That’s right: Greenwich’s oldest church is hosting a drag show.
Framed as a cabaret, drag queens Tobehere and Vod KaStinger will belt out standards and Broadway show tunes for an evening of music and fun.
“I do enjoy a good bit of Sinatra,” Tobehere said.
“Life is a Cabaret!” is the brainchild of Craig Scott Symons, the church’s director of music. His idea has proven popular: An earlier show at 7:30 p.m. sold out weeks ago, and now the second appearance at 10 p.m. is nearly at capacity.
“What’s better than one drag queen? Two,” Symons said. “People are just excited to have something outside the box here.”
Last Sunday, Rev. Richard S. DenUyl, Jr., the church’s senior pastor, gave a sermon entitled “Rainbow God” in preparation for the event. In light of all the sexual assault accusations that have dominated the national news cycle lately, part of the speech slanted toward solemnity, emphasizing the issue of gender inequality and its troubling ramifications.
But it also had a hopeful tone. Through a close reading of “Genesis 1: 26, 27,” as well as other Bible passages, DenUyl made the case that despite how the patriarchy presents the Christian God, he is not singularly male in form. And because the Old Testament claims that God made humanity in his image, he said, we also have elements of both genders inside of us.
He positioned drag queens as a force that puts pressure on the gendered norms we have internalized, and went so far as to say that “what they do is nothing short of ministry.”
“I think it’s funny and it’s playful, but it’s also doing something powerful,” DenUyl told Greenwich Time. “It’s reminding people that we’re more connected than we think.”
Over the phone, DenUyl said that gender stereotypes have an impact on our outlook, especially for men, because they feel the need to perform their gender more than women. In the past, when the Reverend invited Tobehere to sing at staff parties, he watched as a few fathers seemed uncomfortable at first, shocked by an act that some might call provocative or gender-bending. But soon, they eased into the evening.
“They were just, they were freer,” he remembered. “They walked out of there, their step was different.”
[This used to be described as "light in the loafers", but these are different times. Ed]
In “Rainbow God” — which DenUyl said even the older congregants loved, and which inspired several retired men at brunch to openly talk about their “feminine side” — the Reverend emphasized the importance of constant reformation, so that the church’s values continue to evolve with the times. He cited a famous quote by theologian Karl Barth that recommends a Christian have a newspaper in one hand and a Bible in the other.
I left the First Congo many years ago when they bowdlerized their hymn book by removing all "militant" hims like "Onward, Christian Soldiers" and substituted what were claimed to be Native American ditties. The Indians were animists, and if a Christian church thinks that a paen to rocks and weasels is the moral equivalent of a song of praise to the eternal truth of Christ the savior, then that church has lost its purpose.
But I do hope the remaining congregation enjoys getting in touch with its feminine side.
UPDATE: Just to be clear here, it's the trendiness of all this I object to, not the idea that we're all God's children. There's room for (almost) all of us in those many rooms, and there may even be same-sex toilets, but observing the mainstream Christian church decline into a morass of cultural relativism and murky new-speak is ... discouraging.