When Words Aren't Enough: Exploring Liturgical Dance as a Pastoral Care Practice for Black Christian Women Open Access

Austin, Deirdre Jonese (Spring 2022)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/z890rv525?locale=en


In my experience as a scholar and a liturgical dancer, I have often reflected on liturgical dance as a practice that has coping and healing possibilities; it has helped me cope with and heal from stress and trauma in many instances throughout my lifetime thus far, from the unexpected loss of a loved one to the implications of political strife and violence in the United States. As such, my own story, and the stories of those I’ve danced with around coping and healing have led me to explore the following question: How can Black Christian women utilize liturgical dance, a combination of the artistic and the spiritual, in a way that facilitates healing from personal, racial, and pandemic-related stress and trauma? In this project, I turn to five Black Christian women who lead liturgical dance ministries and/or teach liturgical dance to think energetically about liturgical dance as a pastoral care practice. Through interviews with three of them and survey responses from two of them, I discuss Black Christian women’s experiences of stress and trauma and the coping and healing possibilities of dance, with particular attention to the movement of the body, one’s faith and spirituality, and the role of community. I conclude with a vision of what incorporating liturgical dance as a pastoral care practice might look like for the Black Church.

Table of Contents

Abstract 1

Table of Contents 2

Chapter 1: Exploring Liturgical Dance 3

Introduction 3

Literature Review 4

The Black Church Context 5

Stress, Trauma, and Healing in and for Black Christian Women 7

Somatics & Embodied Psychology: Addressing Trauma Through Movement 16

The Spiritual Dimensions of Dance in the Black Christian Context 19

Examining Liturgical Dance in the Black Church as a Healing Practice 21

Chapter 2: Examining Liturgical Dance Through the Eyes of Its Participants 23

Research Methodology 23

Anticipated Outcomes 24

Limitations of the Research 24

About the Participants 26

Experiences of Liturgical Dance 26

Exploring Stress and Trauma in The Lives of the Participants 28

Addressing Liturgical Dance Amid the Pandemic 33

Body, Spirit, and Community in Liturgical Dance 37

Reflections on Liturgical Dance as a Coping & Healing Practice 44

Chapter 3: Utilizing Liturgical Dance as a Pastoral Care Coping & Healing Practice in the Black Church 47

 Developing a Pastoral Care Liturgical Dance Practice 48

 Questions for Continued Exploration 50

Conclusion 51

Bibliography 52

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