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Parties, Dancing, Laughter and the Contemplative Life

Posted on December 29th, 2008

  A hermit saw someone laughing , and said to him, “We have to render an account of our whole life before heaven and earth, and you can laugh?” Sayings of the Desert Fathers

This coming, at New Life, we will bring in New Year’s Eve, starting at 6 p.m. with food, a couple of dance lessons, games, a brief time of worship around midnight and then dancing till 2 a.m. We have done this for the last nine years.

Each year I struggle with the few nasty e-mails we receive (this year they are national). A voice in my head argues, “Every other church in NYC is praying and you are leading your people to a party!, you worldly compromiser! What are you mad?”

Geri is the one who patiently encouraged me to break from the pack years ago and “allow” an intergenerational, pleasureable, clean, fun event as part of our spiritual formation/discipleship here at NLF.  Most of us leaders are “pleasure/delight deficient”, unable to recover from the way these gifts have been distorted by our culture. Between my family of origin, which did not do play, and my Christian leadership training over many years that reflected the Desert Father saying above, the idea of a church having a NY’s Eve party for Christ was felt like heresy, like I was betraying my evangelical roots!

It continues to be as important a discipleship for our children, teenagers, singles, marrieds, and elders as a weekend seminar on Scripture. We considered cancelling it this coming year due to issues of crowd control and the amount of leadership now needed to pull it off.  My teenage daughters were aghast at the thought. At this point, so was I!

We are invited by our heavenly Father to healthy play. In fact the word chosen by the Greek Fathers for the perfect mutual indwelling of the Trinity was perichoerisis. It literally means “dancing around.”

I expect to sit back on Wednesday night and, as I do every year, say to myself, “Pete, who cares what others say who are not here? This is truly a taste of the heavenly banquet of the kingdom of God!”

Do you think we need a movement within the broader church of healthy, pleasureable, intergenerational fun as part of a healthy spiritual diet? Why or why not? What are the implications?

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