A San Francisco church was standing-room only Wednesday night for its one-of-a-kind mass inspired by musical icon Beyonce.
Grace Cathedral, an Episcopal church, announced it was holding a special worship service highlighting Beyonce’s music and how it relates to the spiritual experience of black women and the issues they face in society.
Revered Yolanda Norton, Assistant Professor of Old Testament at San Francisco Theological Seminary, preached Wednesday night’s message.
Norton said she came up with the idea for the mass from her class ‘Beyonce and the Hebrew Bible’.
The unique service was organized by the Vine, the church’s contemporary ministry, which holds services every Wednesday night aimed at young worshippers.
The church told ABC that on a typical Wednesday night roughly 50 people attend the Vine’s non-traditional mass. More than 900 people turned out for the April 25 service, Reverend Jude Harmon said.
‘We didn’t expect this response,’ he told the outlet. ‘We thought it would be kind of a small exploration as a community about what it means to lift up black female voices because traditionally the church hasn’t done a great job of that.’
The large cathedral was dimly lit with purple lights for the evening service. As guests filed into the church, Beyonce songs like ‘Freakum Dress’ and ‘Countdown’ blared across loud speakers.
Once everyone was seated, the church’s lead singer launched into a gospel-rendition of the Destiny’s Child song ‘Survivor’.
It was followed by prayer and a reading from a speech by the late Ella Baker, an African-American civil rights and human rights activist.
In between other Beyonce selections such as ‘Listen’, ‘Freedom’ ‘Flaws and All’ and ‘I Was Here’, Norton read from Psalms and Luke and preached to the large crowd.
Norton told KTVU that she knows people think the service may be a gimmick or a way to worship the singer, but that’s not the case.
‘We’re just saying let’s use that as a conversation piece to talk about God. This a worship service,’ she said.
Although nearly a thousand people packed into the church for the Beyonce Mass, the service was met with some criticism. The church responded to the backlash in a letter posted to its website.
‘As supporters of the cathedral you know how important it is for us to be involved in the public life of our city and the world. A longing for justice lies at the heart of our identity,’ the statement read in part.
‘We have been surprised by how much attention we have been receiving about this and do expect a large attendance at this worship service. Your friends may ask you about this. You might want to remind them that God is in all the world and that Beyoncé is made in God’s image. The church has not treated women of color fairly and it is time to face this truth. ‘
The Beyonce Mass was just one of a three-part series by the Vine called ‘Speaking Truth: The Power of Story in Community’, which aims to talk about those traditionally marginalized in Christianity.
Source: Daily Mail