Movement in Worship

From time to time people ask me about what we do with our hands and bodies in worship.

One way to look at it is that the way we use our bodies in worship is it is like dancing – although very slowly.

Sometimes however we may forget why we dance in a certain way.

The Sign of the Cross

We begin our Worship with the sign of the cross, In the Name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit. A silent body prayer many use at other times including before meals. It has two meanings:
Firstly, it is a symbol of the trinity, Father Son and Holy Spirit. But it is also a reminder of our baptism, especially when we use holy water, as we are baptised in the name of Father Son and Holy Spirit.

There are traditional places to use this symbol, but we can use it whenever we wish to say a silent Amen or offer ourselves more fully to God.

The Kiss

Kissing was part of worship in the Old Testament, and in the early Church. What we celebrate as the Peace is ancient and would have been originally a kiss.
When we Kiss things in worship we are recognising what they represent, Jesus.

  • His offering and gift to us: The Altar
  • His Word: The Gospel
  • His sacrifice: The the cross

When we kiss one another in the Peace (or shake hands!) we are recognising Jesus in the other person too.

The Gospel

In many services the Gospel is read from the centre of the Church – and we turn towards it. We say that the Gospel is proclaimed not just read.

In our tradition, the words of Christ in the Gospels are the most important part of the bible – and we read the rest, Old and New through him. Jesus is at the centre of our lives as Christians – and so we turn to Christ.

At the Gospel some will make a special sign – three crosses on forehead, mouth and heart. This is a body prayer that Jesus will be in our mind, in our mouths and in our hearts.

Open Hands

In prayer and worship some of us use open hands, both Priest and people.

This is one of the two ways the early church prayed. Open hands means offering all that we have to God, and being ready to receive. It is used by many Charismatic Christians in Worship, and by many Catholic Christians in Prayer.

The Bow

The other way early Christians would have prayed and worshipped would be prostrate on their faces, fully bowed down before God. Just as we Kiss things that speak to us of Jesus – so we sometimes bow, such as the altar, the cross or the sacrament.

In the Eucharist, we recognise Jesus is especially present with us. What we know as ‘Genuflection’, bobbing on one knee is actually an easier alternative to kneeling or deep bowing. In many churches, such as ours, the people stand for communion, as the Priest does. Therefore, people genuflect instead of kneeling as an act of worship.

Sending Out

In some services, we end our worship with the dismissal at the Font The font is a symbol of our coming in and going out, of baptism and taking our faith out into the world. Which is why the font is so often at the back of the churches.

In our baptism we become part of God’s priestly people. And at the dismissal we affirm that by turning outwards to the world we are called to serve.

Flags & Dancing

There are other movements and gestures that we use in worship, like waving flags. Like dancing there is something special about doing the same movements as other people – but we are also free to respond to God creatively.

You can even dance quickly if you like!