BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — One pastor wore her Sunday best for service at Hope Church in Bloomington on Dec 12.
Associate Pastor Isaac Simmons made an appearance as Miss Penny Cost for the church’s first Drag Advent service.
“[It’s] everything that I’ve ever aspired or dreamt of in my wildest imagination to be able to do drag in a church and to be surrounded by folks who accept it and celebrate it too,” Simmons said.
Simmons said Penny’s presence serves as LGBT+ representation in the United Methodist Church, which he said is divided right now.
“It’s like a way to say that sacred spaces and these lovely liturgies that we have belong to queer folks too,” Simmons said.
Miss Penny Cost made history as the first LGBT+ candidate for ordained ministry. WMBD previously reported that Penny Cost went viral.
“So I am the first drag queen in the world, reportedly, to be allowed into the ordination process of the United Methodist Church,” Simmons said.
The Lead Pastor at Hope Church, Rev. Dr. Jennie Edwards Bertrand, said the drag service was also in response to the firing of an Indiana pastor, Rev. Craig Duke, after he appeared in drag on the HBO show, “We’re Here.”
“Well our prayer statement is that we are a church for absolutely everyone,” Edwards Bertrand said. “And to incorporate drag as an art form into our worship kind of said ‘no, we really mean that.’”
She said that Simmons/Cost has a connection with Rev. Duke, and that over the past week, has received a “fresh round of hate.”
“It gets really hard,” Simmons said. “So back when I was first brought into the like national spotlight, I received a bunch of hate, some threats, and it was just all around badness and sorrow and it was really messy and ugly.”
In response to the negativity, Miss Penny Cost celebrated Advent with a drag performance to close out the service.
“Using the privilege of my voice and my drag here, I think it shows that anyone can be a part of a church if they so choose,” Simmons said. “It changes the narrative, and it re-centers queer folks.”
Edwards Bertrand said the theme of the service was to highlight the messy and ugly parts of life, while also realizing the moments of joy.
“Yes there’s mess, yes there’s hate, there’s injustice. And there’s joy and there’s hope,” she said.