OLD-TIME BARN DANCE
Activities held in churches are usually quite staid, even worshipful. Prayer meetings, preaching, the Lord's supper and the reading of Scripture come to mind.
People attending an Olde Meeting House (Friends Church) activity Friday night will be doing church quite differently.
They'll be kicking up their heels in what is being called an "Old-Time Barn Dance." The fund-raiser for the Friends Church will run from 7 to 10 p.m. and is open to everyone from children through senior citizens.
Carla Arnold, the caller, will order the dancers: "Forward and back again, turn your partner, slide-step in and slide-step out." A number of barn dances will be featured including reels, circles and squares.
The dance also will feature a "country duds" costume contest, a homemade bake sale and light refreshments.
On the "rowdy, playful side"
The event, Arnold said, will be "on the rowdy, playful side." Admission is $5 per person or $10 for a family. The church is at 901 M Ave.
David Arnold, Carla's husband and the leader of La Grande's Friends Church, admits that square and reel dances are not typically found in churches.
But the Friends Church and Quaker denomination move to a different beat.
The church's mission, Arnold explained, is to provide a place in the community for "human interaction and the development of relationships."
The purpose of activities like the barn dance is to "introduce the spirit of God into the lives of those who participate in ways that nurture the emotional, spiritual, physical and social well-being of each person," he said.
An early Quaker woman once wrote, "Quakerism is nothing unless it be a communion of life, a practical showing that spiritual and material spheres are not divided, but are as the concave and convex sides of one whole," he said.
Arnold, a psychology and human development professor at Blue Mountain Community College, does not call himself a pastor. He does not accept a salary as the church's leader. Carla Arnold is a music teacher at Central Elementary School in La Grande
The Arnolds are members of the band, Houseblend, which will provide the music for the dance. David plays the bass, mandolin and guitar and Carla plays the fiddle. Eve and Rick Nelson add their skills on the fiddle and guitar.
David Arnold said Friday's event represents the first time the La Grande church has sponsored a dance. Olde Meeting House doors have been open during the church's three-year existence for various community activities including Irish folk and contra-dancing, Irish dancing on Tuesday evenings, and Northeast Oregon Folklore Society events such as the First Friday Concert and the Second Saturday Dance. The church also has made its space available for Union County Victim-Offender Mediation meetings and some Think Link children's activities.
Arnold said people too often make an artificial distinction between the secular and the sacred in applying their faith.
"What is done in the factory or the legislature, the household or the place of dancing must be as much under Christ's immediate leadership as what is done in a prayer meeting," he said.
"Any activity can potentially be a worshipful activity if done in the name of Christ."
Arnold said the La Grande Friends Church also incorporates more typical church-like activities on Sundays such as singing, silent worship, prayer and eating together.
The idea of Friday's event is to draw in the community and welcome visitors, the church leader said.
"The visitor is the most important person at our gatherings, and is to be treated as Christ coming to call upon us," he said.
"The ministry of hospitality is a powerful weapon for breaking down walls and for penetrating a wounded and hurt culture with the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
For information about Friday's activity or the Friends Church, call Arnold at 663-0776.
Story by Dave Stave