Anna Hernandez, Anglican Theological Review

January 1, 2022

Robert Randall has argued that the most important reasons people go to church are to belong, to hope, to be understood, and to understand (Why People Go to Church, Abingdon Press, 1995). So where do people turn when this deceptively simple formula gives way to abuse, disenchantment, cruelty, and disapproval” What can you do (or say) when your preacher rails against gay people and your sister is it lesbian: when your divorce is finalized and you hear divorce condemned from the pulpit; when your belong to a church that violates some of the things you hold most dear; when your ministry has been devalued by those who have little understanding of or interest in it; when you’ve been exiled from your parish for something that never happened? It’s one thing to invite God to hatter your heart, but quite another when pressed to the margins by the people with whom you Pray.

In Dancing in the Margins, Kathy Coffey calls us to the divine dance of the spiritual life because God is good, the world is beautiful even when it’s crazy, and because even in pain we can join hands and dance. Realizing that not everyone likes to dance, and that some are too hurt to dance just yet, she also provides other options for our journey. Meditation both enables us to access the clear water beneath the murky stream of life, and provides the knowledge that we cannot feed others if we do not feed ourselves. Coffey also instills in us a new appreciation for life on the margins, showing that not only is the margin where we encounter Christ, but that some of our must fruitful work can be done there, as was his.

Many people, both biblical and contemporary, inhabit Dancing in the Margins, and they will speak to you in new ways. The Canaanite woman is held up as the one who causes Jesus to expand the margins and broaden his ministry. Thomas is admirable in “his willingness to voice the questions that knot his stomach and clog his throat” (p. 39). The story of the woman healed on the Sabbath is used to show us that just because “no good deed goes unpunished” is no reason to cease healing. Women in Zaire are not allowed to play drums, so they play their rhythms on the rivers. A death-row inmate’s last meal arrives at the same time as his stay of execution.

Dancing in the Margins is a rare gift: a biblically grounded book of deep meditations containing real-life narratives from) those gracious enough to show us their wounds and the balm they’ve used to begin the healing process. “There is nothing else like it, and 1 can’t imagine anyone that doesn’t know someone for whom this book will bring new hope.”

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