Posted by Mo. Lyn on Jun 28, 2013 Comments (0)
Published in the Orange County Register on June 26, 2013
The term drum circle originated in the United States during the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was particularly popular among counterculture groups.
However, in recent years, a new generation of drum circles has been born that focuses on spirituality. Some are found in the Native American culture, some among those who practice yoga and its principles, but drumming also has had a resurgence in the Christian world. Drumming is happening in churches across America. It is being used in children's programs, worship services, family events, and men's and women's groups.
And, says Zachary Reid, a staff writer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, drumming "can transcend denominational and cultural boundaries." Perhaps that explains its growing popularity on the postmodern religious scene.
So what happens in a drum circle? It is a gathering of people who come together to express themselves through the use of percussive instruments. In Western countries, drum circles have developed into two main types: community circle, which is free-form drumming, and facilitated or conducted circle, which has a specific person – usually called a facilitator – who leads the group. The facilitator is there to guide the group, teach techniques and set the tone of the experience.
In Christian drum circles, the goal is to have a group spiritual experience. That experience, of course, is in some ways unique for every individual. But Arthur Hull, the father of the modern day drum circle, noted that "when we drum together, it changes our relationships and helps us cope with life. It tames stress and creates a group version of the so-called runner's high. Energy swells as drummers share joyful bliss conversing through sound and rhythm. There is a natural high produced by a drum circle that you simply need to experience to believe."
Cynthia Ambrister, the person in charge of a Christian drum circle in Fredericksburg, Va., says, "When people come together as a group to create rhythm, something intrinsic and inclusive happens. Picture a flock of birds flying together ... one of the birds is leading the way, but all of the birds seem to know exactly where the lead bird is going. The same phenomenon begins to happen with a group of drummers that are listening to each other and playing together. One drummer plays and more and more drummers are able to join in and naturally play with the momentum of the rhythm."
Drumming circles teach us to listen. Baba Jubal Harris, famed percussionist, performer and master craftsman on the Ohio Arts Council, says that "in a drum circle, you should listen just as much as you play; it should be a conversation – not an argument." Adds Zen master Dae Gak: "Listening is the fundamental practice of any spiritual path."
Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Fullerton has a facilitated drum circle that meets on the fourth Thursday of every month. It is led by Ken Peters, the church's gifted percussionist. The group is open to the public. So bring your drum or other percussion instruments and join us. Peters also has a supply of hand drums and other percussion instruments for those who would like to attend but do not have an instrument of their own.