Last night (Saturday, October 4th) we held a drum circle at church. Mamadou Diop the Senegalese drummer, guitar player, rocker, and band leader from Salem offered to help run the drum circle for us. Every drum circle needs a couple really serious drummers. Mamadou and his team are really serious drummers, so we were going to rock.
We put out flyers. We sent info to our mailing list. On the day of the event Carlos and I sat outside The Vault (the name of our church location), and beat some drums as advertisement for the upcoming drum circle. Little kids stopped with their parents and beat along on the bongos. A few people said they would be back, and a local Witch said she wanted to come and belly dance. We had billed the event as: "Bring your Drum, borrow a drum, learn to drum, come and dance, join the party." So of course, Belly Dancers were welcome too. This was an open event for anyone who wanted to join in.
At 5:45pm Mamadou and his troupe of drummers arrived. There were about eight of them, and then some of the gang from The Gathering arrived. I suggested we move the circle outside. It was a warm Fall evening, and we thought that it would be a good crowd gatherer. The tourist season is officially in full swing in Salem, and the crowds were here indeed. We set a half circle of chairs in the open square just outside the church doors and brought out the drums.
The drumming began, and the crowds started gathering. We had extra drums for people who wanted to join in. Three to six year old children sat down and banged out rhythms to Mamadou's African beats, which I was trying to keep up with.
There were pentagram T-shirt wearing older women, little kids, teenagers, old hippie guys, and then the belly dancer arrived, and the crowds got bigger. The Witch belly dancer has angel wings tattooed on her back from her shoulders to her lower back. Then a drunk guy sat down next to me and had a hard time sitting up straight, but looked like he was having fun. After about 30 minutes the drunk guy said, "I dare you to get naked," through his crooked smile.
I said, "I don't think so."
Then he said, "Can I get you a beer?"
"Um, no thanks, I think I'll pass."
Then he meandered off only to return 15 minutes later with a six pack. Not a good move in downtown Salem, but the police didn't come around, and he seemed to keep in six pack in the canvas bag he carried. I think the drum circle kept his attention, and he forgot about his beer.
So the drums pounded out their rhythms in downtown Salem. The kids and parents joined in. The crowds stood around, and dropped dollar bills in a box Mamadou's people set out. People cheered. The belly dancer came in and out of the church with costume changes.
I live in a weird world. African drummers, little kids and their parents, old hippies, pentagram T-shirt wearing grandmothers, Witches in full garb, a Pagan Belly Dancer, and a drunk. This is who shows up when we throw a party at The Gathering. Acceptance is a messy, and beautiful thing methinks.
This church location we have is an experiment. It is an experiment in acceptance toward the whole community of Salem, and the strange characters who live here, and I guess "I is one." It is an experiment in trying to be an enhancement to the businesses downtown. It is an experiment in living out our Christianity in a post-modern, post-Christian world. I guess this is part of what the experiment looks like.