‘Forgive me father for I have sinned,” I heard a man mumble as I turned the corner heading backstage. Like many Christians, I was familiar with this phrase. I was not, however, accustomed to hearing it addressed to a 6-foot-tall drag queen backstage at Town Danceboutique.

Confused, but realizing I had bumbled into something I shouldn’t have, I quickly backed out of the hallway and back into the gyrating mass on the dance floor. Had I just witnessed some kind of sacrilegious joke, some variant of a blackmass? At that precise moment, I was actually a bit more concerned about the fact that Debbie needed to be on stage hosting in about 20 seconds.

And she did not disappoint.

“Are you bitches ready for a show?” Debbie bellowed and strode out from behind a curtain. Her parishioner also stepped out from around the corner and joined the teaming crowd to the right of the stage.

I walked over to one of the longer tenured club employees and asked her about what I had seen. She explained that Chris — Debbie’s name when she’s not in drag — is a priest with the North American Old Catholic Church and frequently serves the spiritual needs of people finding themselves in need of God while at the club.

As I went about my work for the rest of the evening, the idea made more and more sense to me. Clubs are particularly vulnerable places and often ones that bring out our need for spiritual nourishment. Few places so aggressively confront us with our frailties and limitations. Few places expose us so thoroughly and create such a potential for rawness. As such, it is in these places, far more than in the dusky sanctuaries of churches, that we really feel the need for God.

In many ways though, Town brings out something beautiful and praiseworthy. People dress upand look fantastic. If our bodies are temples, nights at Town represent the sanctuary of a church at Easter. This can be a rowdy and joyful place that brings out energy and excitement. As 2 Corinthians 3:17 states, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” and there can be few places as free or as spirited as the bustling floors of Town.

While I was struck by the interesting location of Debbie’s work, I also reflected on my own reaction. Why had I initially been so appalled by seeing a drag queen receive a confession in a packed club? What could Christianity learn from the ministry of Debbie Dent?

The people who fit into my narrow view of Christians need spiritual nourishment, but they do not desperately need access to God. As Pope Francis said, if someone “searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?” I should applaud Father Dent for his ministry. It takes a profound kind of leadership to serve parishioners who are less likely to be engaged in genuflection than in back alley fellatio at the Crew Club.

But, it is these people upon whom Christ most clearly calls Christians to serve. Christ was never a friend to the religious elite, rather he dined with sinners and prostitutes. A Christian may feel convicted to avoid acts they view as sinful, but they should never consider the actions of others as valid grounds for rejecting the extension of Christian love.

I have resolved to make a further effort to be more open and available to all people I encounter. God may well be giving me opportunities to serve if only I am open to hearing his call. While awaiting that call, I should not use my faith as an excuse to hide fromthe work of living.

God can find ways to employ me and give me fulfillment in all kinds of walks and places. My newfound spiritual understanding was accompanied by an appreciation for why Debbie changes back into Chris so quickly after the drag show concludes. While someone might have to confess at the beginning of the night, business is booming enough to merit wearing clerics by the time Donna Summer’s last dance heralds the arrival of 4 a.m.

rosenbergerTim Rosenberger is a junior in the College. The Church and Statesman appears every other Tuesday.

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