The Cosmic Mass in Downtown Oakland and Beyond

The Cosmic Mass found an excellent home at Historic Sweets Ballroom in downtown Oakland.  The art-deco space, dating to the 1920’s, had seen many exciting events in its heyday including Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and more, but it was abandoned for twenty years when my non-profit took it over. 

Matthew Fox leads a Cosmic Mass in the Historic Sweets Ballroom,Oakland, CA.

We did our best to fix it up over the years and were able to save it from demolition.  Today it is active as part of a school of the Arts.  Its high ceilings and sprung wooden floor made it excellent for a Cosmic Mass that has dance as its primary element.

Among the themes we chose for the TCM were the Green Man; the Black Madonna—“time to honna the black Madonna”); the Return of the Divine Feminine; Trees (We created a tall ‘tree’ from a scaffolding and during the Mass Julia Butterfly, protesting logging of old-growth forests in northern California by living in a tree, called in by phone); Flowers; Black Diaspora; Celtic story; Angels among Us; Pink Triangle; and many more.

Flyer for the Cosmic Mass honoring the Green Man

Attendees were multi-generational and multi-faith.  One night an eighty-four-year-old woman who was dancing her heart out said to me, “I’ve been waiting eighty-two years for someone to connect my love of prayer with my love of dance.  I took three buses to get here tonight and by the time I’m through praying the buses won’t be running so I will need a ride home.”

Not once was there an issue with a child or baby.  Children are not bored at our Masses for talking is kept to a minimum and children love to dance—those who tire ride on their parents’ shoulder.  No crying room is necessary either.

At one Mass, whose theme was animals, a woman brought a large white python draped about her neck.  It was beautiful in its fashion, but I did approach her and ask 1) whether it had been fed lately and 2) to please keep it away from any babies.

Another high point of the mass is the interest of young men in joining us.  The DJ vocation is heavily (not exclusively) male, as is rap.  It is rare to find young men in church or at retreat centers in our time, but they clearly are drawn to the sweaty adventure of dancing their prayers.

Dancers in a Cosmic Mass.

Since COVID-19 has struck, needless to say the Cosmic Masses have been shelved.  But we have been invited to do some on line and the results have been quite positive.  Obviously, it is less than ideal to do worship by zoom instead of in person, but hopefully our covid times will pass.  One advantage to doing a tcm on line is that the burdens of bearing equipment and setting up a space are lessened. 

The Cosmic Mass is very much what liturgy should be—the “work of the people.”  It takes a community to do the work before, during and after the celebration.  But it expands and inspires community–as all ritual is meant to do.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Confessions: The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest, pp. 366-369.

Banner Image: An artist’s impression of the ecstatic dancing that is part of a Cosmic Mass.

Have you often danced your prayers?  And led others to do so?  What were the results?

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4 thoughts on “The Cosmic Mass in Downtown Oakland and Beyond”

  1. Avatar

    I think this ties in well with yesterdays post .even though I have not been to one it seems to me the echoes of previous tcm,s have all added to the energy of newer ones -morphic resonance?

    1. Rev. Dr. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Rev. Dr. Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Steve, I have been to a number of Cosmic Masses at Sweets Ballroom and they have been extremely moving experiences. I also took a class at University of Creation Spirituality on how they are put together, with Jill Martin, and as our final assignment we put on our own Cosmic Mass! As for morphic resonance… I guess you could see this in past masses and techno’s that led to the Cosmic Mass… Thanks for your comments!

  2. Avatar

    I so thoroughly enjoy all your meditations every single day Matthew. I have been a follower of this way since the 80s and yes I dance my prayers all the time. We have been so lucky in our parish. I had a dance group for 30 years. If I would be living in California I would certainly be at your cosmic masses. In the meantime is there a link to having the cosmic mass virtually? Thank you again Matthew for all that you do in the unfolding of the universe story I’m honest. I am visually impaired so I’m sorry if I make any mistakes in these comments.

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