Singing Amazing Grace with a Drag Queen
Most of my blogs have been a focus on exploring spiritual things without including gay inclusive ideas. My general thought was that we as believers can find a place were we can find freedom to explore our spirituality without letting our identities get in the way of the topic at hand.
More recently, I’ve been trying to include the narrative of my life into my blogs. A phrase I’ve heard and been sharing while going into scriptures is to “go into the narrative of the story.” When we go into the narrative of a story, especially a personal story that we’ve lived, it is then that we paint a picture that includes a creative mental image that includes more of our senses; visual, emotional, auditory and the likes. So, that leads me to the story and the title I picked, Singing Amazing Grace with a Drag Queen.
I was just sitting down with my pastor the other day. We sat down at the table just to the side of the kitchen as my husband was helping the pastor’s spouse get prettied up with hair and nails. As we sat chatting, we were talking about what seemed to be a set of random spiritual things; worship in the church, atheist that proselytize, Irish Christians that meet in pubs over a pint of lager. It got me to thinking about unconventional worship places that people bump into the presence of God.
It was on a weekend at a local gay club – the time of night was about 11pm and the end of a set of songs being performed by various drag queens was reaching it’s end before the dance music started back up. The club was full as most weekends are – people winding down from a long week and enjoying a drink, a laugh with friends in a safe place. Oddly enough the club we were at is called “Tramps” – a sort of a dive of a place of gay bars with a casual atmosphere and known for making the strongest drinks on the block. Little did anybody know one of the most beautiful things was about to happen.
Beautiful things happen in the strangest of places. As the master of ceremonies, a well liked local drag queen takes the stage for the end of the set of performances – this time there would be no lip-syncing. As she took the mic one last time for the evening, we were informed as though it were a proclamation, “We’re about to have Church” and just then a man in drag started the last song of the night, starting with the words ‘Amazing grace how sweet the sound’. Just like clock work the packed room of gay people began to join in. Before the first line of the song was breathed out the room was loud enough that the drag queen pulled the mic away from her mouth as she was no longer singing a song, but joining in with the resounding chorus. Just then a sense of awe struck me and I’m sure everyone in the room – a special moment was unfolding. This wasn’t just a song being softly sung – voices resounded in high praise – voices ringing out – with what seem to be a special emphasis on “that saved a wrench like me”. Oddly enough, we sang my favorite verses of the song, the 1st, 2nd, 5th and ending with the first verse to close out the song. The final lyric rang out with “I once was lost but now am found, Was blind, but now, I see” and just then everyone erupted in applause, shouts, whistling. A holy and special moment like no other had just happened. Throughout the song I took the time to look around – I didn’t want this moment to escape me without capturing all the sights and sounds and looks on the faces of this scene. I remember after the song saying, “Wow!” There was more participation and invocation of the presence of God than I’ve seen in most church worship.
After the song was over, I realized my first thoughts before the song got going was shock, as if to say, ‘this isn’t going to go well.’ I completely miss judged what was about to happen. I guess my thought was that gay people are generally none spiritual people, except me – I learned very quickly that I should not judge my fellow gay family by the stereotypes I had built up in my mind. I had a moment of unlearning and that changed my spiritual world.
It is my prayer, no matter if you are gay or straight, that you are able to see that the presence of God fills the earth so deeply. He can be found in what seems to be the highest of places and even what seems to be the lowest of places.
There our no boundaries to where God can go. After all we no longer have God in a box, in a temple or behind a curtain – I’m not even sure that God was limited to those places back in biblical times. They were somehow sure of it and sometimes we are still too sure it is still the same now. Let’s challenge each other to expand our thinking and reach people in unconventional ways and places.