Martin Luther probably wasn’t the funniest man to be around and he is not the sort of ex-monk you’d think of as a dancer. But, maybe we have got our impressions wrong.
I was waiting for a friend by the Marktkirche, bang in the centre of Hannover, when I had a good look at the statue of Luther outside the church. From the front he looks like he is preaching. From either side he looks like he is doing Scottish country dancing. Look at the photos below:
See what I mean? Now, this got me to wondering what preaching and dancing have in common. I didn’t get very far. But I did begin to think that preaching is a waste of time if no communication is actually happening. And if communication is happening, then there is a dance of ideas, of emotion, of thinking and reflection going on – not just a statement of (what the preacher thinks are) ‘truths’.
Good preaching ought to be engaging and dialectic – just like a dance where either (a) the dancers are dependent on and relate to each other, or (b) the dancer engages the audience in a movement of ideas, emotion or thought.
After staring for a while at Luther’s statue I went with friends to the Lange Nacht der Kirchen (the Long Night of the Churches). Every church in Hannover was open – many until the early hours – and they put on a programme of amazingly lively and creative events.
We began in the Marktkirche with an amazing organ recital, a brief lecture about the 15th century reredos (the thing behind the altar) and then a dance. I dreaded this – thinking it might be a liturgical embarrassment. It turned out to be a professional male dancer who did stuff suspended from two white sheets which were themselves suspended from the high ceiling of the church. It was beautiful, arresting, moving and dead scary: I was terrified he would fall and the long night of the churches would become the long drop of the dancer.
We went from there to another church where there was a mix of hip-hop and some Japanese-influenced dancing (don’t ask – I didn’t really understand it). Then to another church where the local Bundesliga football team (Hannover 69) were involved in interviews interspersed with excellent classical guitar. Ouside there was beer and sausages. Then the evening continued with a superb band (with a great trumpeter).
This was the church opening itself to joyful and celebrating culture, being unembarrassed about the place of religion in popular culture, running a menu of creative events that were simply a gift of the churches to allcomers.
I’m a terrible dancer. But even I wanted to dance. It began with Luther by the Marktkirche and I won’t be able to see him or read him again without thinking of him in a kilt.