Thursday, February 09, 2006

Deconstructing the Valentine's Dance

One of the greatest communication difficulties of a religious community is how to describe what it is really like to be part of the community. Case in point: the Valentine's Dance.

We have a tradition of holding a Valentine's Dance with a marvelous swing band, professional photos taken, a big dance floor, and about half the time - inclement weather. Every year the same people come and have a good time. They would like others to join them and are open to a diverse crowd, but how do we describe what the Valentine's Dance is and isn't?

The first issue is: are same sex couples welcome? The organizers always say they are, but then feel that this fact should be understood and doesn't have to be publicized. Give me a break! We are a church in Richmond, Virginia. In this town most same-sex couples would think "Church Valentine's Dance" would be code for "Heterosexism-fest."

Then there's the question of dates. Are singles welcome? Yes. "Will I feel out of place?" they ask me. How should I know? The church treasurer isn't making out with his wife by the hymnals, if that's what you mean. (Or, at least, he was not last year.)

"Does everyone dance?" "What do people wear?" "I don't drink." "I like to smoke." "Is the music loud?" "Will I know anyone?" I find myself saying, "Just show up. You'll see. It's fun," which is the equivalent of saying "boogledy lala fingzu", but I don't know what else to say because there's a trick to these things.

Call it critical mass, tipping point, or just party mojo. Our church is not static. Because we invite people with diverse beliefs to share our community with shared values of mutual respect, the power of the individual quest, and the goal of living this life well - we are constantly changing. We are not a creed. We are not a book.We are whoever participates. We are now. We are you, when you are here. That's Sunday morning. That's Valentine's. That's every day. But just try to put that on the Valentine's Dance poster.

So my trusty volunteers and I moved the furniture tonight and started the decorating. I have high hopes this year. Maybe people will try something new. Maybe it won't snow. And, if not the treasurer, maybe somebody will sneek a little smooch over by the hymnals. I hope it will be someone I talked into coming.

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