The pop icon’s music and commentary are centered in ‘The Gospel According to Taylor Swift’
November 8, 2023
A weekly infusion of Taylor Swift music has proven memorable and meaningful at Brentwood Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles.
“The Gospel According to Taylor Swift” six-week series began just after the hugely popular singer/songwriter completed six performances of her “Eras” tour at nearby SoFi Stadium in Inglewood. BPC pastor the Rev. Dave Carpenter and the Rev. Lora East, BPC’s associate pastor, attended Swift’s performance.
“I have been a fan of hers for many years. Pastor Dave came to it more through his children,” East explained. “The timing of her concert tour and us launching the series on Aug. 27 — it felt serendipitous. It has been a fun way to think about these topics on everyone’s minds and how we do that with a Christian lens. What is the Christian perspective on patriarchy, mental health, feeling left out and LGBTQ equality?”
Carpenter led off the series with his sermon, “The Man: Would the Apostle Paul be a Swiftie?” using Swift’s “The Man,” a song that speaks to patriarchy. The next Sunday, East used Jonah 2 and Swift’s “Anti-Hero” to talk about mental health in her sermon, “Jonah the Anti-Hero.” This past Sunday, Carpenter’s sermon, “Shake It Off: Fearfully and Wonderfully Weird,” was based both on Psalm 139:1–17 and Swift’s “Shake It Off.” The services can be seen here on the church’s website. The three remaining services in the series can be viewed here.
“Are you at least a little bit weird? This gospel we preach, study and claim allegiance to is a call to a radical, revolutionary countercultural movement,” Carpenter says in his sermon on Sept. 10. “Or, as Taylor would say, with the liars and the dirty cheats of this world.”
On Sept. 17, LGBTQ equality was the theme. Swift’s contribution was the video for her song, “You Need to Calm Down.” East then preached on fear and anxiety on Sept. 24 with help from Swift’s “Fearless.” The series concluded Oct. 1 with a sermon on how unique we all are with the help of Swift’s “ME!” That’s a song Swift performs with Brendon Urie.
In four years serving Brentwood Presbyterian Church, East has worked to boost membership in the young adult group. “One thing that’s hard about Los Angeles across the board for people is making friends and building community. … The church is such a good place for that,” East said. Young adults at BPC are active in the church, serving as ruling elders and on church committees, and as deacons and worship leaders.
“We have a younger demographic coming since the series started,” East said. “Some of the folks in the older generation have said, ‘I get what you’re doing. I see young people coming in and that’s important.’ I love the graciousness people have. This isn’t necessarily for them, but they appreciate and value that Dave and I and the worship team are reaching out to the different demographic and generation that this really does speak to. It speaks to me personally, too.”
East and others marvel at the way Swift has “crafted her career in such a way to sustain so many different phases. Obviously, there is something about her being able to stay relevant in an industry that is so challenging for young people who break out into stardom, which she did as a teenager. To sustain a career and keep pivoting and focusing on her artistry and her craft, to keep growing as an artist and to maintain relevance — and to grow a fan base through all that as well is a part of what makes her so fascinating as a pop icon.”
Swift generated even more headlines when she paid $55 million in bonuses to Eras crew and collaborators as the tour ended. To East, it was an acknowledgement “that she couldn’t do it alone, that she needs a team of people to make her music when she is out in the world. I think that’s valuable to acknowledge. Using this moment she is having across different generations — even our older folks are saying, ‘I never listened to her music before, but I have learned more about Taylor Swift in this series than I ever knew before. That’s really fun!’”
Mike Ferguson, Editor, Presbyterian News Service
Today’s Focus: Brentwood Presbyterian Church’s sermon series, ‘The Gospel According to Taylor Swift’
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Dreama Reams, Clerical Assistant, General Ledgers Office, Administrative Services Group (A Corp)
Eva Rebozo, CLC Consultant/Database Administrator, Office of the General Assembly
Let us pray
Gracious God, you have given us our salvation, through your Son, Jesus, and we have been sent into your world in service to bring your kingdom here on earth. As the risen Jesus sent those first disciples into all the world, we remember that, as he traveled, Jesus ministered wherever there was need. We thank you for the gift of fresh sight in our time, which enables us to be Christ’s hands and feet wherever there is need, even in our own backyard! Amen.
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