Several years ago, I was honored to be the keynote speaker at a weekend youth retreat for the Presbytery of the Cascades. We met at a beautiful retreat center outside of Portland, Oregon. As the young people and adults gathered on Friday evening, I met Marissa, a high school freshman who was paraplegic. She was quiet and a bit shy and moved around well in her wheelchair. I told her I was so glad she was with us for the weekend.
We did our best to include Marissa, but because of limited accessibility, she had to stay in the main lodge instead of in the cabins with the other young people. It was a rainy weekend, so she could not join us on the muddy field for group games. One of the other young people was the opposite of Marissa. His name was Darin. He was a tall, loud, borderline obnoxious, athletic high school senior. He loved attention and seemed to enjoy pushing boundaries.
On Saturday night, we gathered in the main lodge for a dance. Most of the “dances” were energizers the group had been taught. It was great fun. Marissa participated when she could, but most of the time she stayed against the wall of the room. After about 45 minutes, Darin claimed the microphone and told everyone to get one of the chairs stacked against the walls. For reasons that are beyond me, all of us obeyed him. He told us to scatter the chairs around the floor and sit in them. Then Darin looked over at Marissa and yelled at her, “Marissa! Come on! Let’s dance!” Marissa made her way toward Darin, the music started up again, and all of us danced while sitting in our chairs.
Leaders dance. Leaders dance in ways that welcome everyone of every ability. For the rest of the evening, Marissa stayed on the dance floor. Sometimes most of the group was sitting down. Sometimes most of the group was standing up. But all of the time Darin was moving around the room encouraging the younger and more shy students to join us. Every time I sing “I Danced in the Morning,” my heart brings me back to Marissa and Darin, and I give thanks for their teaching us a whole new way to dance.
- When were you taught a new way to dance as a child of God?
- Who is someone who needs to be invited to dance?
- How have you joined Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Dance, in his dance?
Rev. Dr. Rodger Nishioka serves as the senior associate pastor and director of adult faith formation at Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village, Kansas. Prior to joining the staff at Village Church, he served as a professor of Christian education at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia.
This article is the tenth in a 12-part series focusing on PC(USA) leader formation as a part of the “Year of Leader Formation: Investing in Ruling Elders and Deacons.” Additional resources are available at www.pcusa.org/leader-formation/.