June-Ann Furbert couldn’t believe how “phenomenal” the dancers were. She was at a church conference in Maryland more than 20 years ago when they appeared as the praise and worship portion of the service began.
Before that trip to Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church she had never heard of liturgical dance — she was immediately hooked.
“It was just phenomenal,” the 67-year-old said. “There were hundreds of dancers and worshippers and they ministered throughout the service with liturgical dance. They looked like angels.”
Back in Bermuda days later, she couldn’t get the experience out of her system.
“The power of the Holy Spirit was coming from everywhere in that conference hall and I was so excited after seeing these dancers that I couldn’t sleep,” Mrs Furbert said. “And because it never left my mind I knew it was a spiritually divine experience and that God wanted for me to go ahead with it.”
Also called sacred dance, liturgical dance can be performed at weddings, funerals, birthdays, anniversaries, fairs, parades — anywhere where God is to be lifted up.
It can be done in any dance style — lyrical, ballet, jazz, modern, tap, African etc. It can also be done without music; dancers move to scripture as part of a prayer or a form of drama.
Mrs Furbert asked her pastor at the time, Reverend Samuel Hayward, of Richard Allen AME Church in St George’s, if she could bring them to Bermuda. With no money in the budget he told her “go ahead and do it and believe that God will provide the funds”.
It marked the birth of Richard Allen AME Church Dancers for Christ. With the help of Cherie Hayward, Mrs Furbert was able to bring 22 liturgical dancers here from Maryland for Richard Allen AME’s first workshop. A huge boost came from one of the dancers, Rev Dr Joyce Hayward. She married a Bermudian and, for the past two decades, has been instrumental in furthering the dance ministry here and bringing workshops to the island annually.
She’s also responsible, with Mrs Furbert, for organising the 21st anniversary celebrations this month for Richard Allen AME Church Dancers for Christ.
The women promise it will be a “fun, lively and uplifting evening of dance, music, mime and a few other surprises for the whole family to enjoy”.
“There will be churches from all over the island coming together for this event and we will do some dance pieces together and some individually, so we can bring forth this worship experience,” Mrs Furbert said. “Guests can expect to be lifted up by the Spirit. Sometimes people come out and they say they weren’t feeling well or had ailments and they leave with healing and hope.
“I experienced healing through this liturgical ministry in 2014. I was diagnosed with stage three aggressive cancer and had tried chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.
“This is what I believe helped me to get through that challenging time with my health. I believe this is something anointed by the heavenly Father and this is another way for us to lift His name through dance. Some people sing gospel music or share a word from the Bible, for us it’s this form of praise.
“We have seen so many people come to know the Lord through this dance and this ministry. One of the dancers said she was inspired to come to church after seeing a liturgical dance and said it helped her want to learn more about God.”
• Celebrations begin at New Testament Church of God’s Heritage Worship Centre at 6.30pm on April 28. General admission is $30. Tickets are $10 for children under 12, $20 for seniors and $75 for patrons at 27th Century Boutique, People’s Pharmacy and Richard Allen AME Church. For more information telephone 297-2311