An Unlikely Church Service


Jake Sandvik

Kanye West, bottom center, at Sunday Service in Cody, Wyoming

Sunday, Sept. 22, legendary musician and entrepreneur Kanye West held one of his infamous Sunday Service programs here in Cody, Wyoming at Powwow Garden. According to the Billings Gazette, around 3,800 people showed up to the service that included an 80 person choir and their director Jason White, a collection of instrumentalists, and West who sang and harmonized during a handful of the songs. 

Sunday Service is a weekly program organized by West in which his choir sings songs worshipping God for anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours. The choir typically stands in a circle while the audience surrounds them, and West, White, the instrumentalists, videographers, and select others stand in the center of the circle. West has been putting on his “Sunday Services” across the country for the entire year. It started in early January as a private self-healing program in California where guests would come exclusively per invite, blowing up and getting attention when a video surfaced on social media of Kanye playing an electric synthesizer of sorts under a singing gospel choir at one of his earlier Sunday Services. The video was published by rapper and friend of West, Cyhi The Prynce, and people were instantly hooked. The first public service occurred on Easter Sunday at Coachella earlier this year where guests like Chance, the Rapper, DMX, Kid Cudi, Teyanna Taylor, and of course the Kardashian-West family joined in for the performance. Over the past month or two, West has been swapping cities week-to-week to host Sunday Service for free. Atlanta, Chicago, Dayton, as well as a public service in California are some of the locations he has brought the service to. Recently however, Cody happened to be the next stop. 

“I think it’s really cool that I can say I’m from Cody, Wyoming and I went to Kanye’s Sunday Service. I think that’s really cool to be able to say, because a lot of people that live in big cities don’t even get to say they went to Sunday Service” said Cody High School senior, Taylar Williford. “I thought it was really cool that someone of that magnitude- like that much fame would come to Cody, Wyoming. That’s something you don’t see every day, I guess. You don’t expect him to do his Sunday Service in places like Cody.”

While West has a past reputation to be self-centered and egotistical, the exact opposite was the case at the Service. While the crowd cheered when he arrived both to the location and the “stage”, there wasn’t too much room for Kanye-praise after the service began. West only stood and bobbed his head inside of the choir circle for most of the program, with him singing and harmonizing on a couple of songs (most notably the song “Father Stretch My Hands”) as the only exception. 

“It affected me a lot about the type of person Kanye is. I think a lot of people came into it thinking it was gonna be all about him, but ya know he really just organized it. It was about God and the people being there I think, and I thought that was super cool,” said Sophomore Nathan Power.

While many enjoy the fact West was relatively silent during the performance for one reason or another, some don’t think of it as such a positive thing. “I didn’t like the fact that Kanye didn’t really speak a lot. I think it would have been cool if Kanye would have talked more or sang more” says Williford. Naturally many fans of West’s music could probably agree somewhat to this statement, as most of the reason they were there was him. 

Nevertheless, many think this was the best option for the town and time. “It was really cool that he kind of just put it on for the community, didn’t make it about himself, and made it about like- the message,” says Junior Gus Birky, who got to stand in the middle of the circle. 

“It was so much fun! I had way too much fun! I’m not a dancer or a singer so I looked very out of place in the middle, but oh my gosh, so much fun. Yes- positive review, I’m glad he put that on for our town” said Birky. 

All the music is extremely Christianity-based, hence the title of the event. Most of the music is set in a typical Gospel style with added elements of Hip-Hop, Pop, R&B, and Rock on certain songs. 

“I’ve never heard worship like that,” says Williford “You usually here the basic songs like Amazing Grace, so I thought it was really cool to hear Kanye beats, but then worshipping. It was just really different.” 

“I thought it was cool to have more diversity and culture in a service, because ya know- usually it’s just people singing some Christian rock song, and it gets old pretty fast, but this was gospel and I don’t think anybody in Cody has really experienced that,” says Power. 

While the music was extraordinary enough as it is, for many it was more than just music. For some, Sunday Service was simply a Kanye West organized concert. For others it was a spiritual experience. 

“Christianity’s always been kinda scary to me, and personally I’m agnostic, so being there and just knowing that it’s such a fun-loving community was really great for me,” said Birky. 

Of course the main reason for most of the people going was the organizer, but several attendants left with something more than a Kanye West event. As Power put it “He brought them in, and then they were there for Jesus after.” 

While there is no word of West holding Sunday Service in Cody another time, most residents hope for another opportunity to experience the event. Maybe next time the Pro-Kanyetalkmorers will get a little more from West if another service takes place here. As for now, however, I guess we’ll just have to wait for the new album Jesus Is King to drop. So in the words of President Donald Trump “Thank you Kanye, very cool.”