Many 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.
Lutheran 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.