A few weeks ago, Beyonce dropped her latest album, Renaissance. I didn’t listen to it when it leaked. I didn’t even rush to hear it after the official release date. Instead, I heard the buzz. I heard a few things about the album that made me think that this wasn’t for me. Then @Notkarltonbanks did a spoof about one of the songs on the album, and it caught my attention.
Beyonce has a song called “Church Girl”. Now, I don’t know if you know this about me, but umm… Church girl sounds like a pretty accurate description of me for my entire life. Most of my friends qualify, too. So I gave it a listen, and not only is this song for me and my friends, it might as well be about me and my friends! Have you ever seen church girls at the club? We be the main ones acting a fool. Skirts hiked up, twerking on the wall, on each other, or whatever fool man decided he was going to try to jump in on our girls-only good time. We shut the clubs down on Saturday night, then we get up early Sunday morning, because some of us have to lead praise and worship, serve as greeters, or even teach Sunday school the next day.
I have been the church secretary, sung in the choir, taught Sunday School and Bible study, and I sometimes twerk in the mirror (shout out to Janelle Monae). If the atmosphere and the music are right, I might do it in public. As a girl who has always been too worldly for the church, and to churchy for the world, this song spoke to me. So many churches are filled with girls (and quite a few boys) just like me, who feel like we can’t be our authentic selves in the place that is supposed to be our sanctuary.
So on Saturday nights, some church girls go to shake off the weight of the world that they have been carrying on their shoulders all week long. It feels good to let loose after living a buttoned up, boxed in life. So when Beyonce sang, “I’m warning everybody, soon as I walk in this party, I’m gonna let go of this body. I’m gonna love on me,” I felt it deep in my soul. So many of us are overworked and underappreciated, in the world, and specifically in the churches. We just want a space where we can be free of expectations and judgment, and sadly the church is rarely that place.
I’m hearing that there are those in the church who are condemning Beyonce for her use of a Clark Sisters standard. I, personally, grew up Baptist, so the Clark sisters weren’t on rotation in our house. You were much more likely to hear Stevie Wonder than you were to hear the Gospel Wonders. (You could, of course hear, Kansas City’s own gospel group, The Sensational Wonders, but that’s only because they practiced across the street) That being said, I looked up “Center of Thy Will” today, and it’s pretty good. I seriously doubt I’m the only one who googled the song after Beyonce sampled it. I imagine there are a lot of people being exposed to the Clark Sisters music for the first time. You’d think the church would celebrate the message being spread to new audiences.
The same church that teaches that “whom the Son sets free is free indeed”, spends a lot of time telling its members, particularly its women, what they can and cannot do. You’ve probably seen Bishop Wooten suggesting Mrs. Knowles-Carter had sold her soul to the devil. You might have heard similar sentiments in your own places of worship. In the church’s condemnation of this one woman, they missed the ministry of her music to other women. She is singing to and for a group of people whose voices are often drowned out, or for those too exhausted to speak up. Beyonce’ is speaking to and for the church’s core audience. (There are very few American churches where the women don’t outnumber the men ) I found this album more uplifting and life affirming than a whole lot of the sermons I’ve had to sit through.
There is a generation of church girls who are literally just trying to do the best we can. If the church doesn’t figure out a way to minister to our needs, we’re going to spend a whole lot more time dropping it like a thotty, and a lot less time dropping our offerings in the collection plate.
“Church girl” is the hot mama summer anthem I didn’t know I needed.
This is episode one, because this song, like every church girl I know, is multi-faceted.