A New Christmas Album of Joy, Justice, and Gender Inclusion

christmasI am in the midst of my annual Christmas music and movies binge, are you? Feliz Navidad is playing on my Sirius XM Holly station right now. Yesterday while waiting for a train at Union Station in Chicago, the theme song from Christmas Vacation was on some kind of loop and on the drive home, Let It Snow blared from the radio. Last week, as you can see in the picture, I took in the majesty of Christmas around the world at the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago … a favorite for many years.

I’ve written here before about some of the mixed legacies of Christmas songs and movies, particularly when it comes to racism and sexism … the rapey-ness of Baby It’s Cold Outside, the blackface in Holiday Inn, the knight-in-shining-legalese in Miracle on 34th Street, and so on.

I’ve also been so glad to be able to share the work of Rev. Jann Aldredge-Clanton re-visioning many of our classic sacred Christmas songs toward justice and gender-inclusion. Some opening lines of these beautiful and familiar tunes:

[ala O Little Town of Bethlehem]

“O Holy Darkness, loving Womb, who nurtures and creates,

sustain us through the longest night with dreams of open gates.”

[ala Joy to the World]

“Sound forth the news that Wisdom comes

to bring new life to birth.”

[ala What Child is This?/Greensleeves]

“Come, let us join our Sister Creator,

birthing a new world more than we know.”

SIng-of-Peace-COVER-copyAnd now, Jann has released a new CD with Devi Vaani, Sing of Peace. It brings together these and several other Christmas songs that combine words of inclusion and justice with familiar and dear Christmas tunes. You can hear samples of each song here, including “Our Mother Within Us” to the tune of Away in a Manger.

There will always be something comforting about the ritual familiarity of this music for me. Having Jann’s words and a theology of justice connected to them transforms the holiday season with even deeper expressions of hope and joy.

You can read more about the music and producing the CD here, and then go buy and download the CD here, for your most merry feminist Christmas!

 Images mine and via.

 

Words for Justice, Songs for Worship

Earth-Transformed-coverFinal1-235x300My friend and colleague Rev. Jann Aldredge-Clanton has just published a new book titled Earth Transformed with Music! Inclusive Songs for Worship. I’ve written about and shared some of her work here on this blog before. I asked Jann a few questions about her new book.

1. Tell us why you put together this collection of hymns.

Music has great power to touch the heart and change the world. Words we sing in worship shape our beliefs and actions. They have great power because of the sacred value given to them, and because the music embeds the words in our memories. The majority of churches, even progressive churches, still use hymns with mostly male names and imagery for Deity, inadvertently supporting gender injustice and inequality. Biblical female divine names and images are excluded from most hymns. So I continue to answer the call of Ruah, the Creative Spirit, to write inclusive hymn lyrics and to publish them in hymn collections for faith communities to use in worship.

Earth Transformed with Music! Inclusive Songs for Worship is my third collection of hymns; the first two are Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians and Inclusive Hymns for Liberation, Peace, and Justice. I’ve collaborated with composer Larry E. Schultz on these hymn collections, as well as on a children’s musical, a children’s songbook, and choral anthems. All include biblical female divine names, such as “Wisdom,” Sophia, Ruah, Shaddai, Shekhinah, “Mother,” “Midwife,” “Mother Hen,” and “Mother Eagle.” These female names of the Divine help to transform patriarchal structures that continue to support worldwide oppression of women and girls. When we include female names for Deity, women and girls are seen in Her image and thus respected and valued instead of being oppressed and abused. Gender-balanced names and images of the Divine affirm the sacred value of all people and all creation, supporting justice and peace in our world.

More and more congregations, communities, and small groups are seeking inclusive hymns that reflect their beliefs of gender equality and justice. They have affirmed my hymn writing and encouraged me to keep writing more hymns that include female divine names and images. So I continue writing lyrics, and Ruah continues to inspire me!

2. How does Earth Transformed differ from your previously published hymnbooks?

This collection includes all new songs. In the previously published hymnbooks I organized the hymns according to general themes of justice, liberation, and peacemaking. Many of the hymns in Earth Transformed with Music! address specific justice issues, such as workers’ rights. I organized the hymns according to justice issues, such as racial equality, gender equality, marriage equality, economic justice, care of creation, and interfaith collaboration, that also form the organizational structure for She Lives! Sophia Wisdom Works in the World, a book with stories of fascinating pioneers who are changing the church by reclaiming multicultural female images of Deity. I hope that Earth Transformed will be used as a companion to She Lives!, bringing change through story and song.

This book also differs from my previously published hymnbooks in that it includes multigenerational short songs for various parts of worship services, such as invocations and benedictions. Larry composed beautiful new music for these short songs.

3. How is it a challenge and an opportunity to write hymns for interfaith settings?

The challenge is to find tunes that various faith traditions have in common and/or to create new tunes. Earth Transformed with Music! includes tunes such as “Bunessan” (made popular by Cat Stevens’ “Morning Has Broken”) and “America” (popular tune for “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”), as well as wonderful, easy-to-sing new tunes that Larry created.

Writing songs for interfaith settings is indeed a great opportunity! Singing is a wonderful way to bring people of diverse religious and spiritual traditions together to contribute to justice and peace. When we take down divisive walls, we discover our common values and the power of our combined efforts to transform our world. One of the songs in this new collection, “In Unity We Gather,” concludes with this celebratory stanza:

In faith we are united, in hope and love set free;

through bridging our divisions we claim all we can be.

Together we envision a peaceful global home;

within Creative Mystery we find a deep Shalom.

4. Which do you prefer: writing new words for familiar tunes, or writing new songs entirely?

That’s a difficult question because I love doing both! Familiar tunes provide a rhyme and rhythm structure I like working with. Also, it’s rewarding to write new inclusive words to tunes that I grew up with and that I love but can no longer sing because of the exclusive theology of the original words. Many people have told me that they’re delighted that I’ve reclaimed some of their favorite hymn tunes, and music ministers have told me that it’s often easier to get congregations to sing new words to familiar tunes that provide continuity to their traditions.

JannOn the other hand, writing words for new music gives me freedom in creating the poetry. For this new collection I first wrote the lyrics for all of the short songs for various parts of worship, and then Larry created wonderful new music that enhances my lyrics. This is also how we wrote our children’s musical, children’s songbook, and choral anthems. In Earth Transformed, as in our first two hymn collections, Larry also wrote new music for some hymns that I’d written to familiar tunes, and we include the lyrics to the familiar tune side by side with the lyrics to the new tune so that congregations can choose to sing either or both.

5. What else would you like people to know about this new hymnbook?

For congregations beginning the movement to inclusive language, this new collection provides hymns that draw from the wealth of biblical gender-neutral names for Deity, such as “Friend,” “Love,” “Spirit,” and “Maker.” Then as congregations move to what Presbyterian pastor Rebecca Kiser calls “gender-full” language for the Divine, they will find in this new collection hymns that reclaim biblical female divine names and images. This new hymnbook also includes hymns that feature important, often-overlooked biblical women, such as Miriam and Mary Magdalene. Earth Transformed with Music! invites people to join in transforming the world through singing inclusive songs that give birth to justice and peace.

To hear some of Jann’s lovely work, head on over to her YouTube channel.

 

“Blessing Every Love Relation”:: A Pride Month Hymn

rainbowAs a conclusion to a remarkable Pride Month, I’m delighted to share “Praise the Source of All Creation,” a hymn written by Rev. Jann Aldredge-Clanton “in celebration of marriage equality and with the hope that justice and love will keep moving from the courts to the hearts of all people everywhere.”  The hymn was written in 2012 for the Religious Institute’s first hymn contest, and is more than fitting in these days of celebration and organization for the work ahead.

About the words, Jann writes: “Words we sing in worship have great power to shape belief and action, helping congregations and individuals in our journey toward healing from sexism, heterosexism, racism, and other injustices.” Even with this recent victory, the journey continues toward inclusion, justice, and expanding our recognition of the human dignity of all.

The hymn can be sung to the tune of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, a familiar refrain for many:

“Praise the Source of All Creation”

(Genesis 1:1-27, 31; Proverbs 3:13-18)

 

Praise the Source of all creation, giving life throughout the earth,

blessing every love relation, filling all with sacred worth.

Celebrate all forms and colors, varied beauty everywhere,

streams of goodness overflowing, wondrous gifts for all to share.

 

Many genders, many races, all reflect Divinity;

many gifts and many graces help us be all we can be.

Partners on this path of freedom, taking down each stifling wall,

we will open doors of welcome, bringing hope and joy to all.

 

Long have many been excluded, judged and scorned by custom’s norms;

everyone will be included as we work to make reforms.

Let us end abuse and violence, bringing justice everywhere,

joining Holy Wisdom’s mission, helping all be free and fair.

 

Equal marriage, healing, freeing, nurtures body, mind and soul,

reaffirming every being, all created good and whole.

Come, rejoice and sing together, celebrating life and love;

praise the great Creative Spirit, living in us and above.

Words © 2012 Jann Aldredge-Clanton

(suggested tunes: BEECHER, HYFRYDOL, HYMN TO JOY)

For more of Jann’s beautiful work, head over to her blog or click here for other work I have shared.

 

 

A Merry Feminist Christmas, part three

I first shared this post in December 2012 … here it is again for your Christmas enjoyment:

My friend Jann Aldredge-Clanton is the author of Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians, and I am taking these days surrounding Christmas to share some of her beautiful work, which features the beautiful images of others.

Today, “Welcome Our Sister-Brother Creator” (to the tune of “Greensleeves”/”What Child Is This?”) which she describes as follows:

Recording artist Shannon Kincaid sings “Welcome Our Sister-Brother Creator,” with pictures from various artists, to the tune of “Greensleeves.” This song envisions the creation of a world of peace, justice, kindness, freedom, healing, hope, and celebration of diverse gifts.

Some lyrics:

Come, let us join our Sister Creator,
birthing a new world more than we know.
With Her revealing all of our fullness,
we create healing wherever we go.
 
Come, let us join our Brother Creator,
bringing forth freedom for every race.
All of earth’s colors dancing together,
celebrate beauty in every face.
 
Welcome our Sister-Brother Creator
into our spirits’ life-giving wombs.
Glad expectation grows from our labor
for new creation’s glorious blooms.
 
 

A Merry Feminist Christmas, part two

I first shared this post in December 2012 … here it is again for your holiday enjoyment:

My friend Jann Aldredge-Clanton is the author of Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians, and I am taking these days surrounding Christmas to share some of her beautiful work, which features the beautiful images of others.

Today, “Sound Forth the News That Wisdom Comes” (to the tune of “Joy to the World”) which she describes as follows:

Recording artist Shannon Kincaid sings “Sound Forth the News That Wisdom Comes,” with pictures from various artists, to the tune of “Joy to the World.” The book of Proverbs depicts Wisdom as a female image of the Divine: “She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with Her. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all Her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of Her; those who hold Her fast are called happy” (Proverbs 3: 15, 17-18).

“Sound Forth the News That Wisdom Comes” calls us to co-create with Wisdom a world of peace, justice, equality, love, freedom, and joy.

Some lyrics:

Sound forth the news that Wisdom comes
to bring new life to birth.
Arise with hope, Her labor join,
and peace shall fill the earth,
and peace shall fill the earth,
and peace, and peace shall fill the earth.
 
No more let fear and custom hide
the path of Wisdom fair.
She leads the way to life and joy,
with gifts for all to share,
with gifts for all to share,
with gifts, with gifts for all to share.
 
 

A Merry Feminist Christmas, part one

I first shared this post in December 2012 … here it is again for your Advent pleasure:

My friend Jann Aldredge-Clanton is the author of Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians, and I am taking these days surrounding Christmas to share some of her beautiful work, which features the beautiful images of others.

Up first, today, “O Holy Darkness, Loving Womb” (to the tune of “O Little Town of Bethlehem”) which she describes as follows:

Recording artist Shannon Kincaid sings “O Holy Darkness, Loving Womb,” with pictures from various artists, to the tune of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” This song symbolizes darkness as creative bounty and beauty, and connects darkness to the Sacred Feminine, empowering us to end injustice and heal the wounds of Earth. “O Holy Darkness, Loving Womb” contributes to racial justice by changing the traditional symbolism of darkness as evil or ominous to darkness as creative bounty and beauty, affirming the sacred value of people of color through these positive images.

Some lyrics:

O Holy Darkness, loving Womb, who nurtures and creates,
sustain us through the longest night with dreams of open gates.
We move inside to mystery that in our center dwells,
where streams of richest beauty flow from sacred, living wells.
 
Creative Darkness, closest Friend, you whisper in the night;
you calm our fears as unknown paths surprise us with new sight.
We marvel at your bounty, your gifts so full and free,
unfolding as you waken us to new reality.
 
 

At The Intersections: Justice & the Divine Female

She Lives revise2Many good people live and work at the intersections, and I occasionally invite someone to tell a story from where they stand. Today’s piece comes from Rev. Jann Aldredge-Clanton, whose musical work I have shared on this blog from time to time over the years. Jann is an ordained minister, author, teacher, and chaplain. She currently serves as adjunct professor at Perkins School of Theology and Richland Community College, Dallas, Texas. A native of Louisiana, Jann received the B.A. degree from Louisiana Polytechnic University, the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Texas Christian University, and the M.Div. from Southwestern Theological Seminary.

I first met Jann at a Faith and Feminism conference at herchurch in San Francisco several years ago, and have delighted in sharing and supporting her work ever since. Here, I invited her to tell a story about the creation of her new book, She Lives!

Walking along the beautiful green belt in our neighborhood, the words “She Lives” popped into my mind. I recalled the gospel hymn “He Lives,” that I grew up singing in my Baptist tradition. And I thought back over the twenty or more years I have been researching, writing, teaching, and preaching to persuade people that we need to include biblical female divine names and images, such as Sophia (“Wisdom”), in worship if we are to have social justice, peace, and equality. Now I was feeling Her call to write a book with the title She Lives, illustrating the many ways She is alive and working in our world.

She Lives! Sophia Wisdom Works in the World celebrates clergy and laypeople engaged in transformative ministry within the church and the wider culture. Their stories reveal the connection between multicultural female divine images in worship and justice in human relationships, illustrating Wisdom’s works such as gender equality, racial equality, marriage equality, economic justice, care of creation, nonviolence, interfaith collaboration, expanding spiritual experience, and changing hierarchies into circles.

Author and professor Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, one of the people I interviewed for this book, comments on the power of God-language: “As long as our references to God are always to male or else to neutral imagery like ‘rock,” men will continue to seem more in God’s image than women. And worldwide abuses of women and girls will continue because females will be viewed as less god-like and less human than males.” The stories in She Lives! illustrate how multicultural female images of the Divine provide a theological foundation for affirming the sacred value of women and girls, thus creating a more just and peaceful world.

In my interview with Sheila Sholes-Ross, Baptist pastor and co-chair of the ecumenical Equity for Women in the Church Community, she emphasizes inclusive worship not only for women but for all people, and celebrates her vision that one day “there will be multicultural churches including multicultural divine female imagery.” Grace Ji-Sun Kim, Presbyterian minister and author, shares her strong belief that reclaiming female language and imagery for the Divine will contribute to the “reign of God, which receives all people as equal regardless of class, age, ethnicity, or gender.”

StacyPreachingLutheran Pastor Stacy Boorn’s story in She Lives! illustrates her belief that in order to bring justice in the world for females and for all people, we must change the church to include multicultural female images of the Divine: “I don’t see how the world is going to change until the religious institutions change because they are so much a part of who the world is.” Feminist theologian Caryn D. Riswold discusses how she brings “thoughtful people into conversations about justice and God and church and religion and social change” through her books and her blog. Bridget Mary Meehan, a bishop in the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, brings transformation through the ordination of women as priests and through the inclusion of female images of the Divine in worship. Although the Vatican has tried to stop this change by excommunicating women priests, they keep on declaring, “We are not leaving the church; we are leading the church.”

Having experienced the power of rituals to shape the beliefs and values that shape our actions, I have included creative expansive, gender-balanced worship resources in She Lives! Woven through the stories are prayers, hymns, litanies, and other liturgical resources that include Wisdom and other biblical female personifications of the Divine.  Also, there is a section of additional inclusive liturgical resources to use in faith communities and in personal meditation.

When I interviewed womanist theologian Monica A. Coleman, she expressed her desire for a website to help people find feminist churches. So I decided to look for these churches, communities, and groups to include in She Lives!  The last section of the book provides locations and information on the feminist emancipatory faith communities I have discovered. I hope that this list may serve as a beginning.

She Lives! invites readers to join the adventure of creating rituals that include the Female Divine and to join communities that celebrate Her, affirming the sacred value of all people and all creation.

You can find more of Jann’s work online, on YouTube, on amazon.com, and occasionally here on this blog.

“Our Mother …”

Many arguments for male-exclusive language for God insist that use of female images and names for God is a modern radical feminist plot to overthrow the church.  To the contrary, scripture and the Christian tradition are full of such images that have simply been crowded out by the dominance of patriarchal views of God.

Rev. Jann Aldredge-Clanton notes on her blog that:

Although many churches limit God to male names and images, Scripture does not limit God to maleness. The Bible gives a multiplicity of divine names and images, including female divine names and images. Maternal divine names and imagery occur throughout the Bible. The prophet Isaiah pictures God as a comforting Mother: “As a Mother comforts Her children, so I will comfort you” (Isaiah 66:13). Biblical maternal images also include a “Nursing Woman” (Isaiah 49:15), “Mother Eagle” (Deuteronomy 32:11-12), and “Mother Hen” (Matthew 23:37).

She goes on to given examples of how several “church fathers” like St. Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, and John Calvin also used and affirmed maternal imagery for the divine.  Drawing on this tradition, Miriam Therese Winter wrote the “Our Mother” prayer as part of her ongoing work:

exploring new and more authentic ways of living faith fully in a constantly evolving universe. Her scholarship is rooted in what she likes to call the liturgy of life. This is shaped by her multifaceted experiences locally and around the world, especially among those who are powerless and poor, with women who are incarcerated, and with any who are willing to help bring about a more just and peace-filled planet.

Here is Vocal Divine, singing Miriam’s prayer set to Jann’s Pamela Parker’s music, recorded at herchurch/Ebenezer Lutheran in San Francisco for the new CD HER Sacred Songs:

Here are the lyrics:

Our Mother who is within us,

We celebrate your many names.

Your wisdom come; your will be done,

unfolding from the depths within us.

 

Each day you give us all that we need.

You remind us of our limits and we let go.

You support us in our power, and we act with courage.

 

For you are the dwelling place within us,

the empowerment around us,

and the celebration among us,

now and forever, now and forever, now and forever,

now and forever.

 

Blessed be!

 

For Feminist Days (After Christmas)

I’ve been sharing some feminist musical resources in the days surrounding Christmas this year, and last year did the same … check out these links if you want more!  Today brings one last offering from Rev. Jann Aldredge-Clanton’s work on Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians, this time recorded by Vocal Divine at herchurch/Ebenezer Lutheran in San Francisco.

Here are some of the lyrics:

Come to our world, O Christ-Sophia, Wisdom;

our hearts are longing for Your peaceful way.

Lead us from fear and bondage into freedom;

with You we labor to bring Your new day.

 

Transform our world, O Christ-Sophia, Wisdom;

the poor and wounded await healing days.

Give us the power to sound Your call to freedom;

as equal partners, we show Your new way.

 

Led by Your Truth and Life within us growing,

we follow You on Your pathways of peace.

Filled with Your grace, Your loving kindness showing,

we share our gifts and our visions release.

 REFRAIN:

 Our weary world still longs for new creation,

for peace and justice coming to the earth.

Hope springs anew; we sing in celebration;

O Christ-Sophia, blessed be Your birth;

O Christ-Sophia, blessed be Your birth.

 

About the lyrics, Jann notes:

“Christ-Sophia” is a biblical symbol of the Divine, making equal connections between male and female, black and white, Jewish and Christian traditions, thus providing a foundation for communities based on partnership instead of domination. Sophia, the Greek word for Wisdom, is a biblical female divine image that opens new possibilities for justice, liberation, and new life. New Testament writers link Christ to Wisdom, a feminine symbol of God in the Hebrew Scriptures. Wisdom (Hokmah in Hebrew) symbolizes creative, redemptive, and healing power. In their efforts to describe this same power in Christ, the apostle Paul and other New Testament writers draw from the picture of Wisdom. The apostle Paul refers to Christ as the “power of God and the Wisdom (Sophia) of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24), and states that Christ “became for us Wisdom (Sophia) from God” (1 Corinthians 1:30).

Vocal Divine creates music for the worshipping and serving community of herchurch, whose mission states in part:

 “Our mission is to embody and voice the prophetic wisdom and word of the Divine Feminine, to uplift the values of compassion, creativity and care for the earth and one another. Our purple church is home to a diversity of spiritual traditions and perspectives that are woven together to create a strong, stretchy fabric that provides everyone with ample room to grow.  We are committed to acts of justice and peace as we help shift the worldview from domination systems to mending and caring for the web-of-life.”

May peace and compassion carry you into the new year!

 

“Sound Forth the News” (of Feminist Christmas Carols!)

Last year, I first shared some seasonal feminist musical resources around Christmas.  They feature the words of my friend Rev. Jann Aldredge-Clanton from her work on Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians.  I’m sharing some of them here again this year, especially for anyone who is looking for rich, creative, and inclusive words to inhabit comforting and familiar tunes.

The version of “Sound Forth the News That Wisdom Comes” that I posted last year was recorded by Shannon Kincaid.  This year, I share a recording of the words (sung to the tune of “Joy to the World”) by Vocal Divine at A Woman’s Eye (AWE) Gallery at herchurch in San Francisco:

About the words, Jann says:

The book of Proverbs depicts Wisdom as a female image of the Divine: “She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with Her. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all Her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of Her; those who hold Her fast are called happy” (Proverbs 3: 15, 17-18).

“Sound Forth the News That Wisdom Comes” calls us to co-create with Wisdom a world of peace, justice, equality, love, freedom, and joy.

Here is Vocal Divine (never mind the people milling about):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXDpxg2xYZc#t=43

And here are some of Jann’s lyrics:

Sound forth the news that Wisdom comes
to bring new life to birth.
Arise with hope, Her labor join,
and peace shall fill the earth,
and peace shall fill the earth,
and peace, and peace shall fill the earth.
 
No more let fear and custom hide
the path of Wisdom fair.
She leads the way to life and joy,
with gifts for all to share,
with gifts for all to share,
with gifts, with gifts for all to share.

May the joyful words add to your celebrations this week.

 

 

 
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