A San Francisco pastor has defended his decision to allow a guest speaker to hold a “Beyonce-inspired” worship service at his Episcopal church, despite receiving widespread criticism from across the country.
Revered Yolanda Norton delivered a message at Grace Cathedral which utilized Beyoncé’s music to demonstrate the “spiritual experience of black women as well as the issues they face in society,” according to the Daily Mail.
“I know there are people who will say using Beyoncé is just a cheap way of trying to get people in the church,” said Grace’s lead pastor, Jude Harmon in a statement to WND.
There is nothing like hearing Formation, Who Runs the World-Girls, and Diva boom off the echoing stone walls of @gracecathedral Nothing like it. @Beyonce #BeyonceMass #SanFrancisco pic.twitter.com/vw6vDiLXIU
— Rachel Medanic (@vampituity) April 26, 2018
But Harmon refused to apologize for the service, which many believed to be rather irreverent. Instead, he argued that, with Beyonce at the center of proceedings, the church was simply following Christ’s lead.
“Jesus used very provocative images in the stories he would tell to incite people to ask hard questions about their own religious assumptions,” he said. “He regularly provoked. We’re following in the way of Jesus.”
The service attracted a huge response on social media, with the hashtag #BeyonceMass trending on Twitter.
“We didn’t expect this response,” Harmon told ABC News. “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.”
According to those in attendance, as some 900-plus worshippers filed into the church, Beyoncé songs such as “Freakum Dress” and “Countdown” blared across out through the loudspeakers.
— Pia Cortez (@piathabia) April 26, 2018
The church responded to critics in a letter posted on 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 Beyoncé 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.”
Great night. Thank you @revdryono for your amazing witness to God's power and grace. @jhmorrell you and the band were magic. Thank you Logan McWilliams for your blessing. The @SanFranSeminary team gives me such great hope. Glad for Jude, Sam the team, and of course… #Beyonce. pic.twitter.com/jt8kH80O9c
— MalcolmYoung (@MalcolmYoung) April 26, 2018
And to those critics who think that such an event puts the pop megastar in the place of God? Rev. Norton says she rejects this, and sees Beyonce’s music as a catalyst for conversation about the Almighty.
“Let’s use that as a conversation piece to talk about God,” she said. “This a worship service.”
(H/T: The Daily Mail)