Saturday, July 21, 2012

Gospel mimes "preach" in Detroit

And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Matthew 10:7

And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! Romans 10:15

Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. II Timothy 4:2

Here's another example in the long and dishonourable tradition of entertaining goats rather than feeding sheep. I can see problems with the idea of "miming" the gospel. For one thing, the gospel of Jesus Christ consists of doctrine, which includes words and ideas that may be difficult or impossible to communicate using pantomime. To the extent that mimes fail to accurately communicate the teaching, the audience (the term "congregation" seems inappropriate in this context) will fail to correctly understand the gospel. Another thing that mimes seem to have difficulty comprehending is that many, if not most people (including this blogger) really dislike mimes (as CBS found out when it gave the duo Shields and Yarnell their own TV variety show in the summer of 1977 and the early months of 1978), which will have the effect of automatically alienating a large segment of the audience.

As reported by Oralandar Brand-Williams of The Detroit News, July 14, 2012:

Detroit — When James Hayes began performing mime in churches more than a decade ago, some congregations turned him away, saying the art form "was not of God."

But now, the artistry of silent film actor Charlie Chaplin and French mime artist Marcel Marceau has given way to an increasingly popular art form being used to preach the Gospel in pulpits across the country.

"We want to take the songs and bring them to life," said Hayes, founder and chief executive officer of Run the Race Performing Arts Ministry, which teaches mime to churches.

Hayes, a Detroit resident, is organizing a conference called the Gathering of the Mimes in the city, bringing together more than 200 performers and an estimated 1,000 observers.

The event, which is free and open to the public, is being held through today at Chapel LIFE Church, Williams Chapel, 3100 Elmwood in Detroit.

Hayes, who has degrees in acting and education, has been performing mime in churches since 1998. He wears white facial makeup and white gloves along with dark clothing to accentuate his facial expressions and body movements to illustrate sermons and song.

"In the past, churches were like, 'What is it?'" said 31-year-old Hayes, a member of Second Canaan Missionary Baptist Church on the city's east side. "But now you can't go into a church without mimes being there. They're everywhere."

Most gospel mime acts perform to popular gospel songs. A gospel mime traditionally wears black and white. Some choose to wear robes.

Mime performer Myra Morrison, a 47-year-old Farmington Hills resident, also uses the art form to minister at local homeless shelters.

"It illuminates what's being spoken," said Morrison, moving her hands to illustrate.

Cass Tech High School senior Randall Murray said gospel mime is becoming increasingly popular among younger church-goers.

"It's something new to young people," said 17-year-old Murray, a member of the "2 C Remnant" mime group from Second Canaan Missionary Baptist Church.

"The focus is communicating the message of the gospel, and our mime ministry is another way of doing just that," said Melvin Epps, spokesman for Greater Grace Temple in Detroit.

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