Liturgical Dance Lifts Worship to New Level
Wermes, Joanmarie, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Joanmarie Wermes Daily Herald Correspondent
It is the firm belief of a dance enthusiast that liturgical dance moves worship to a different level.
"Dance is not about double pirouettes or techniques. It's about freedom to dance for the Creator and more about the love of God," said Toni Higgins-Thrash. "It's very freeing. It can move worship to a different level and make us more involved in the total picture of who we are."
Higgins-Thrash of Arlington Heights is founder of Triumphal Entry, a nondenominational dance worship ministry team, and also heads the Christian Life Church Dance Worship Ministry Team of the charismatic Christian Life Church at 400 E. Gregory St., Mount Prospect.
The Christian Life Church, pastored by the Rev. Daryl Merrill Sr., has 450 members. It was founded in 1976 by Pastor Merrill whose son the Rev. Daryl Merrill Jr. is youth pastor.
Christian Life Church also has the Power House Praise Dancers for junior high and high school children, under the direction of Merrill Jr., and a dance group of fourth- to sixth-graders headed by Kim Winchell.
Higgins-Thrash believes "church doesn't have to be sad - it should be joyful" and she says liturgical dance adds to a service. Her personal love of dance dates back to her childhood.
As a child Higgins-Thrash, 53, begged her mother for dance lessons. Although her dream of becoming a professional dancer faded away, when she was 27 she pursued a degree in theater and dance, one she eventually acquired from Barat College, Lake Forest. She also holds a master's degree in public administration, one she uses in her job as cultural arts supervisor for the Schaumburg Park District.
She first became acquainted with liturgical dance at a dance and artists' conference.
"I was introduced to liturgical dance and from then on I wanted to use my gift of dance for God's glory in his church," Higgins-Thrash related. "I thought: 'Dancing for God - how inspiring.' "
Although Triumphal Entry has been in existence for many years, dance worship at Christian Life Church is in its infancy. It falls under the umbrella of the music ministry directed by LeAnn Riveness, who said she believes dance is scriptural. In fact, there are 27 references to dance in the Bible, most of which are contained in the Old Testament.
"God wants to be involved in every aspect of our lives," Riveness said, "so we shouldn't limit him just by our singing. …