Mennonite prohibitions included dancing, television, and movies. When my gym teacher taught a class unit on dancing, I had to turn in a note sent by my mother excusing me for religious reasons. Those classes spent with one other lonely Mennonite classmate on the wooden bleachers were some of the longest fifty minutes in high school for me.

–from “Courtship and the Farmer’s Daughter,” Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets the Glittering World

The wedding we attended recently in Lancaster County was not only festive, it was a reminder that things have changed a lot since 1962 when I was not allowed to participate in even the mildest form of dancing — square dancing.

Today, many (but not all) of the formerly “plain” groups –Lancaster Conference Mennonites and the Church of the Brethren — have loosened restrictions. For many of us oldsters, the change came too late to create graceful moves on the dance floor, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy.

My 86 year-old-mother Barbara Ann Hess Hershey Becker came to the wedding with a sparkle in her eye, knowing there would be dancing. When the time came, my brother, nephew and I led her to the dance floor. I think you can tell by looking at this short clip who was having the most fun.

The bride and groom picked lots of great country music and danced into their reception to lots of clapping to John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.”

At about 18 seconds you will see my grandson Owen, age two, busting a move. Maybe he will eventually become a graceful dancer.

In the meantime, as my father would say, “If you can’t sing, make a joyful noise.” So if you can’t dance, make a joyful move. Hey, that we can do!

My new beginning today is to fly to Phoenix to join thousands of other Mennonites in our biannual conference. I will be hanging out at the Menno Media bookstore and hope to see some of you there.

Here’s another reminder to register your new beginning.

Another red gingham remnant of the wedding. 73 Days before launch.

Do you have a dance story to tell? We’d love to hear it!

Shirley Showalter


  1. Kathleen Pooler on July 1, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    Shirley, I love this! In fact , I am using dancing as a metaphor for how I get into and out of unhealthy relationships for memoir #1. Let’s all dance on. πŸ™‚

    • shirleyhs on July 1, 2013 at 4:26 pm

      Dancing makes a great metaphor for lots of things, Kathy.
      So glad you enjoyed the post — and strength for your two-step journey!

  2. Tina Barbour on July 1, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    I so enjoyed seeing the dancing and catching the joy from the videos!

    I went to a fundamentalist Christian high school, so there were no dances and no dancing. Then I went to the University of Virginia, where there were a lot of parties that included dancing (no surprise there!). πŸ™‚ After I got over my self-consciousness, I had fun!

    • shirleyhs on July 1, 2013 at 4:30 pm

      I can identify with the shifts in cultural environments. Tina. I’m glad you overcame your self-consciousness. I danced for the first time in complete freedom when I worked with mentally disabled people. Boy, could we cut a rug.

  3. Melanie on July 2, 2013 at 12:39 am

    Love this (and will have John Denver’s song in my head for the rest of the day!). I attended a friends 40th in January and there was lots of dancing, but I was too inhibited to take the dance floor, and mad at myself for my inhibitions. Maybe someday.

    I looked immediately to see what color of shoes your mom was wearing. πŸ™‚

    • shirleyhs on July 2, 2013 at 1:34 am

      Ha! I looked at her shoes too, Melanie. I should have used that excerpt from the book for this post. But remember the bishop ‘s fear that his leniency would lead to dancing in the aisles? He was right!

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