View from the Pew
An East Honolulu prayer group finds spiritual resonance in rhythmic motion
Praying while swaying with hands raised in the air is not just for Pentecostals anymore. It's standard form in a lot of churches.
With contemporary church music assuming the rhythms of the secular world, there's a whole lot of shaking, clapping, swinging and stepping going on in sanctuaries.
Even denominations uptight about keeping worship separate from entertainment will allow some "liturgical movement" when it is contemplative and respectful.
Even so, the gentle circle dancing by the Prayer Cluster at Calvary-by-the-Sea Lutheran Church Tuesday felt like a throwback to the '60s, where interfaith sharing of sacred dance has its roots.
Maybe it was the sensation of dropping out that did it. Just a minute from pulling out of the bumper-to-bumper commuter intensity of Kalanianaole Highway, the prayer group meets in a calm and quiet zone, a shaded patch of lawn with the sound of surf washing shore.
"My idea was to have something on the way home from work that reconnects you with God," said Pulelehua Quirk, who started the group a year ago. As a participant for years in the Sacred Dance Guild, her idea for a devotional experience just naturally had to include dance.
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Calvary-by-the Sea Lutheran Church Prayer Cluster brings song and dance into prayer gatherings every week. Among the participants are Ruth Quirk, Gloria Spondike, Margie Smith and Fatah Borsos.
With the dance comes music "which resonates for so many" followed by shared prayer intentions typical of all small prayer groups. People reveal their vulnerabilities as they lay out their worries and frustrations; it can be a relief when it is done among friends.
A founding clusterer, Margie Smith, puts together a brief weekly audiovisual message that guides everyone to reflect on their own not-so-spiritual traits. Her cartoon bear family wrestled with communications problems. The simple tale led the prayer partners to talk about their family members operating at different speeds and making demands on one another, not always tuned in.
Communicating involves mutual respect, said the Rev. Tim Mason, Calvary-by-the-Sea pastor. "I value your listening to me, and your response" is important, he said, but also "wait until the timing is right."
But back to the dance.
The group clasped hands in a circle as Fatah Borsos called them to focus on their feet "connected to Mother Earth. Bring energy up from the earth." Next, "Open the top of our heads to the heavens and bring that energy down. Let what we do be in remembrance of the one holy being."
The words come from his Sufi studies, he said later. The Sufi tradition is a mystical branch of Islamic belief, with practices of combined meditation, chanting and dance -- the extreme end of which is the mesmerizing turning, spinning of "whirling dervishes" of Turkey.
"We need a direct, pure connection with nature and its elements," said Borsos. He is a participant in the Dances of Universal Peace, a movement that was started in the 1960s by a Sufi teacher and a Buddhist Zen master. Ecumenical groups worldwide gather to share ethnic and sacred dances, including a group that meets at 7 p.m. on the first Saturday of every month at Niu Valley Intermediate School.
The Prayer Cluster companions followed Borsos' lead in singing a simple tune which sounded like an old Negro spiritual: "One fine morning, when my work is over, I'll fly away. I'll fly away, I'll fly away to heaven."
They each spun slowly off for a circle away from the circle, including Ruth Quirk, 86, who is admittedly unsteady on her feet. Gloria Spondike was nearby, ready to steady her.
"Thy light is in all forms and thy love, in all beings, alleluia," they sang, arms raised upward, then hands crossed over their hearts.
Smith said she and Quirk agreed that "people are too inhibited, shy about prayer. There are so many gifts and blessings in praying out loud with other people."
Most of the participants are Christian, and "my way to connect with God is Christ," said Quirk. But "we are embracive ... if it makes your heart sing to connect with God. We do talk about Christ, but we are not afraid to say Allah. Sometimes we do chants that are about goddesses. Different people show up and bring their gifts."
Mason, in the midst of a day jammed with meetings, said he tries to leave the time open for the interlude at the shore: "It's an oasis in the week."
The Prayer Cluster at 5 p.m. Tuesdays is open to anyone. No dance experience is required.
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Fatah Borsos, left, and Margie Smith spent their "12 Minutes With God" following a song-and-dance session at Calvary-by-the-Sea Lutheran Church in Aina Haina.