An Episcopal cathedral in California that recently garnered headlines for holding a Beyoncé-centered service held a worship service featuring individuals portraying giant tree people.
Grace Cathedral of San Francisco held an interfaith worship service last week that was part of the multiday Global Climate Action Summit.
In addition to different religious groups participating in the service, a group of people portraying tall Ent-like creatures were part of the ceremony, including the closing processional.
The seat of the bishop for the Episcopal Diocese of California, Grace Cathedral lists the issue of “climate change” as one of its social justice outreach efforts.
“Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time. It already adversely affects many lives, especially among the world’s poorest people and nations,” the church says online. “It is a spiritual and religious issue as much as a political and social one; the earth is loved by God, created by God, in-dwelt by God and we are called to care for it.”
The service garnered criticism from across the Atlantic in a column published Sunday by The Telegraph.
Tim Stanley, leader writer at the Telegraph and editor for the Catholic Herald, cited Grace Cathedral’s service as evidence that Western Christianity is “committing suicide.”
“They have transformed a faith that only extended as far as it did through preaching and martyrdom into something anxious and introspective, excessively concerned with gender pronouns and saving the redwood tree,” wrote Stanley.
“Make no mistake, this isn’t a debate about Left vs. Right in church politics; there’s room for both. No, it’s about whether the church talks chiefly about man or about God. Whether Christians have a distinct message at all.”
Grace Cathedral gained national attention earlier this year when it held a “Beyoncé Mass” that featured the secular music of the famed pop singer.
The Rev. Jude Harmon, director of innovative ministries for Grace Cathedral, defended the idea of the pop singer focused service in an interview with SFGate in April.
“I know there are people who will say using Beyoncé is just a cheap way of trying to get people in the church,” said Harmon.
“But Jesus used very provocative images in the stories He would tell to incite people to ask hard questions about their own religious assumptions. He regularly provoked. We’re following in the way of Jesus.”
The Rev. Yolanda Norton, organizer of the mass, explained during the worship service the reason for the focus on Beyoncé and her music.
“I believe she reminds us that you have to do your thing your way, you don’t do it on demand, you don’t do it for your oppressor, you don’t sing when they want you to sing … you sing when God calls you to sing,” said Norton.