My Experience at Kanye’s Sunday Service By Larenz Griggs
On Friday, September 13th at approximately 1:30 p.m., I received a call from my boss stating that we needed to have an urgent team meeting on Saturday afternoon. Was I upset? Little bit. The weekend is my time to decompress and I like to plan ahead, therefore I don’t like doing last minute work-related stuff. Anyways, the team showed up to the office at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday and our boss dropped a bomb on us.
“Alright everyone, this is confidential. Kanye West is coming to our church tomorrow.”
I don’t think that I’ve ever felt so many different emotions run through my body in such a short span of time. Who did you say was showing up tomorrow? MAGA Ye’? The same Kanye that let me and entire race down? The same Kanye that’s regarded as the best hip-hop producer of all time? Am I still allowed to be a fan? I didn’t know what to think. Naturally, I’m active on social media, so I knew that Kanye wasn’t merely attending our service, but was going to perform his Sunday Service series that’s been occurring since January of 2019. Mind you when I first heard of this “Sunday Service” that Kanye was having, I immediately assumed the worst. Here we have a man who called himself Yeezus for almost half a decade and when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, he decided to get buddy-buddy with the reincarnation of Hitler himself, Donald Trump. So, one word came to mind when I saw Kanye’s first service-cult. Not to mention, as an active church member and employee, I was beyond offended.
However, I had hope for Kanye and I’ll tell you why. The position I have at the church allows me to work closely with my pastor and over time, I feel as though I’ve learned his heart. I know he is a passionate, caring and Godly man who wouldn’t forsake himself or the New Birth congregation. So, that got me thinking, there had to be a legitimate reason Dr. Bryant was allowing Kanye to perform at our church. By the end of our team meeting, I realized that I wasn’t really paying attention to what was being said. I spent so much time trying to make sense of the situation. All I know is my boss said, “His camp advises that we get here several hours early because it’s going to be packed.” I said to myself, “Welp, I guess we’re doing this.”
I set my alarm for 5:00 a.m. and by the time I woke up, my thoughts were still a bit in disarray. I put on my suit, hopped in the car, cranked it up and immediately turned the volume down as I connected my phone to the Bluetooth. And, I kid you not, the first song that popped up was “Good Morning” by Kanye West. I don’t believe in coincidences. As I drove to church, my faith in the goodness of people began to grow stronger than ever. I wouldn’t necessarily say I was excited to see Kanye, but I was enthused to hear his message. I wanted to know what direction he was planning to head in, what path was he prepared to walk. I wanted to know the aim of Sunday Service. All I could do was hope for the best.
My boss and I work closely with the pastor so, I was in the presence of every single celebrity that attended, including 2 Chainz, Rick Fox, Jermaine Dupri, T.I., Nelly and Kanye himself. As a matter of fact, I think Kanye stood next to me for almost half the time prior to him going on stage. I know what you’re wondering. The answer is yes, I spoke to him on two different encounters. The first time, I merely greeted him and he smiled. Not sure if y’all ever followed Kanye’s antics in the past, but it’s a well known fact that he smiles maybe once a year. So, I guess that was cool in its own way. The second encounter was a bit longer. I offered Kanye some gifts from the church for him and his kids and he replied, “Oh, praise God. Thank you.” I then asked him where I should put the gifts and he told me, “Get with my security, or better yet, where’s my car keys? You can put ‘em in there.” In my head, I’m thinking, “Mr. West, you wylin’.” The point is, I’ve always assumed Kanye to be this egocentric jerk that media so often captures, but, in fact, he appeared to be quite the opposite. Had he changed? Those two encounters alone made me more hopeful than ever.
Now, I know the media is going to try and change the narrative, but just to be clear, we- New Birth, had a REGULAR church service first and THEN Kanye and his choir performed gospel music. Some songs were original and some were old school with a bit of Kanye’s own musical spin on the production. Afterwards, Kanye spoke from the heart and made God the focal point of his speech. Looking from the outside in over the past couple of months, I certainly thought he was headed in the direction of a cult, but that’s really not it at all. I think he’s simply making a genuine gospel album. My pastor said it best, “We’re witnessing a revolution in the church that will move millennials.”
A lot of people don’t agree with Kanye bringing Sunday Service to New Birth or, furthermore, with New Birth giving Kanye a platform to perform and speak at a church. My response to that is I don’t blame them. In the past, Kanye West went as far as to call himself a god and aligned himself with a blatantly racist president. Trust me, I was just as hurt and disappointed as any other African-American in the country. I also want to ask you this- if Kanye West approached your pastor and said he wanted to accept God back into his life and make a change, would you expect your pastor to turn him away or give him a chance? Think about it. If we are decent human beings that we claim to be, why would we turn him away? Restricting church access to people that are seeking God is like telling a person who just broke his leg that the hospital he’s trying go to won’t accept him or her. In my opinion, there’s something fundamentally wrong with that.
Just to reiterate, I obviously don’t support Trump or Kanye’s past remarks, but as a Christain, I feel obligated to give people a chance to right their wrongs because that’s pretty much the only thing God asks of me whether I like the person or not. If Kanye does change for the better, I’ll be more than proud that my church was one of the first to give him a shot at redemption.