This program was developed by the author Matthew Davis as exploration for the Fahs Collaborative based in the Meadville Lombard Theological School.  Each year the Fahs Collaborative selects three fellows who, as the Collaborative’s website says, “research and propose innovative solutions to challenges to faith formation and practices within religious education.”

For more information of the the Fahs Collaborative click HERE.

The Program Template

First, a short explanation of the format of the template.  I have created this template by combining three basic elements.  The first is a basic format for an intergenerational worship or short children’s chapel.  The intention of this element is to focus the template to the main goal of using theater, dance, or both as a method for spiritual practice.  From this element I have used wording such as prelude, practice, and benediction.   I have also gathered from this outline the important facet of the Chalice as a beginning and end to sacred and meditative time.

The second element I have incorporated is the basic flow of a dance class.  I have used a very basic model for a dance class and generalized it very much.  As see in the template I have used the terms, warmup, center and reverence.  These are all derived from the structure of a formal dance class.  In the structure of a dance class center includes many parts and is the bulk of the class, often refining technique learned in the warmup or barre sections.  Reverence is the section in a class that dancers bow to thank both teacher and musician.  I appreciate however, the duality of all the terms and their relation to the idea of these activities as a spiritual practice.

Finally I have used the element of an acting class structure.  This structure also uses many of the key parts of the others including a warmup and a central exercise.  The importance of this element can be found in the final section of the template that involves the discussion.  All acting classes have this particular part and it should not be skipped over.

This template is just that. It can work for a 30-45 minute RE class period or be extended to one to two hour full workshop. Please feel free to adapt it for your needs and participants.  And post your comments and experiences on the blog section.

For a section by section explanation of the template click HERE.

The Author

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Matthew Davis received his Bachelors degree in Theater Performance from Minnesota State University where he graduated as valedictorian and with high honors.  Directly out of college he was hired as the Associate Artistic Director of the Playhouse Merced in California.  In addition to his duties as AAD he became the head of acting and dance for the Children’s Conservatory at Playhouse as well as doing after school acting classes and performances for low income schools throughout central California.  Since moving back to Denver, he has directed and choreographed for children’s theaters in the area.  He has been privileged to perform with The National Theater for Children, touring schools with educational theater productions and continues to perform in Denver and the surrounding areas.  He has had the pleasure of working as the Artistic Director with Theatre-Hikes Colorado, a company with the mission of combining theater and enjoyment and preservation of the environment, for the past five years.

He has also been a religious educator on staff at First Unitarian Society of Denver for the past four years.  While at First Unitarian, he has also directed and choreographed the holiday pageant Avenue UU, an exploration of different holiday celebrations.  He has also been involved for the past five years in the annual musical revue at First Unitarian which is a fundraiser for the church.  He has also participated in several panels on sexuality for the high school OWL program. He has also been a counselor for Spirit Quuest, a week long stay away camp for Universal Unitarian middle school students.

During the day, Matthew is a paraprofessional at an elementary school providing math and reading help to struggling students and is an activity leader for the after school program there.  For the past five years in the after school program, he has planned activities and curriculum for the 60-70 students a day based on current and historical events, holidays, classical and modern art, theater and dance.  Throughout that time he has attended 15 or more hours a year in continuing education including health and wellness, early childhood development, structured play and recess, Spanish, and Yoga for children.

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