"Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp.
"For the Lord taketh pleasure in his people . . . Let the saints be joyful in glory . . ."Psalms 149: 3-5SANDY - Members of Dance Ministry, an 11-member group at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, take this scripture literally and delight in worshipping the Lord through dance.
"It's just another way to worship the Lord," says Karen Stewart, Sandy, a member of the group for about three years.
"We are told in numerous places in scripture to worship the Lord through dance. The only reason for our being in existence is to praise Jesus as our Lord and Savior and that people might be blessed through seeing our dancing."
"We want the people who are watching to be participants, that they might be brought into worshipping the Lord with us," declared Louise Jacobs, Salt Lake City, one of the three original members of the group, which was formed four years ago.
It was organized by Lyn Shaw and Laura Logsdon, both of Sandy, and Barbara Brower, who is no longer with the group. Logsdon and Laura Sampson, Sugar House, are now co-leaders.
"It has just mushroomed in the last four years. We are thrilled with the participation and the number of people dancing with us," Logsdon said.
Sampson said, "It's exciting for us to share what God has done through this dance group - both for us and for our congregation."
Shaw said many people have never heard of dance as a worship setting, much less experienced it.
"Dance, or symbolic expressive movement, has been common with man from earliest history and is closely linked with religious feelings and spiritual beliefs," she explained.
With the exception of dancing in high school or college, some of the dancers have had no prior dance experience. But they are enthusiastic and seem to love learning and working together. Group members say they aren't as concerned about performing as they are in building a meaningful relationship with Christ.
The group is open to anyone who "desires to worship and praise the Lord through dance." Dancers rehearse Monday nights at the 1,600-member church, located at 8578 S. 700 East.
"We like to think of our dancing as praise. We like to include movement as a part of worship. Working with the group is really exciting and creative. We pray at the beginning of practices, and it's (rewarding) to see things come together. It's a group effort in terms of choreography. Looking back on our efforts shows us that it's obviously a gift from God," Logsdon said.
Linda Puchta, another member, says dancing with the group is a "very joyful way to praise the Lord. It enables you to praise him with your whole body."
The dancers are accompanied by taped or live music by choirs or individual vocalists. They also enjoy creating dances appropriate for use with scripture or other written material.
Dance Ministry members perform a variety of dances for worship services, church socials and other gatherings. They videotape their practices, using the equipment to evaluate and improve their dance techniques. They performed with other dancers at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America synod convention and will provide entertainment at 2 p.m. today at a bazaar at First Congregational Church, 2150 Foothill Drive.
The dancers use deep blue, maroon, gold, purple and red scarves and lighted candles for some of their dances. Whether they're attired in white leotards, floor-length cloaks or other costumes, the dancers move with precision and enthusiasm. Their dance movements exude a spiritual feeling.
Such feelings "come from the Lord and from our joy in knowing him," Shaw said.
Earlier this week, the group practiced dances to match the vocal stylings of Michelle Pillar's "Song of Praise" and "Emanuel," sung by pop and gospel singer Amy Grant. They also dance to several other numbers, including "Give Thanks to the Lord," "Jesus Christ Is Risen Today," "Lamb of God" and "He's Alive." During Sunday services the dancers dance to praise songs.
During a rehearsal earlier this week, the group responded to signings executed by Kim Russell, a communication disorders student at the University of Utah.
"Using sign language is more expressive. People seem to listen to the words. It's a multi-sensory means of experience," Russell said.
The Rev. Robin Dugall, minister at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, said he is proud of the dancers, not only for what they do for the church but what they represent as individuals.
"I have watched a lot of dance ministries around the country. This is not only one of the best dance teams, but they are some of the most spiritual women I have known. They have added a lot of depth, meaning and excitement" to our church activities, whether they be regular Sunday services or special events, the Rev. Dugall said.