The Labor of Faith: Gender and Power in Black Apostolic Pentecostalism
Judith Casselberry is Associate Professor of Africana Studies at Bowdoin College. A vocalist and guitarist, Casselberry was a member of the award-winning reggae duo Casselberry-DuPreé and currently performs internationally with Toshi Reagon and BIGLovely.
The Beauty of Holiness
This chapter reveals how women perform aesthetic labor in material and immaterial realms to (re-)produce and (re-)interpret the meanings of living a holy life. Regulations on dress demonstrate the standard of respectable appearance. Examining the aesthetics of presentation, we gain insight into the particular ways in which saints understand that a woman, by her appearance, is an “ambassador for Christ” and the institution. At the same time, she is also a conduit for access to sacred realms by performing aesthetic labor in unrestrained liturgical practices—music making and worship—rendering the invisible (spirit) visible (embodied) to model the beauty and power of holiness. By means of unrestrained and restrained bodily practices, women address ideologies of power and respectability that are foundational to the church’s understandings of gender. Women’s spiritual and material aesthetic labor reinforces communal and self-understandings of women as spiritual gatekeepers while keeping church polity intact.