Rev. David Burrows, Parish of the Ascension, Mount Pearl, dances with Erika Wilansky.
In an Atlantic variation on the television show Dancing with the Stars, 11 Anglican priests from the diocese of Newfoundland and Labrador kicked up their heels to raise a significant chunk of change for charity.
The Dancing with the Priests event, which took place in May in St. John’s, raised $92,000 for Vibrant Communities, an organization working to raise 1,500 St. John’s households out of poverty by 2012.
One 63-year-old associate priest even donned red spandex for his disco debut.
“It was amazing,” recalls Rev. David Burrows, who won the competition dancing a slow waltz and a three-step trot. The rector of Parish of the Ascension, Mount Pearl, swears he was not a dancer prior to the event.
Each of the priests was paired with a professional dance partner and each couple was required to perform a compulsory waltz, and a dance of their choice, such as hip-hop, disco, Latin or Irish step-dancing.
Mr. Burrows found the competition highly entertaining. “We had all been practicing since last October, so we were half-decent, but we had never seen each other dance.”
What most impressed him, however, was the way the whole community, including more than 160 volunteers, made the event work. “They were from all parts of community life, not only Anglicans, but people from the business community, people with a low income, dance schools, people from Memorial University,” he said. “How closely knit this community is here in Newfoundland helped immensely.”
The $75 tickets included a meal catered by Roary MacPherson, executive chef of the Sheraton Hotel in St. John’s. The night of the event, $41,000 was raised through ticket sales, sponsorships and $10,000 in pledges. The funds are being matched by the J.W. McConnell Foundation, doubling the $41,000 to $82,000. In addition, the city of St. John’s donated $10,000 directly to Vibrant Communities. (Although there are 16 Vibrant Communities across Canada, funds raised by Dancing with the Priests will stay in the St. John’s region.)
When asked if the priests would repeat their performance, Mr. Burrows said they’re looking at doing the dance competition every other year to benefit other charities “that need prominence in the community.”
He’s hoping that the event will inspire others to “take a risk in ministry.”