'Beyoncé Mass' for black women to find healing and empowerment comes to two NYC churches

Singer Beyonce during The 59th GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on February 12, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.
Singer Beyonce during The 59th GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on February 12, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. | Screenshot: YouTube/Broadly

Womanist worship services known as "Beyoncé Mass" that have already attracted thousands from “Southern California to Portugal” by using the music and life of iconic singer Beyoncé to celebrate and empower black women, are expected to unfurl inside two churches on Wednesday and Thursday and they are likely to attract hundreds.

Masses set for First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn and St. James Presbyterian in Harlem are both set to start at 7 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday respectively.

“Join us at The First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn in New York City for a groundbreaking 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. Beyoncé Mass creates a space of story, scripture, and song that calls for the liberation of all people,” the announcement for the mass set for First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn says on Facebook. More than 100 people have already confirmed their attendance and nearly 200 others have noted their interest as of Wednesday afternoon.

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For the Manhattan event set for Thursday at St. James Presbyterian, 77 persons have already confirmed their participation while more than 100 others said they were interested in the event.

Organizers of the event weren’t immediately available to discuss the mass with The Christian Post on Wednesday but an official at First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn, who said they were not involved in organizing the event just offering their space, confirmed that Wednesday’s mass was on track to happen.

Rev. Yolanda Norton, a Hebrew Bible scholar and the H. Eugene Farlough Chair of Black Church Studies at San Francisco Theological Seminary told The New York Times in a recent interview that: “The Mass says to young black girls, You are part of what God had in mind when, during creation, God said, ‘It is good.’ By making the stories and realities of young black women and girls central components of this liturgical art, we’re affirming their realities in a world that is persistent and dogged in its attempts to reject them.”

People who have attended a Beyoncé Mass before, like Lydia Middleton, dean of Black Student Affairs at the Claremont Colleges in Los Angeles, told The New York Times that the experience leaves them with a strong sense of well-being.

“I haven’t been involved in the church for years, but stepping back into that space felt amazing,” Middleton told the Times. “It felt warm and inviting, and I left feeling healed. By the end of the service, people were weeping, people were joyous, people were hugging each other.”

Norton also explained that the Beyoncé Mass isn’t about worshiping the singer or feminism which has historically focused on the experience of white women. It is a movement within the tradition of womanist thought and practice highlighted by Alice Walker in her 1983 collection of essays, “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens.”

“Womanism privileges the intellectual and intimate space of black women,” Norton said. “It has to do with black women’s need to participate in communities that are bigger than their own for the thriving of all humanity.”

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