While the Rev. Stuart Higginbotham regularly dons his priest’s collar on a daily basis to conduct his calling for God, the Grace Episcopal Church rector plans to hip-hop his wild socks off for the Gainesville community.
Higginbotham is one of 10 community members participating in the annual Dancing for a Cause. Knowing several people who participated in the fundraiser last year, Higginbotham knows this year will be just as fun.
“I blame Bill Coates for this,” Higginbotham said, referring to the pastor of First Baptist Church of Gainesville.
Living in Gainesville for more than a year, the minister looks forward to help the nonprofit organizations that give back to the community. Dancing for a Cause is designed to strengthen community support for four local human service agencies: Alliance for Literacy, Center Point, Rape Response, and Teen Pregnancy Prevention Inc.
“Gainesville is such a close community,” he said. “There is so much to learn and the four nonprofits that are being supported this year are phenomenal.”
The Rev. Cynthia Park, associate rector at Grace Episcopal, said helping nonprofits and others comes natural to Higginbotham.
“Things like the dance contest and the silly socks, those are just things that he does to make himself more approachable,” she said. “But he’s not a silly person at all. He is mature and a safe place to go if your life fell apart; the socks make it easy for you to come to him when your life falls apart.”
Not really being in the area long enough to build a network, Higginbotham is low on sponsorships to help raise money for Dancing for a Cause.
“I’ve approached getting sponsors a different way, I tell them ‘I’m the (quirky) priest who is going to make an absolute fool of himself,” he said.
Having grown up in a small town, the Arkansas native said Gainesville is a big town, and he is happy to be here and help the close-knit community.
Higginbotham attributes hosting comedy clubs throughout college for his ability to stand up and preach. He believes those skills will help with his dance moves.
“(My) favorite part of college was going to the dances and hanging out with friends and goofing off,” he said.
With that in mind, the priest has requested the hip-hop genre for his dances. He will meet with his professional dancer May 22 and start working on a routine.
“I’m not a ballroom dance guy,” he said. “I took ballroom dancing in college and it was not my thing. I do a lot better at more of a hip-hop, which will be a lot of fun.”
With his staff mortified, in a good way, the pastor hopes to dance to Will Smith’s “Men in Black” or Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
“I sent this in to the people who are organizing this and they wrote back, ‘Are you serious,’” Higginbotham said. “I said ‘Yeah, I’m serious.’ I have no shame.”