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Dancing for Divinity

The Liturgical Dance Ministry at Rock Hill United Methodist Church is growing in popularity. Ashley McLean, JarDearia McLean, Shaye McLean, Shasta Clinton, Crystal Bost and Jessica Shipp practiced Monday night for the upcoming recital. Diane Turbyfill / LTN Photo

STANLEY — Young people at Rock Hill United Methodist Church have discovered a unique way to worship.
Through the Liturgical Dance Ministry, young women are expressing their devotion, and talents, for members of the congregation to see.
The new program benefits all involved, says Co-Director Kim Bowman.
“Not only do the girls pray, but their parents participate,” she says.
Each week the six girls and their parents gather in the sanctuary of the church on Old Plank Road. Dressed in silky purple gowns, the dancers take off their shoes and prepare to dance. They line up and freeze, waiting for the music to begin.
As words and music of praise blast through the speakers, the girls begin to sway. Their expressions and movements coincide with the music. When the music ends and the dance concludes, the girls smile with pride, and so do their parents.
“It teaches children how to worship God through spirit,” says Stephanie McLean, mother to four of the dancers.
McLean accompanies her daughters to practices and performances each week. Her daughters were pulled into the activity the moment they found out about it.
“We saw someone come over here and dance. We liked it and decided we wanted to do it, too,” says Ashley McLean, a dancer.
While liturgical dance was new to the girls, Bowman heard about the activity years ago.
She has helped start programs in various churches in Charlotte and surrounding areas.
Bowman’s husband, Pastor Fredrick Bowman, has seen the benefits of liturgical dance.
“Several churches my wife has worked with have added liturgical dance,” he says. “I see an opportunity for our youth to be involved with a program that centers around character and discipline.”
Liturgical dancers at Rock Hill UMC include Ashley McLean, JarDearia McLean, Shaye McLean, Shasta Clinton, Crystal Bost and Jessica Shipp. The group is directed by Bowman and Angela Bailey.
Routines combine modern dance with ballet and hip hop.
“We go with whatever we feel and whatever looks right,” Bailey says.
The girls have taken their act on the road to churches in Newton, Hickory and Charlotte.
Their next big performance is planned for Saturday. The troop will perform a recital at their home church at 6 p.m.
“It’s a recital and a play combined,” Bowman says.
The performance, “There’s Nobody Like Jesus,” will tell the story of a single mother’s struggle.
There’s no charge for the upcoming performance.
The performers will make their first appearance in their new uniforms Saturday. The gowns were blessed during last week’s church service and were paid for through money earned from fund-raisers.
All the necessary pieces of the puzzle — uniforms, smoke machines, spotlights — were raised by the group, a group the directors see as having a potential to grow.
“We now have young ladies that are wanting to be a part of this dance ministry,” Bowman says.
Open enrollment for the group will be held at the beginning of the year. But the opportunity for growth is already in effect.
The directors and parents have seen more young people in the pews when the girls perform on every fifth Sunday.
Pastor Bowman says the participants are also feeling the benefits.
“I have seen spiritual enlightenment that allows them to express themselves through music and also in a wholesome and holistic manner.
“I’m pleased with the direction that these young ladies are going. It gives them a chance to express their interest in the church.”

Ashley McLean appears to be praying as she participates with the group in a dance in the sanctuary at Rock Hill United Methodist Church. Teenagers serving in the Liturgical Dance Ministry will perform a recital Saturday night at the church. Diane Turbyfill / LTN Photoby Diane Turbyfill

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