West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 2 | June 13 - 19, 2007

Villager photo by Jefferson Siegel

A pair of disco dancers enlivened the mood at Sunday’s service. Later on, everyone joined a conga line during one of the musical selections.

Disco inferno, not fire or brimstone, at St. Mark’s

By Jefferson Siegel

For some clubgoers, Saturday night isn’t long enough. All-night dancers usually worship at the altar of the Bloody Mary with their Sunday brunch.

Last Sunday morning, an East Village church turned the beat around, offering parishioners a little soul with their soul-searching.

St Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery held its second annual Disco Mass, incorporating dance music of the ’70s with its worship service.

Wearing a rainbow shawl, Reverend John Denaro, St. Mark’s openly gay pastor, led the entrance to the service as the choir sang a rousing version of “I’m Coming Out,” the 1980 Diana Ross hit.

Elements of a traditional Sunday Mass were observed, including “Gloria in Excelsis” and a reading from the Book of Isaiah. When Psalm 30:1-6, 12-13 was read, the choir broke into another ’70s hit, “Best of My Love.”

While ’70s disco music wasn’t considered religious, the recurrent theme of love made many of that era’s songs more than appropriate for this modern-day service.

One of Sunday’s musical offerings seemed tailor-made for this Mass:

People all over the world, join hands!

Start a love train, love train!

In his sermon, Reverend Denaro said he had been eagerly looking forward to the Disco Mass. Denaro said that while disco could not end the war in Iraq or famine in Darfur, it could help ease the constant pressure most feel about those ongoing tragedies.

After a liturgical affirmation and the Prayers of the People, Offertory selections included a reflection on Gay Pride, a remembrance of Judy Garland and a heartfelt singing of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

A roof-raising version of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” led into the Sanctus, the Lord’s Prayer and Holy Communion.

The dismissal hymn reflected the theme of the morning as everyone joined in singing, “We Are Family.” All that was missing was a spinning mirrored disco ball. Nobody seemed to notice, though.

The morning mix was one of two events planned for Gay Pride Month. The next event will be an “UnWedding” held the day of the Gay Pride parade on June 24. At that service, Denaro will preside at a ceremony for couples whose committed relationships are not officially recognized by the church or the state.

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