This year, Kanye West debuted “Sunday Service,” an invite-only, celeb-peppered “pop-up church experience,” as Jia Tolentino described it upon its Coachella debut. What Sunday Service is, exactly, is unclear. During the event, which is usually held for a few hours on Sundays in and around Calabasas, West performs gospel renditions of his songs with a Yeezy-outfitted choir while delivering rants dressed as sermons. Attendees sign NDAs. Tolentino speculated that in addition to consummating some deep personal need, West’s Sunday Service is really an exploration of “church-as-business,” as it were. My colleague, Allison P. Davis, who attended that first service, flagged the commercial edge of West’s purportedly religious venture in her account its debut: “The plant-based burritos are $18, and the mottled mauve sweatshirts — Holy Spirit on the front, Sunday Services on the back — go for $225.”
Now that West has started to take Sunday Service on tour — ostensibly to promote an upcoming album — he’s bringing the spectacle to actual churchgoers, with mixed success. Such was the case this weekend at the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral in Jamaica, Queens, where West arrived late to a regular Sunday service, upon which church members were swarmed by VIPs and various Kardashians. The Daily Beast reported that the event was met with some ambivalence; many attendees appeared to be moved by the performance; others left halfway through.
Whether Sunday Service will continue is unclear. West was supposed to release his latest album, Jesus Is King, alongside an eponymous documentary that supposedly chronicles a year’s worth of Sunday Services for the masses. The album release, despite Kim Kardashian’s assurances, has yet to arrive, while a leaked version of Yandhi — another album promised around this time last year — popped up this week on iTunes as a collection of ringtones.