Undignified

An Irish night of wonderful praise – Rend Collective

Hello again.

Its been a while. Sorry for the long absence. I want to write more and post more regularly. When I first started this blog nearly two years ago, it began well, but I slowly tailed off. Even if no one reads this, its still worth me writing, because I feel it gives me purpose.

Anyway, on with the post.

This past Wednesday, I went with a group of friends to see the Christian band Rend Collective at the O2 Academy in Birmingham. It was one of my first major outings since before the pandemic and lockdowns. It was a strange experience at first. Having spent over 18 months avoiding standing too close to people or going into spaces with large crowds, it was definitely unsettling to begin with to lack personal space with a group of strangers.

But once the band came on, all the trepidation faded away. Rend Collective are relentlessly positive and bring the party atmosphere to a worship setting. Everyone in the crowd was so amped to be back doing what they enjoyed (it had been two years since we purchased tickets), and all of it was for God! It was a truly amazing experience. And the lack of personal space didn’t bother me. I got to be surrounded by a group of people I knew and cared about, which is always the best way to experience anything in life, good and bad.

But it was only after the concert finished, after the drive and sitting down at home with a cup of tea and some toast did I begin to process the evening in a different way.

Dancing as David Danced

The second song the band played was called I Will Be Undignified. The song is an absolute banger and one that I love a whole lot. My sister and brother in law had us play it for their return up the aisle when they got married (I don’t think we could ever do it justice though!). The chorus goes:

And I will be undignified
And I will praise the Lord my God with all my might
And I will leave my pride behind
And I will praise the Lord my God with all my life

The idea behind the song is being so overcome with wonder and love for God that you lose your inhibitions and no longer care about what you look or sound like. Your personal pride takes a backseat to your joy with the LORD. The opening line says ‘I am dancing as David danced’ referencing a passage in 2 Samuel 6 when the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Jerusalem the capital city of Israel. King David dances before the LORD playing his harp and wearing an ephod, a linen garment reserved for the Levite priests. David was so overjoyed he gave up the traditional behaviour of a King, that of reservation and cool detachment to really let himself go before God.

Such behaviour is almost unheard of in my denomination.

Leaving My Pride Behind

If you came to one of our services and started dancing, clapping and looking joyful in any way, people would think you’d gone insane. My cultural tradition is one where worship is a very conservative affair. Songs that the majority of Christians knew since they were kids and make jokes about on meme pages about being old fashioned are so new to still be controversial in certain churches. Occasionally other instruments besides a piano may be used but there are definitely some who would prefer piano only. They would think it inappropriate to dance and clap. I have attended baptisms where we are told that the angels are rejoicing in Heaven, but you could be forgiven if you stumbled in that you were attending a funeral. On one such occasion, the guests were told they could not clap, before they had even been welcomed by the president of the service!

Of course a lot of this is down to personal preference. Which is fine. To each their own. There are times I prefer the older, more traditionally worded hymns. I like cathedrals and old churches. There feels a connection to something ancient and powerful with those. But it is not the only way to worship and should not be treated as any better than other forms of worship just because it is more traditional. Part of it is a cultural inheritance of both the Victorian era in which my church emerged and the prevailing mainstream church culture at the time. Such worship is very formal, staid, full of dignity and sombreness.

Inbred into me was a distrust of what was termed the ‘happy clappy’ style of worship. Churches that had such worship were considered less serious and more wishy-washy. You stood still because that was good and orderly, something which seems to be prized above all things. And to an extent in my that attitude prevails. I an inherently suspicious of what I see as overly performative styles of preaching from the pulpit, understanding how emotions can be manipulated by dramatic acting. But I feel a little guilty about this, because in doing so I am making a judgement on their behaviour. I am judging them as being insincere when they could genuinely be moved by the word and what God is saying to them and they are truly that passionate about it.

I think it stems from some amount of jealousy.

Leaving my pride behind

I have always been an incredibly self-conscious person. I have written in the past about my fear of being seen as wanting by others, that they see something in me that’s unworthy of being noticed or loved. In social situations I am very much aware of everything about me; the way I talk, the words I say, my stance, the way my arms are long and gangly looking. All of this coupled with what was ingrained in me from a young age makes it very difficult for me to truly let go with God, because I always feel I am being watched and judged if I do.

But that night with all those people felt so much easier. I was less aware of myself, how awkward I might have looked. It wasn’t gone completely, but it was definitely an improvement. I felt able to raise my arms high, clap and have a good old Irish dance. And what was nicer was seeing my friends do the same. People who grew up in the same traditional culture that I did were completely uninhibited by it. They were worshipping just the same as everyone else there.

So thanks to Rend, and of course God, I felt able to abandon myself, less scared to be undignified.

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