Gospel Mime Becoming More Accepted in The Black Church, But Is it Anointed?
Gospel mime is a growing trend in many African-American Christian churches across the U.S.
It was in Western cultures, pantomime has usually been associated with French performers and street artists. The silent art is often performed in Japanese and Indian spiritual traditions. But in recent years, the black church has taken up the art form, reinterpreting pantomime and combining it with a Christian message, says Detroit Free Press.
“You’re bringing the word of God to life, illuminating it,” explained Minister Myra Morrison, 47 of Detroit. “You’re preaching with your body. It’s not about entertainment. It’s about ministry.”
Yolanda Smith, a Yale Divinity School lecturer who also performs liturgical dance says “Gospel mime comes out of a history of spiritual expression that stretches back centuries in America and Africa”.
“In African-American churches, movement has always been a part of our history, a part of our heritage,” Smith said. She cited the ring shout, a form of expression that started during slavery and is rooted in Africa.
Mime is one of several ways of expression in black churches that have developed in recent years, They include:
- liturgical dance
- stepping routines
- and drill teams
Smith says these practices are “a way of engaging young people” amid concerns that they are leaving the church.
Detroit Free Press reported many mimes faced resistance from some churches, negatively associating it with African-rooted practices like voodoo.
But its clear that many churches have become very comfortable with miming and incorporate it in their weekly worship experience.
Mime performances vary. They include dance numbers, short skits and stories about the life of Christ. Most, but not all, gospel mimes wear white paint on their faces, with black paint to highlight their eyebrows; they might wear white gloves, too. The dress for lead performers is often a flowing robe while backup and younger performers will wear black pants and black T-shirts.
Mime can be a path to Christ when other routes don’t work, supporters say.
“People learn in different ways,” mime performer Lanese Jefferson, 31, of Detroit explained while taking a break during rehearsal last month at Chapel Life.
“It may be kind of difficult for a person coming to Christ to read the Bible and understand what exactly is being said. If we can paint that picture, if we can create the same story that’s written in the word, it’s a beautiful thing because that’s another way someone can be received.
Mimer Piccolo Robertson of Detroit and others say there are Biblical roots for mime. He cites a story in the Old Testament, noting that the prophet Ezekiel nonverbally acted out certain stories.
“That’s where mime comes from,” said Robertson. “Ezekiel was the first mime.”
AT2W’s Take: We can’t say that we really agree with miming in the church. As a performing act on the streets and at secular events seem to be the most appropriate place for miming. We realize the church, especially the black church wanted to engage the young people into staying in the church but we say if there is not anointing, even in mime, in the church, then it should not be there. We have actually seen a mime performance at a church and we felt the anointing from it but we believe it was the music and the performance that made the difference. Those performances that resemble hip hop were the ones we did not feel anointing.
Here’s some history on some noted Mime Artists:
• The most famous mime artist of the 20th Century was Marcel Marceau of France. Marceau toured often in the U.S. and around the world, usually performing in one-man shows that acted out a range of emotions, from love to joy to fear. Widely praised, he appeared on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson, performed for presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, and established his own mime school. He died in 2007 at the age of 84.
• The gospel mime trend ignited in the 1990s as K&K Mime, twin brothers Keith and Karl Edmonds from Pittsburgh, began to popularize the art form. Many people look at them as inspirational role models. In recent years, K&K videos posted on the Internet have garnered hundreds of thousands of views. The most popular gospel mime video online is their interpretation of the song “Stand” by Donnie McClurkin, a former minister at Perfecting Church in Detroit. It’s been viewed almost 1 million times.