July 09, 2018
By Todd Grant Yonkman.
Rev. Dr. Todd Grant Yonkman is the Transitional Senior Minister of First Congregational Church of Stamford.
Scripture: 2 Samuel 6:16 (NRSV)
As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.
I was raised in a conservative Christian church that forbade dancing, but there were a couple of seniors at the Christian high school I attended who threw underground dance parties. They were fun. They were dark. They were crowded. They were hot and sweaty. Nothing really horrible or dangerous went on because the dancing itself was rebellion enough. Think Footloose but with way more awkward dance moves. And no playing chicken on tractors. That’s crazy.
Dancing with friends is one thing. Dancing in public is another thing altogether. Recently I had an experience that felt like dancing in public. I could feel the eyes on me waiting for a false step like Michal looking down with disapproval at David’s wild dance. It’s a situation in which social disapproval can have real life consequences.
While I was vacationing with my family in Maine, a 26-foot tall sculpture of Marilyn Monroe was installed in the public park across the street from the church I serve. I was given no warning that this would be happening. The image is from the famous scene in “The Seven Year Itch” in which Marilyn stands over a subway vent and her dress blows up showing her panties. And the folks who installed the sculpture positioned it so that Marilyn’s backside faced the church.
Here are some of the various perspectives that the public brought to the situation that we as a congregation had to dance through: 1) We are a group of sexually repressed, easily offended, elderly people who don’t understand art and have had our sense of Victorian propriety scandalized by a direct view of a sculpture showing Marilyn Monroe’s underpants. 2) We are a group of insensitive, backward thinking supporters of patriarchy who should be protesting the statue because of its exploitive depiction of a woman’s body. 3) We are a group of heathen liberals who deserve to be disrespected by Marilyn’s bottom because we fly a rainbow flag on our bell tower. 4) We are the victims of a larger culture war against Christianity and should be standing up against this threat to American values. Things got darker from there: death threats, hate mail. And we didn’t have anything to do with the statue or its placement!
Here’s what I learned about dancing in public: ground yourselves in grace, use some humor, quickly craft a message with your team that articulates your values, take some time to breathe, rehearse your message, make it short, adjust nimbly as new information emerges, and call your Conference Minister for coaching in how to handle a media storm.
Holy God, when our Christian walk calls us to dance in public give us the grace and courage to dance with all our might.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prayers of Intercession:
- for the Staff, Volunteers, and Campers at Silver Lake Conference Center as Week 3 of the summer season begins.
- for the friends and family of Rev. Dr. Lynn Wyman Anderson, father of Rev. Eric Anderson and former interim pastor in CT. Rev. Lynn died on July 1.
- for the people of Japan where more than 100 have died and thousands are displaced as flooding and mudslides affect major potions of the nation's interior.
- for those grieving after a tourist boat capsized in Thailand, leaving more than thirty dead.
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- for the beauty of this planet, as seen in this photo taken by Tiffany Vail:
Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers:
Oxford UCC Congregational
The First Congregational Church of Plainfield
The Congregational Church of Plainville, UCC
Plantsville Congregational UCC
First Congregational Church of Plymouth
This Week in History:
July 11, 1804 (214 years ago): U.S. Statesman Alexander Hamilton is shot by Aaron Burr in a dual. Hamilton would die from his injury the following day. Hamilton was an immigrant who rose to prominence under General George Washtington during the Revolutionary War and later became the first Secretary of the Treasury, starting the national bank and eventually, the U.S. Coast Guard.
Starting With Scripture:
July 09, 2018
Todd Grant Yonkman.