The Anglican Church in Springwood last night hosted a Middle East Feast for women of the Church and any friends they might care to invite. Obviously, I didn’t get to go, so this is a second hand report, but everyone I’ve heard says the evening was fantastic. There were well over 150 people at the event with half of those not regular attendees at Springwood Church.
One of the ladies at the Church is from a Middle-Eastern background and teaches folk belly-dancing as a hobby. She (with her pixies) cooked the entire meal, and then came and taught the women some belly-dancing moves. At the end of the night, 150 women were gyrating around the middle of the room like something from Arabian Nights.
Some of the blokes from the team had arranged to come back to the Church building to help the ladies pack up and they arrived early enough to catch the end of the dancing. The sudden presence of men at what had previously been an entirely female event apparently created little ripples of disturbance. The guys reported hearing the women whispering, ‘men’ when they were noticed.
It’s interesting isn’t it?
It’s entirely understandable as well, dancing makes you feel strangely vulnerable. I used to have these weird late-night dance parties with my housemates and we certainly wouldn’t have felt quite so free to try out our wicked stylings if there had been women around. (did I just overshare?)
The awkwardness which suddenly came over some of those women last night is a reminder that we are beings who find our identity in relationships. We mark out physical and temporal regions, we are bodies, we find ourselves in what surrounds. That’s why femininity is experienced differently by a room entirely full of women and by a room not-quite-entirely full of women. Often we only notice this when there is a sudden transition.
Christians understand that this conception of human identity is rooted in something true about the God who made us. The God we worship is One and Three. Completely whole and sufficient in himself, but also within himself perpetually in fellowship and love. Christian theologians in the early period of the Church conceived of this One and Threeness using the focal image of a group of dancers. The Cappadocian Fathers (Basil, Gregory, and Gregory) sought to give an account of how God could be ‘One God’ and yet equally, ‘Father, Son and Holy Spirit’. Cappadocia is a remote part of central Turkey, if you wander into enough Turkish Kebab shops you’ll eventually find a poster depicting Cappadocia on a wall somewhere. It’s famous for odd-looking rock formations and salt pans, and Christian theologians. I think the Turkish tourism agency must have been targeting Kebab shops in Australia at some stage.
The Cappadocian Fathers obviously didn’t mind a little Middle Eastern Feasting, and could probably jiggle it with the best. They noticed that as a dancer moves around a circle, following the patterns of the dance and the rhythms of the music, she continually pours herself into the space just vacated by another dancer. The dancers are continually giving and receiving each other into their positions, and her identity as a dancer is found through the relations, the dance, which she shares with all the others. It is not a fixed identity, it is movement and action. But neither is it random, a dance celebrates the individuality of each dancer through co-ordinated and ordered movement, through a particular form of being with others. This is our God, they are infinitely more than that, but he is One and Three, giving and loving forever.
We also are ‘ones’ and ‘many’ and we find ourselves in giving and loving.
We are a room full of women dancing.
And God is a dancer.