The Fountain of Raleigh Fellowship desire to open its church doors even wider to its youth a few years ago led to a four-letter word: mime.
“In our youth ministry, we try to grab young people where they are; they don’t always want to sing in the choir or usher or come to Bible study,” said member Rachele Roman, a youth leader at The Fountain. “We felt, to some degree, they were a little lost.”
The Fountain of Raleigh Mime Team found them.
This month, the 18-member team, ages 5-20, is preparing for “Overflow,” its second annual Youth Mime Conference, which is scheduled for June 27-28 at The Fountain of Raleigh Fellowship at 9621 Six Forks Road.
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Registration for the conference opened April 15 and runs through June 23.
Message in motion
Mime as a spiritual ministry is subject to a mixed-bag of reviews. Its biblical reference is often overshadowed by the historical origins of pantomime as an art form more suited for burlesque. The painted white faces – complimented by white gloves in stark contrast to all-black attire common in mime – is also often shunned as wicked or too reminiscent of blackface.
Even so, in Ezekiel, God gave the prophet He called to announce His judgment on Israel and other nations various methods, illustrations and demonstrations to silently deliver the message when his words were shunned. The only words he was able to speak were, “Thus saith the Lord.”
Psalms also speaks to several gestures common in mime, each showing reverence to God. From Psalms, we get clapping and lifting hands in triumph and surrender; the lifted head with total attention on God; kneeling and bowing as signs of humility; and laughing as a gift of the joy of the Lord. We can also find mimed gestures of servitude – foot-washing in Luke and taking off shoes on holy ground in Exodus.
“Mime, to us, is a preached message, our sermon, in motion,” Roman said. “We believe that our mime ministry is just as effective as the preached word. We paint so our facial expressions will pop out.
“We’re not saying anything, so we want you to see our message as we express that message through our faces and through our hands,” Roman said. “When you see them minister together, it’s powerful.
“They are powerful,” she added. “It’s a way they can praise and worship God, in their own way.
“You won’t see mime in all churches right now in 2014, but mime will reach all churches now.”
At The Fountain, mime is more than a way to identify with youth, said the Rev. Paul L. Anderson, who started The Fountain of Raleigh in 2009 after several years at Baptist Grove Church off Leesville Road, where The Fountain’s mime ministry was first born.
As an art form and a ministry, Anderson said, mime promotes both artistic and emotional expression; teaches the coordination and cooperation of teamwork; allows youth to use their natural gifts and develop other skills; teaches them leadership and “followership” as servants of Christ; and brings youth affirmation and inspiration.
“You develop the total person, not just the discipline of mime,” he said.
Tanya Scott’s daughter, Taylor, 11, has come out of her shell of shyness. He older brother, TJ, joined her.
“It’s been a confidence-builder for her, and taught them both to be worship leaders,” Scott said. I have really enjoyed the experience, and I know they have, too.”
The Fountain’s two-day Youth Mime Conference will feature a showcase of The Fountain of Raleigh Mime Team, which consists of about 13 boys and five girls, and others in a praise and worship mime concert. Saturday, conference participants will fellowship and learn mime routines taught by The Fountain team, Wade Little II of Anointed Mime/Praise Ministry of Raleigh, Fred Jones of Desperate for Christ of Greensboro, and Tony and EJ of T&E Mime Ministry of Durham.
About 75 people representing 10 churches attended the inaugural conference last year, Roman said.
Little oversees an 18-member mime team at Bible Way Baptist Church. He was first introduced to mime as a member of Baptist Grove Church while Anderson was pastor.
“It wasn’t until we went to The Fountain of Raleigh mime ministry conference last year that we actually started ours up,” said Little, 24. “It actually caused our kids to have a closer relationship with God. They’re more interactive in church and they get more involved in all church activities. It has opened up the doors for the kids to be interested in church.”
Roman’s daughter, Taina, a Meredith College sophomore studying fashion design, said she wasn’t so sure mime was the answer.
“But I really enjoy it because it allows me to have more of an expression of and more of a connection to the words of the songs,” the 20-year-old said. “When you mime, you really have to understand the words of the song and understand the story within the song. That brings you to God and into a closer relationship with God.”
Mime does the same for its witnesses, too.
“Essentially, it’s an extension of dance, but it’s a lot more intimate; yet, it removes you from the forefront because you have on make-up and gloves and simple attire,” said Ashleigh, 17, headed on a full scholarship to Hampton University. “It’s not about you. It’s about the movement and your ministry.”