Beyoncé isn’t normally associated with church, but a forward-thinking pastor in San Francisco recently held a “Beyoncé Mass.” The mass featured songs like “Freedom,” “Flaws and All,” and an old favorite: Destiny Child’s “Survivor,” according to Mother Jones.
And if the pastor was hoping to catch the attention of more people in the community to attend church, it worked. The turnout for the Beyoncé Mass was 900 people, whereas a normal night only attracts around 50 people.
The night started with the choir singing “Survivor,” followed by a sermon and concluded by more music. The sermon included readings from Luke and the Psalms. It was given by Rev. Yolanda Norton, who is teaching a course called “Beyoncé and the Hebrew Bible” at a nearby seminary.
The sermon theme revolved around the liberation struggle, scripture readings, and snippets of Ella Baker’s speech, who was a civil rights leader. The pastor emphasized that the mass wasn’t about worshipping the celebrity, but rather about speaking about her in context of Christianity.
“When we talk about womanist biblical interpretation, Beyoncé felt like a natural fit. If we look at the trajectory of her person and her relationships, we can see so many issues black women face and how it can affect how we interpret the text.”
When news of the mass started spreading locally, it was eventually featured by several national outlets. This led to some critics mocking the idea of having Beyoncé in church, while others said that it was deifying the singer.
However, churchgoers appreciated the new context of the sermon, some praising the women-centric interpretation of the Bible, detailed the SF Chronicle. An attendee, Ayana Corbin, was glad to see “black women at the center of the conversation,” which she hasn’t normally seen at mainstream churches. And indeed, the night brought together a larger group of worshipers than ever before; people of all ages and ethnicities.
Pastor Norton isn’t the first to notice Beyoncé’s Christian messages. In fact, Christianity Today likened her album Lemonade to a “modern-day book of Psalms.” Beyoncé has already proclaimed her belief in God, but the album also emphasizes major biblical themes like resurrection and redemption.
This special Beyoncé mass was part of a series that Grace Cathedral Church is hosting called “Speaking Truth: The Power of Story in Community.” In addition to a mass featuring Beyoncé, the church previously held a program called “The Nasty Woman.”
“The Nasty Woman” was about Mary Magdelene, and the church compared her to Hillary Clinton. The theme? That “strong, smart women being insulted and marginalized by agents of patriarchy is as old as time.” The idea is that a modern Mary Magdelene would be one of the “nasty women” at protests wearing a pink hat.