Stanford University: Stanford to host Beyoncé Mass, celebrating Black women’s spirituality

Beyoncé Mass, which uses the eponymous entertainer’s life story and music – from “Flaws and All” to “Survivor” – to celebrate the empowerment and spirituality of Black women, comes to Stanford’s Memorial Church later this month.

The Office for Religious & Spiritual Life will present Beyoncé Mass at Memorial Church on Feb. 23. (Image credit: David Torralva Photography)

The groundbreaking Christian worship service, which coincides with Black History Month, will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 23.

The Beyoncé Mass team will combine with participants from the university and Bay Area communities to present a service of music, scripture, readings and prayers focusing on the empowerment of Black women, as well as a broader message of liberation for all people.

“The mass is grounded in womanist liberation theology. Thus, it centralizes in its expression of faith Black women’s progress and potential to live full, equitable lives,” said the Rev. Sakena Young-Scaggs, who is Memorial Church pastor and senior associate dean in Stanford’s Office for Religious and Spiritual Life (ORSL), which is presenting the service. “It takes a positional stance of Black joy and self-affirmation. Grounded in lived experiences, sacred scripture and poignant song, Beyoncé Mass offers an important message to everyone, regardless of race, gender identity or age.”

Beyoncé Mass was created by the Rev. Yolanda Norton as a part of the “Beyoncé and the Hebrew Bible” class she taught at San Francisco Theological Seminary.

“While the worship experiences don’t deify Beyoncé, we see many relevant aspects of life for Black women reflected in her personal life, career trajectory, music and public persona,” said Norton, currently a visiting professor at Moravian Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania.

The mass was first presented in San Francisco at the seminary and Grace Cathedral four years ago, and since then at a number of churches, schools and the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. The service moved online during the pandemic, including one that ORSL hosted last fall. The Stanford service this month will mark the first live presentation in nearly two years.

To extend the Beyoncé Mass message, Stanford ORSL plans to partner with the Global Arts and Theology Experience, a global initiative founded by Norton that focuses on mentoring and education for Black girls ages 13-17. The program will connect Stanford students with East Palo Alto high schoolers to help them learn about everything from Black women in literature to their own ancestral lineage.

“Worship should lead us out in the world,” Norton said. “The mass is our worship, and the academy is the outward movement.”

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