Calgary Unitarians to combine Easter story, drag on Trans Day of Visibility in ‘sacred protest’

Click to play video: '‘Drag Me to Church’: Calgary chapel combines Easter service with drag show'
‘Drag Me to Church’: Calgary chapel combines Easter service with drag show
WATCH: A Calgary church is showing solidarity with it’s LGBTQ+ community as it combines an Easter service with a drag show, resulting in the “Drag Me to Church” service. This year, Easter Sunday overlaps with International Transgender Day of Visibility. Craig Momney reports – Mar 31, 2024

A confluence of events has led one Calgary church to combine them in a celebration of “worth and dignity,” and a “sacred protest.”

“We talked about doing ‘Drag Me To Church’ one Sunday and we went, yeah, that’s a great possibility,” Rev. Samaya Oakley of the Calgary Unitarians Church said. “And I looked at the calendar and I saw that this particular Sunday is Trans Day of Visibility.

“And I thought, what better way to celebrate Trans Day of Visibility by holding a ‘Drag Me To Church’ service on Easter Sunday? So that’s what we’re doing.”

Oakley said it’ll be a “typical Sunday service” for the pluralistic congregation, but with a twist: drag performers will be part of the service.

The all-ages portion will include a story read by one of the performers.

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“It’s a story about a young child who identifies differently and wants to wear different clothes at school and how they get support for that,” Oakley said. “The children will be sent out, we’ll do an offering, and our offering goes to help Skipping Stone.

“I’m going to tell the Easter story through (the drag performers) dance, so I’ll tell a little bit of the story, a performer will come out, we’ll sing some songs. It will be a fabulous event.”

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Benjamin Tanner, who goes by the stage name of Jessica Bunny, is one of the drag performers who will be part of the retelling of the Easter story.

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Tanner said when the Unitarians reached out, it was “quite unusual and very exciting.”

“I think as queer people, at least for myself, things like church and faith can be one of the first things that go when we come out as ourselves. Having a space like this be so welcoming is really beautiful,” Tanner said.

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“Easter is the time of recognizing transformation.”

Tanner’s been doing drag performances for 15 years and said they’ve faced discrimination and ostracization for longer.

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Oakley said part of the intention behind the event is to show the trans and LGBTQ2 community the church sees their “inherent worth and dignity.”

“Every time a child is born, it’s a sacred and holy moment. A spark of the divine comes to life in the being of this child. So who are we to say that this spark of life is anything but good and valued, and has inherited wealth and dignity? And that’s what we want to celebrate on this particular Sunday,” Oakley said.

Event ticketing is at capacity and the church has been working with Calgary police for the safety of the attendees and performers. Oakley said she expects to see an opposing protest across the street.

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“I plan on serving them coffee if we get them and helping them be comfortable doing what they do,” the reverend said.

Tanner said “Drag Me To Church” provides an opportunity to have the diversity of the community be more than just recognized.

“There’s a lot within our community that has come up lately and I think it’s really beautiful to tie in to Easter because, really, what it’s all about is just celebrating our differences and celebrating each other for who we are,” Tanner said.

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