On Wednesday, 25 April 2018, The Vine at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco held a Beyoncé Mass. I took a short lunch that day at work in order to get to the cathedral in time. A good thing, too, as the doors for this Mass didn’t open until 6pm, and there was a long line out the door and around the cathedral’s courtyard.
Being partially disabled and already in a good deal of pain when I arrived just before 6pm, I entered from the lower level to take the elevator up to the sanctuary. There, I was directed to the line. At this point, I’d wished I’d brought my wheelchair. But if I had, the accessibility would’ve been even worse. The walkway in front of the cathedral’s main doors would not have been wide enough for me to roll pass the crowd to the end of the line. I passed numerous cathedral staff as I limped, leaning on my cane, to the end of the line. None of them asked if needed any accommodation. It was only after I’d been standing in line for about ten minutes that another person in line offered to ask the staff to let me wait inside on a seat. At that point the doors were opening anyway, so I declined her offer and thanked her.
I mention this because the sign describing the Mass indicated it was for the “forgotten and marginalized.” Well, it seems in this case the cathedral staff forgot to take into consideration accessibility and disabled persons.
It was a powerful and engergetic worship experience. And, the marginalization of trans/gender-diverse persons was addressed in some of the prayers. At other times, there was still mention of “men and women” or “sisters and brothers,” and that was a little disappointing. Even the blog post about this Mass starts with, “Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ.” It’s a common phrase in Christianity that is probably intended to be inclusive, but falls a bit short.
But really, those were the only two things that felt a little alienating and for me they were rather minor. I have a great interest in pop-culture spirituality and finding ways to make Christianity in particular and religion in general even more relevant in the present. And this Mass did just that. I’m sure I would’ve gotten more out of the Mass if I’d been more familiar with Beyoncé’s work. That said, I can see why which songs were chosen for the Mass in general as well as where in the Mass they were used.
The “Calling Out” part of the Mass was used to call out to God those social sins that we need to be free from, the chorus from the song Freedom was used in between each sin called out. Again, I was happy that “transphobia and cissexism” were amoung the bondages from which we needed to be freed. The one that surprised me was when being made free of the “bondage of privilege” was called out. Being transgender, queer, mentally ill, and somewhat disabled I didn’t quite understand this. I watched various forms of privilege disappear as I came out and transitioned as as my health declines. Privilege, to me, doesn’t seem like a form of bondage. I’m going to have to investigate this idea.
I was moved to tears when reciting the Womanist Lord’s Prayer:
who is in heaven and within us,
we call upon your names.
Your wisdom come.
You will be done,
In all the spaces in which You dwell.
Give us each day
sustenance an perseverance.
Remind us of our limits as
we give grace to the limits of others.
Separate us from the temptation of empire,
But deliver us into community.
For you are the dwelling place within us
the empowerment around us
and the celebration among us
now and for ever.
This language framed the Lord’s Prayer in ways I’d never encountered before. So while the music didn’t speak to me as much as it would have to others, the theology certainly moved me.