Local churches honor the women of the Gospels

Friday, April 10, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 7:35 p.m. CDT, Friday, April 10, 2009
Rock Bridge Christian Church hosted a liturgical dance about the women of the Gospels on Good Friday. Biblical narratives of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the woman with the alabaster jar, were read aloud during the service. Haley Evers, a student at Jefferson Junior High School, tried to mirror the women's emotions through dance.

COLUMBIA — Christians believe it was nearly 2,000 years ago that Jesus Christ was betrayed with a kiss by Judas Iscariot in the Garden of Gethsemane, led away by Roman soldiers and eventually condemned to death.

It is this story of Jesus' trial, Crucifixion and Resurrection that still stirs the emotions of Christians today. But what of the women who the Bible's New Testament says knew and loved Jesus and watched the gruesome event happen? What of those women described in the Gospel of Luke who mourned and wailed for the man under the weight of a cross he was sure to die upon?

It is the eyes of these women through which eighth-grader Haley Evers, who attends Jefferson Junior High School, will seek to see at Rock Bridge Christian Church. And she will do it using dance.

The interpretive dance is part of an interfaith Good Friday gathering at noontime. The service will be at Rock Bridge Christian Church this year, though locations vary by year.

"This service is all about the perspective of the women who were at the crucifixion," Evers said. "Some are joyful, some are angry, some are upset — so I kind of put myself in their position. I try to see how they would feel, then try to translate that in all the movements I do."

Evers' liturgical dances will be in response to several brief narrative accounts of women present at the Crucifixion or in Jesus' life, according to Amy Kay Pavlovich, associate minister of First Christian Church. These narratives will be read aloud.

"They're set in different narratives, scriptural-based, that sort of reflect to the first person account of the story," Pavlovich said. "And after each of the little narratives, there's a wonderful liturgical dancer who has this 30- to 45-second piece."

Rock Bridge Christian Church is hosting the event, which is sponsored by the Interfaith Council. The service is held annually, usually at noon on Good Friday, and concludes within the hour for those who attend while on a lunch break.

Evers said she has been dancing competitively for years, and that the concepts she's learned have been with her during rehearsals for the event Friday.

"In rehearsal I always focus on techniques: Are my feet pointed? Do I have all of the choreography down? And then when I perform it, just because I've been performing for so long, it just kind of comes to me then," Evers said.

It is the emotion and empathy woven into the human condition on which Evers said her performance Friday will depend.

"You can't really practice your emotions because then I don't really feel like it's real, and this needs to be from the heart," Evers said. 

Pavlovich also said attendees are welcome to come earlier "to get into a spirit of prayer." She said that the prayer portion of the service will be followed by the narratives of seven women of the Gospels with seven liturgical dances by Evers, seven communal prayers for Columbia and seven responses.

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