"I used to feel that my dancing and my faith were separate, that one was my job and the other my religion, that they rarely intersected or affected the other,” says Alex Woodley. “But I’ve come to recognize that the Lord has made the two readily accessible to me. Both my ability to dance and to have a relationship with God are blessings that make up a huge part of my identity.”

Toronto Bound
Born and raised in southern Alberta, Alex was dancing almost as soon as she could walk. “Since I was little,” she says, “I’ve had a passion for the movement, expression, music and discipline of most dance genres.”

Fortunately, she was blessed to be part of a family that could encourage her passion, in the form of lessons, examinations and competitions. It was no surprise to anyone that after graduating from high school, Alex decided to pursue dancing as a career. While Vancouver was an option, she was more excited about the possibilities inherent in a move to Toronto, which she did in September 2015, to study at George Brown College.

Now that she was settled, Alex needed a church community, especially as she had no family or friends in the city.

She soon found both.

Introduction to Church
“I started researching churches in the area and I came across The Salvation Army,” Alex says. “I called my mother: ‘Did you know they were a church? I thought they were only a charity!’ She encouraged me to attend.”

So one Sunday morning, Alex prepared to check out The Salvation Army’s North Toronto Community Church.

“My plan was to casually pass by and check it out,” Alex says, “but as I watched all sorts of people enter, one of the greeters said hello to me and suggested I come in. I guess I should, I thought. This is why I dropped by, after all. So I did.”

Alex was impressed with what she saw and heard. “I had never even imagined church being like that—it just blew my mind!” Alex smiles. “There were friendly people both in uniform and in casual wear and there was a brass band as well as a choir. The pastors were welcoming and I thoroughly enjoyed the sermon.”

But there was more. As she was preparing to leave, a lady sitting behind Alex named Mrs. Lt-Colonel Dorothy Brown touched her shoulder and introduced herself.

“We’re having something we call a rally day after the service,” she said. “You should come to our picnic.”

Intrigued, Alex did.

“When I told the ladies at the front door that Dorothy sent me, they immediately ushered me in and introduced me to some college-aged girls. I was a stranger, and all these people made me feel at home. Everyone was so kind and considerate and answered all the questions I had. I couldn’t wait to go back next week.”

Passion at Work
“Alex has been a breath of fresh air,” says Major David Ivany, a Salvation Army spiritual director and member at North Toronto. “Her openness to new possibilities led her to North Toronto (not really knowing what The Salvation Army was), and her warm spirit has led her into relationships with people of all ages in the congregation, from children to adults to seniors. She assists me with the teen Sunday school class and participates in the choir.”

“It’s true!” Alex laughs. “My second week at church, my now-best friend Robyn Goodyear invited me to join the songsters. I had never read a note of music in my life until then, but everyone was so patient and accepting. I’m not a musician at all—I can’t play any instrument—but I enjoy how so much of Army worship revolves around music.

“In dance, you are always working to be better, working toward a goal that is always changing. It’s where I grow the most and learn the most about myself, others and the world. Constant discovery goes hand in hand with dancing, and I absolutely love that.”

Alex hopes to dance professionally after her schooling is done but has no idea where life will lead her.

“I may not understand where my dance life is going, in the same way I can’t imagine where my relationship with the Lord is going to take me,” Alex reflects.” But I hope God will use my passion for dance and my faith in Him to help people, to change the world and to bring me closer to Him in a thrilling and fulfilled life.”

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