Reflections from the Holy Land-An Invitation

Group 236

Many moons ago, while living in Puerto Rico and serving as youth director in my church, I was a liturgical dancer and choreographer. There it is; one of the least known or advertised facts about my faith story. For some, this may be quite a surprise. For those who’ve known me since I was a teenager, it may provoke some nostalgia. I can say with all honesty, I remember that season with great fondness. I loved to dance! I loved to worship! Why not do both with reverence and joy; with friends and like-minded worshipers? Why not?

This practice- or movement- took Puerto Rico by storm in the early ’90s. If I remember correctly, it came to us by way of a group of young adults who went to the Holy Land, witnessed the cultural dance of Jewish and Palestinian peoples, and made a connection between what they saw and what they read in the scriptures as a form of worship. This connection led to them learning the cultural dances and determining that because these were created by the living stones of the Holy Land, these dances were acceptable worship in their sacred spaces. In my youth, I learned and taught many of these dances. 


While in the Holy Land with fellow bishops, we had the honor and privilege of witnessing the cultural dance that inspired so much of what I did as a teenager: the Dabke. Not only did we witness the Dabke, we were invited to participate! And that we did.

I watched. I engaged. I reflected… As a youth, I did not know about cultural appropriation. Nor did I know to ask why we needed to use other people’s cultural traditions to worship a God who created us in Latiné bodies and contexts with our own rich cultural traditions. I did not know then what I know now.

Now I know what it was that those young adults witnessed and experienced. I also know why they wanted to take it back home and into their sacred spaces. The Dabke combines circle and line dancing to create a fun and celebratory experience that requires collective agreement and truly brings people together. There is coordination and laughter, embodiment and joy. It looks and feels like what church should be; a holy dance with friends.


We’ve been on this lenten journey for six weeks now. And these devotions have been inspired by my trip to the Holy Land this past January for a reason. I’d like you to join me next January and experience the cultural and spiritual richness among the living stones in Israel and Palestine; I’d like you to explore with me what it means to be a disciple of Jesus while on sacred land; that together we might engage in a holy dance of our own… with God’s help and in Jesus’ name. 


*My liturgical dance days are no more. Need not inquire about a demonstration or video evidence… Exceptions may only be made in the Holy Land. See you there! 🙂


En Cristo,

Bp. Leila



Learn more about the 2024 trip to the Holy Land by clicking the image below.