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Celinda Hughes of Gordon Memorial United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tenn., dances during opening worship of the denomination’s 2004 General Conference in Pittsburgh. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.

A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.

Celinda Hughes of Gordon Memorial United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tenn., dances during opening worship of the denomination’s 2004 General Conference in Pittsburgh.

Liturgical dancers from Kapp N Kompany at Fort Street UMC, Atlanta dance during the opening worship. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.

A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.

Liturgical dancers from Kapp N Kompany at Fort Street UMC, Atlanta dance during the opening worship.

Dancers from Kapp N Kompany at Fort Street United Methodist Church in Atlanta perform during the opening worship. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.

A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.

Dancers from Kapp N Kompany at Fort Street United Methodist Church in Atlanta perform during the opening worship.

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Dancers bring the ‘moving word’ to worship

By Kathy L. Gilbert*
April 30, 2004 | PITTSBURGH (UMNS)

When Kappitola E. Williams and Celinda Hughes stepped on the floor of the 2004 General Conference they were dancing on prayers.

The daunting task of gathering more than 70 dancers from all over the world and bringing them together in a single accord was supported and based on prayers from the two coordinators who never actually got to be in the same room together until hours before the opening worship service.

“We prayed together and shared our thoughts,” Hughes says.

Hughes lives in Nashville, Tenn., and Williams lives in Atlanta. They created the dance in their minds and brought it to life in Pittsburgh.

“We had less than eight hours to teach more than 70 people who had never heard the music a whole choreographic piece,” Williams says.

“Teaching a choreographic piece to people at all different levels of experience and styles of dance, helping them understand the spirit of the dance and putting them at ease was quite a challenge,” Hughes says.

Dancers from Hughes’ local church, Gordon Memorial United Methodist Church, Nashville, Tenn., and Williams’ Atlanta-based Kapp N Kompany were joined by the Liturgical Dance Choir, Gales Ferry (Conn.) United Methodist Church; Living Springs Christian Fellowship United Methodist Church, Bowie, Md.; North Country Ballet Ensemble, United Methodist Church of Plattsburgh, N.Y.; and Sacred Dance Choir, Contoocook (N.H.) United Methodist Church.

 “We had dancers from age 6 to over 50,” Hughes says.

Both Hughes and Williams agree that dance is a way of worshipping that is open to everyone.

“I don’t call it dance, I call it the moving word,” Williams says. “The movement comes directly from the Spirit, and you have to go inside to come outside. Anyone can do it; anyone can worship through the moving word.”

Liturgical dance helps “touch all the senses” in worship, Hughes explains. “We need to continue to bring texture into our worship services, to weave together the word in different ways.”

Williams brought garments from all over the world for the dancers to wear in the opening ceremony.

“The power of the spirit came through those garments,” she says. “Everyone was skeptical at one point at putting on the feathers (headdresses), but it became a revelation for a lot of people.”

Putting on the garments of other cultures is one way to symbolize we are all one, Williams says.

Incorporating parts of other cultures helps people “see themselves,” she says.

“It allows the senses to relax if a person just sees a part of their culture, if a person sees a fan or a piece of fabric from their country, it’s like, ‘Oh, they are thinking about me.’”

Hughes and Williams arranged dancers in between the bishops for the opening processional.

“It was part of the royal depiction, the coming together,” Hughes says. “It was 1,000 tongues singing God’s praise.”

Both agreed the bishops were warm and gracious and willing to walk and do as they were asked.

“One of the bishops told me later that having the children and youth brought life to what could have been a stiff processional,” Hughes says.

“Everything is going to happen if we just move out of the way and let God have the way,” Williams says.

Hughes has been dancing since she was in elementary school and is the minister of dance at Gordon Memorial. She teaches dancers starting at age 3.

In addition to running Kapp N Kompany, Williams travels all over the world “bringing the moving word.” She also is co-founder of Cantemos, a youth dance company in Atlanta.

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer.

News media contact: (412) 325-6080 during General Conference, April 27-May 7. After May 10: (615) 742-5470.