ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — The sounds of artist Beyoncé were front and center Wednesday night in Rock Island. Augustana College hosted a special kind of worship service for the first time, called the "Beyoncé Mass."
"It's really creative," said Monica Smith, Augustana's vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion. "It uses the music of an icon to reach a large body of people."
Beyoncé Mass got its start in 2018 at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, and since then, the worship service has gathered thousands from California to Portugal, according to its website.
The "womanist" worship service was created with the goal of using Beyoncé's music and life as a tool to "foster an empowering conversation about Black women - their lives, their bodies and their voices," its website said.
The service at Augustana was a mix of song, dance, spiritual reading and inspirational stories. The service also featured a sermon and quotes from Beyoncé and other prominent Black women.
"One of the things we know is that music brings people together from all backgrounds, age groups and cultures," Smith said. "This is a unique way to do that."
Although the singer herself did not attend, the service was meant to celebrate Beyoncé's music and life as a Black woman.
"For me, I'm really hoping that people feel free to be fully who they are," said Melinda Pupillo, Augustana's chaplain and spiritual development director.
The school leaders said they hoped the service empowers students to pursue their dreams and embrace who they are.