerated hand and arm movements, many mimers have taken to painting their faces and wearing white gloves.
Lovester Montgomery, a 24-year-old who has directed and taught several mime groups in South Florida including Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church’s Sons of Levi, believes that the costumes are part of the dance’s appeal, particularly for boys and men.
“A few guys who I’ve talked to say that they like the make-up because it allows them to tap into their other side that is often hidden —it becomes a freedom thing for them,” he said.
Annie Starks, 68, the current overseer of Mt. Carmel MBC’s all-male mime ministry, the Sons of Levi, has also seen the appeal of the mime ministry.
“Our senior citizen members really, really enjoy our boys’ mime ministry even more than the girls praise dancing,” she said. “I think it’s because of its style since they tend to use music with a slower tempo and they are really expressing themselves with their hands.”
The future of a gospel movement
Martin-Major says she thinks mime will continue to grow in popularity.
“I just think that if God is in the plan then there is no telling how far it will go,” she said. Montgomery, who recently founded the Unspoken Dance Company, also sees the potential for growth and expansion in the future.
“Mime ministry is going to go to a totally different level because miming can incorporate so many different styles of dance like hip-hop and even salsa.”
By Kaila Heard