As the sounds of Beyoncé’s “Freedom” filled Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis, Reverend Yolanda Norton addressed those thronging the pews. “We do our best in this worship to remind everyone that this is not a performance, this is not a spectator sport,” she said. “It’s worship.”
Norton’s cult layered a Genesis reading, calls for racial justice and live music with “XO,” which begins with “Baby, kiss me before they turn out the lights.”
Beyoncé Mass has arrived in the Twin Cities.
The church service, touted on the worship team’s website as a “revolutionary spiritual experience”, is not about worshiping Queen Bey. Instead, the Christian Mass uses the music and personal story of Beyoncé Knowles-Carter to connect with God — while acknowledging and celebrating black women.
The traveling worship mass – which includes a sermon and scripture readings as well as live renditions of key Bey songs by black singers – was created by Norton, a scholar and minister of the Disciples of Christ. The idea grew out of a class she taught at San Francisco Theological Seminary called “Beyoncé and the Hebrew Bible.”
In addition to Friday’s service in Plymouth, Norton and his team are to give a free outdoor service Saturday at 3 p.m. in George Floyd Square at the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis.
Since 2018, the mass of Beyoncé de Norton has been celebrated in churches and schools from Lisbon to New York. This year, Norton and his team started traveling again to deliver in-person services after months of sharing service online during the pandemic.
Coming to Minneapolis was a priority, she said. She partnered with sponsors, including the United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, to bring the service here.
“We have critical conversations about how black women are transforming spaces and how we’re doing God’s work and how we’re doing justice’s work. Of course you have to be in Minneapolis,” Norton said. “The city has been decimated time and time again by injustice.”
And Norton sees black women as being on the front lines of justice.
“We want to honor this work as sacred and want to name, in particular, that George Floyd Square is sacred ground,” she said. “The way people have continued to create, thrive and honor the legacy of a man who was killed is God’s doing. That’s how we got here.”
Grace, ‘flaws and all’
While popular music at the church is far from new, Beyoncé’s mass was a first in Plymouth, said the Reverend DeWayne Davis, the church’s chief minister, who fielded many questions from parishioners. on this subject. (Beyoncé herself would not be present, he had to explain himself more than once.)
“I love this idea that in an artist’s work there can be deep opportunities to encounter the sacred,” he said. “It is human beings who have created the dichotomy between the sacred and the profane.”
Davis sees the Mass as an opportunity to have a broader view of what church can be — and to associate with those who seek higher meaning in their lives.
“Beyoncé is very honest about how she feels. And sometimes I don’t think the church allows that without fear of being judged,” he said. “But here’s someone whose voice is rising because she’s really struggling with what it means to be a woman, to be in love, to be heard. To be imperfect. And she’s bringing it forward. I’m sure the church should be a place where people should feel comfortable doing it.The idea of grace means something.
Norton calls her theological approach “womanist,” a term coined by writer and activist Alice Walker in the 1980s to describe a form of feminism that centers black women. When Norton, now executive director of Global Arts and Theology Experience, designed the course that led to Beyoncé’s first mass, she was looking for a central figure — a black musician — who “everyone knows,” she said. she declared.
“When I was developing the modules for the course, I had to be able to talk about the politics of respectability. I had to be able to talk about black women as mothers and talk about the role of black women in music and liberation movements,” he said. she declared. . “And all of these things are conversations that we’ve had publicly about Beyoncé’s life, and so it was kind of natural.”
Also, being close to Beyoncé’s age, Norton felt she grew up with Destiny’s Child and Beyoncé as the soundtrack to her life.
So far, Beyoncé hasn’t weighed in on the move.
“We pay all the royalties, and stuff like that, because we want to honor his work,” Norton said. “But we had no interaction with her or her camp.”
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