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Congregation steps up to new worship style

Congregation steps up to new worship style

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Sing unto Him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise. – Psalm 33:3

LAKE CITY – Worshipers at Wesley Memorial UMC welcomed a new way of praising the Lord through music on Sunday, Nov. 22.

Sacred Thunder Drum, a Christian group that performs in churches and other locations through the Florida Conference Native American Ministries, led a musical worship service, ending with a friendship dance in which congregation members were invited to participate.

About 30 people, including Rev. Drew Standridge, the church pastor, took part.

“That’s the most I’ve ever had [participate],” said Standridge, who first began inviting Sacred Thunder Drum to lead worship five years ago, when he was pastor at First UMC, Hawthorne. When he moved to Wesley Memorial last summer, he began making plans to bring the Native American tradition to his new flock.

Sacred Thunder Drum performing with large drum at front of church sanctuary
The Native American Christian group Sacred Thunder Drum offers praise to the Lord at Wesley Memorial UMC, Lake City. Photo from John and Judy Glynn.

For the dance, “you shuffle to the right and then to the left,” the pastor said, adding that there are some other moves in which people weave in and out. “I’ve heard it described as a combination of follow-the-leader and square dancing.”

Standridge said he was pleased that Wesley Memorial worshipers embraced a new worship style.

Sacred Thunder Drum’s visit to the church coincides with Native American Heritage Month. For resources from United Methodist Discipleship Ministries, click here.

Standridge said he and his wife, Bree, first heard about Sacred Thunder Drum when they attended a United Methodist Women summer education event, now called “mission U.”

The Thonotosassa-based Native American praise band accepted his invitation to visit Hawthorne every year, beginning in 2010. It’s fun for the congregation, but the benefits go beyond that, the pastor said. The worship experience includes songs sung in various Native American languages, including Sioux, Cherokee and Iroquois.

“It’s a good cross-cultural thing,” Standridge explained. “It shows us how they [Native Americans] worship God and gives us a chance to worship God in a new way. … It’s a real blessing as far as I can see.”

For information about Native American Ministries at the Florida Conference, click here.

– Susan Green is the Florida Conference managing editor.