Our Story

The Story of Beyonce Mass

The church’s persistent litigiousness and myopic view of a gospel have facilitated the “rise of the nones”—a generation, or more accurately, generations, of people who feel disassociated from the church.  The church has been and continues to be complicit in racism, sexism, heteronormativity, classism, etc. The result is that people are looking to Christianity less and less to provide a relevant moral message about justice, love, and community. Further, for those people whose embodiment has been marginalized, there is insufficient theological language to reclaim space in the world. 

 

The Global Art and Theology Experience is a new initiative focused on cultivating resources, programs, and pathways for Black girls and women. GATE develops practical and experiential curriculum centered on womanist thought and theology and constructs creative mechanisms for dissemination. 

 

Currently, the primary project of GATE is the Beyoncé Mass—a Christian womanist worship service that uses the music and life of Beyoncé as a tool to cultivate an empowering conversation about Black women—their lives, their bodies, and their voices. The Beyoncé Mass is a space that encourages a practice of Christian faith that sees and acknowledges people where they are and for who they are. The mass is a space story, Scripture, and song that calls for the liberation of all people by creating welcome, fostering healing, and engaging contemporary conversation and culture as a part of Christian identity and praxis. 

Her Story

Part 1

The mass is a vehicle for demonstrating how God works through and heals Black women. This ministry is a demonstration of God’s capacity for healing, strength, and communion for the whole world.

 

The mass is the scholarly and ecclesial work of Rev. Yolanda M. Norton (visiting professor at Moravian University). The worship service began as a chapel service at San Francisco Theological Seminary, in Rev. Norton’s course, Beyoncé and the Hebrew Bible. After the class hosted a chapel service at the seminary, they were invited by Grace Cathedral in San Francisco to host a midweek service. 

 

The worship service was intended to be small, anticipating participation of fifty to one hundred people. The Beyoncé Mass went viral in the weeks leading up to the event and was attended by roughly 1,000 people from across the Bay Area--the United States’ most secular metropolitan area. 

 

The power of the mass was not in the number of people who attended or the media attention. Its strength was that a congregation of people who ranged from devout Christian to atheist and unchurched showed up to a Christian worship experience. The mass reached people across race, gender, sexuality, socio-economic status, and age. The centering of Black women’s experiences, wisdom, and spirituality provided a healing space for a broad demographic. In the wake of the San Francisco mass, Rev. Norton and a core team have had the opportunity to take this ministry across the world, hosting services in Southern California, New York City (Brooklyn and Harlem), and Lisbon, Portugal. 

Part 2

The mass is a vehicle for demonstrating how God works through and heals Black women. This ministry is a demonstration of God’s capacity for healing, strength, and communion for the whole world.

 

The mass is the scholarly and ecclesial work of Rev. Yolanda M. Norton (visiting professor at Moravian University). The worship service began as a chapel service at San Francisco Theological Seminary, in Rev. Norton’s course, Beyoncé and the Hebrew Bible. After the class hosted a chapel service at the seminary, they were invited by Grace Cathedral in San Francisco to host a midweek service. 

 

The worship service was intended to be small, anticipating participation of fifty to one hundred people. The Beyoncé Mass went viral in the weeks leading up to the event and was attended by roughly 1,000 people from across the Bay Area--the United States’ most secular metropolitan area. 

 

The power of the mass was not in the number of people who attended or the media attention. Its strength was that a congregation of people who ranged from devout Christian to atheist and unchurched showed up to a Christian worship experience. The mass reached people across race, gender, sexuality, socio-economic status, and age. The centering of Black women’s experiences, wisdom, and spirituality provided a healing space for a broad demographic. In the wake of the San Francisco mass, Rev. Norton and a core team have had the opportunity to take this ministry across the world, hosting services in Southern California, New York City (Brooklyn and Harlem), and Lisbon, Portugal.