Joyously Playing with/in Church

  • James H. Sanders
  • Mindi Rhoades
  • Melanie Davenport
  • Courtnie Wolfgang
  • Kim Cosier
Keywords: human rights, social justice, LGBTQ , Performative inquiry, Church, Community, Love, Joy



Here you are called to contemplate the antics of Big Gay Church (BGC), considering how the NAEA Queer ritual revels in joyous excess, deploys humor and absurd actions that move participants toward healing damaged psyches and souls. The BGC performing troupe tackles critical social injustices and does so through unexpectedly delightful and irreverent services that confront pain, cruelty, erasure, and abuse. Four or more colleagues have led this scholarly, political and performative inquiry for more than a decade, attempting to replace damaging actions with healing gestures of love, caring comradery, and contemplative reimagining of what church could be. Perhaps most significantly, this arts-based performative inquiry theoretically celebrates all that is queer, and encourages pre-service art educators and those who guide them to embrace diversity and inclusion while in pursuit of equity and engagement. The manuscript opens by outlining how queer inquiries reclaim unattended lives, expands perspectives, and celebrates queerness for all. The paper then shares an overview of Big Gay Church as an annual academic ritual at the National Art Education Association (NAEA annual meeting, Methods and modes of presentation vary by co-presenter – most building on childhood lived experiences of Church. This second section’s illustrated counterpoint to descriptions of s typical presenter’s contributions to the BGC service. The third section, describes presenters’ varying methods and narratives, and assert this play-group employs farce, irony, and humor while leveling institutional critiques (particularly tackling NAEA’s evolving relations with the LGBTQIC+ special interest group. The Conclusion traces BGC service, the pedagogical and historical challenges the group calls congregants to help undertake, and ALWAYS doing so with joy.