Aaron Musser, a minister at St. Luke's Lutheran Church on Logan Square in Chicago, is making waves online following a Bible study on joy he gave to kids while in drag earlier this month.
The session was promoted to the congregation beforehand via Facebook, and encouraged attendees to dress in "garments/accessories that make you feel 100 percent, like the best version of yourself."
"The sixth Sunday of Advent is rejoice Sunday. It's a chance for us to rehearse what a life of joy could look like," wrote Musser. "It's a dress rehearsal. Preaching in drag is a theological reflection on joy: Joy overflows so abundantly, it can't help but make itself known. Weaving together the day's theme, queer theory, and lectionary texts, we will 'dress rehearse' for joy."
During the sermon, Musser reportedly read from the children's book Joy by Corrinne Averiss, in addition to leading the children in prayer. "Today, we consider what it might be like to have a dress rehearsal for the kind of joy awaiting us on the other side of Advent. It's been so hard to know what that joy will be, because it's been so long since some of us have been joyful. It's been a difficult and tiring couple of years," Musser wrote in a Facebook post following the session.
"And I decided instead of telling you, 'this is how I want you to be joyful,' as we prepare for this dress rehearsal, I figured I would instead put on a dress as so many who have inspired me have done. I decided to follow their example, showing that liberation from oppressive laws clears a path for joy," he said. "But allowing yourself to feel joy can be scary. I wasn't sure how the outside world would handle me when they saw me this morning. Joy is difficult to feel, it's vulnerable. But isn't it so beautiful?"
While the congregation was supportive, posting comments praising Musser for his inclusive and liberating message, right-wing groups who caught wind of the Bible study have criticized the event. In response, St. Luke's closed the comments on the post. "We've frozen comments on this post for the time being. We appreciate all the love and encourage you to keep praying for full inclusion, affirmation, and justice for LGBTQIA+ people in the church," they explained.
While Musser's congregation at St. Luke's -- which is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a more liberal denomination -- has welcomed his teachings, not every pastor who's delivered this kind of inclusive message while in drag has been so fortunate.
Pastor Craig Duke of Newburgh United Methodist Church in Evansville, Ind., was recently "relieved of pastoral duties" following his appearance in drag on a recent episode of the HBO series We're Here.