I have a confession-I zumba...and I LOVE it!! My wife and I joined a gym last November and this spring have found the joy in doing zumba classes (think of fast-paced jazzercise meets taebo held together by a reggatone beat) as well as a weight lifting class called "Body Pump." Besides the fact that I feel like I give every ounce of energy to those classes and I exit drenched in my own sweat, there's something else that I really love about these classes-they create community. This community may not be the kind that gets together for Fourth of July picnics or goes to their kids' graduation parties, but there's another kind of community being formed in these spaces.
People in these classes share their embodied struggles for self-definition. That may sound obtuse or wordy, but what I mean is, they are there twice a week for zumba, three times for body pump; working, sweating and pushing themselves to dig deeper. These people have an honesty because their bodies will betray any lie. In our zumba class, there is a woman who is five months pregnant and we all support her efforts and reassure her that even though she feels control of her body slipping away and pounds being added when she doesn't want them, we see her as a beautiful child of God and that her primary concern should be for the health and care of her and her child. When last Friday at body pump, a faithful classmate who has been coming to this class three times a week for over a year, cried out to her body and to the room, "how long, how long will my body ache?" it was as holy as any Psalm in the Bible-and one that was answered by other classmates who, in their own aching, responded to hang in and hold on. These are both examples of vulnerable communities that hold one another accountable in a loving, supportive manner.
What I want to know is, how can I get church to be more like my zumba class? Not that I think we should be doing the meringue down the aisle to receive communion-although that IS an idea-but how do we foster that honesty and vulnerability in a place that is often just another social setting that people feel compelled to "put on a happy face"? As a minister, I know that I need to continually challenge the notion that is sometimes thrust upon me as the one who "does ministry" and instead insist upon something much more like my body pump teacher, Bethany, who is our captain. As captain, she calls us into accountability to be fully present, to acknowledge and work through our pain, to stay in good form-and she does this by sweating beside us, reminding us of exercise movements, and affirming our tired bodies and souls as we attempt to strive for our healthiest, best selves.
Imagine what that could look like...a community striving beside one another, sweating, acknowledging their pain and frustration, being encouraged and held accountable by instructors to be their best selves-the person God created them to be! I'll do some lunges for that!