Marcia McFee delivers diversity with the beat of a drum
Written by Micki Carter July 13, 2012
Sometimes all the words about diversity and inclusivity have already been said. Then it's time for Marcia McFee to pound out the message to the beat of a drum.
McFee, who calls herself Dr. Rhythm, energized Thursday evening's worship at the United Church of Christ’s National Youth Event (NYE) by stomping the message of embracing differences into the floor of Purdue University's Elliott Hall of Music, assisted by the feet, hands and bodies of every one of the 2,500 youth delegates.
"We don't all march to the beat of the same drummer. We all have different rhythms, and that's a good thing," McFee, a dancer and actress who earned a Ph.D. in liturgical studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., said as she tossed every possible kind of rhythm instrument to young people in the audience who then joined her and her original group of drummers onstage.
She led them in a series of rhythmic patterns and brought them to a close with an emphatic "four, three, two, one, stop" punctuated by dramatic dance turns that sent her long, blonde hair flying.
"Rhythm teaches us that it's good for us to lend our voices but if all of us are talking at once, no one can be understood," McFee said. "Rhythm teaches us there is no rhythm without the space between the noises. Rhythm is organized noise."
She called for the house lights to be raised and jumped off the stage to lead different sections of the audience in a pattern of claps. "Embracing our diversity means that, as a body, sometimes we have our voices and sometimes we let others have theirs."
Four, three, two, one —.
"In the beginning, there was God, and God begot the rhythm and the rhythm begot everything."
Dancer Martha Graham was an early hero to McFee. "She taught that there is a vitality within you that is absolutely unique," said McFee. "If you block it, the world will never have it. It's not your job to decide how good your gift is; it's your job to give it to the world . . .
"Meister Eckhart, my favorite 13th-century theologian, said every creature is a word of God and is a book about God. As I get to know a little bit more about you, I get to know more about God. Thanks be to God."
Four, three, two, one —.
McFee called for a very tall 14- or 15-year-old and a very short 14- or 15-year-old, and when she had the tallest and the shortest, she sent them to walk in step together down the auditorium aisle.
"This amazing Creator gave us this great diversity and the ability to adapt for the good of all. Notice how each had to adapt the size of his or her step to walk in rhythm. This is called the law of entrainment when elements of the natural world share the same rhythm. Why? Because we need each other! Rhythm teaches us that we can do more together than we can do alone.
"Rhythm can teach us so much about syncing each of us in to the whole body of Christ."