I have an aversion to revivals. This word carries a weight to it, particularly for those who have been harmed by the church. Something like “revival,” touted with that much religious language, can be a strong traumatic trigger.
Despite my own fears around anything called a “revival,” I found myself at a unique revival recently. My church, along with several other faith communities in the Louisville, Kentucky, area, came together to put on a Drag Revival.
In some ways, this revival wasn’t that different from others. There were songs shared, many of which were religious in nature. People were praising and singing. And a lot of those doing the proclaiming were dressed in drag.
The first half of the revival focused on local theatre companies sharing songs and selections from their recent productions.
Each theatre company supported and highlighted local LGBTQIA folx who performed the songs, many in drag, and chose songs that were religious in nature. There were songs from Godspell and Jesus Christ, Superstar and several other musicals and plays.
The second half of the revival focused more specifically on local drag artists. Each performer brought something different to the stage and the crowd. Some danced to popular songs while others sang beautiful and bold hymns and spirituals.
Perhaps the most moving part of the night was when one of the drag queens led the congregation in a moving rendition of “How Great Thou Art.” As I looked around the room, I saw many people praising, singing and experiencing the healing and holy work of God in that space.
I watched as my five-year-old daughter sat in the middle aisle, watching each performer, and loving the glitz and the glamour of each artist. I saw a small glimpse of what the “kin-dom” of God really looks like, and I was moved to tears.
I find it interesting that during the same week a major denominational convention voted to reaffirm that only men (and let’s be honest, only straight, cis-gendered men) are able to be pastors, I found myself at an event hearing prophetic words from women, men and non-binary folx.
Many of those are in the LGBTQIA+ community. Many would never dare to enter a church because of the trauma the church has done to them. And yet, those drag performers took all of us in attendance to church.
They preached beautiful words of hope and acceptance. They led us in beautiful songs of redemption. They gave us a radical charge to go out and show God’s love to everyone, especially those that many want to marginalize and exclude.
I am thankful I found myself at a revival that night. I am thankful for a God who loves each and every one of us, exactly for who we are.
I am thankful for an inclusive and accepting God. I am thankful that the “kin-dom” of God is so much bigger, and more inclusive and accepting than the bigoted and misogynistic view of certain denominations.
Thanks be to God for a drag revival, a place my soul and spirit were nourished and charged to go out and show God’s love to everyone.
Associate Pastor for Youth and Young Adults at Highland Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Sizemore is a graduate of Georgetown College and the McAfee School of Theology. He and his wife Abby have two awesome daughters, A.T. and Edie.