Former PSR student leads movement-based Lenten services

February 18, 2010

Every Sunday during the Lenten season, worshipers at the First Congregational Church in Berkeley will find themselves praying with their bodies, not words. Katharine Harts, who attended PSR’s Masters of Divinity program from 1983 to 1986, will be leading a series of services that emphasizes the sacredness of the body and how awareness of the physical realm can enhance one’s spiritual life.

“As Christians, we’re called to action in ritual. We’re called to be movers and shakers, cultural transformers—and that’s an embodied thing,” Harts says. “We have a creative and wonderful god, and worshiping through movement helps us possess the good news of gospel through the whole body.”

Harts maintains that it is always worthwhile to express oneself through dance or breath, but the Lenten season provides an important reminder of the biblical importance of the body—both its joys and pain. “There is the beauty and wonder of our bodies and the horror of what can happen to them, whether that’s an injury or cancer or a head cold,” Harts says. “During this time of the year we walk toward suffering and tap into our own place of suffering with Christ.”

To that end, the weekly services Harts will lead eschew words almost entirely, instead focusing on dance, silent communion with others, and intentional breathing. She hopes that the emphasis on “embodied worship” will encourage people to recognize the sacredness of their bodies and everyday activities, from washing one’s face to climbing a flight of stairs.

“People are always trying to escape what the body is feeling, but I find God in the center of that, speaking to me,” Harts says. “You have a creator who loves your flesh and blood, no matter what kind of shape you’re in, whether you’re sick or well, or if you consider yourself fat—whatever! You can say, ‘Here I am, a body like no other.’”

“Embodying the Journey: A Lenten Worship Series” will take place every Sunday from February 21 to March 28, from 5–6:30 pm, at First Congregational Church of Berkeley. For more information, see the full event posting.