New Inclusive Hymnbook Released!

Earth Transformed with Music! Inclusive Songs for Worship has just been released! It’s been exciting to collaborate with composer Larry E. Schultz on our third collection of inclusive hymns.Earth Transformed coverFinal

The title of this new collection, Earth Transformed with Music! Inclusive Songs for Worship, expresses our deep belief in the power of music to transform people and all creation. Music has great power to transform our world. Music stirs our spirits and embeds words in our memories. Songs with inclusive lyrics contribute to an expansive theology and an ethic of equality and justice in human relationships.

These inclusive songs will help your worship catch up with your theology. You may have had difficulty finding hymns that reflect your beliefs about peacemaking, gender equality, racial equality, economic justice, and the sacred worth of all people.

The songs in this collection name Deity as female and male and more to support the foundational biblical truth that all people are created equally in the divine image (Genesis 1:27). Earth Transformed with Music! Inclusive Songs for Worship will instill belief in the sacredness of all people and all creation. The predominant themes of gender equality, racial equality, marriage equality, economic justice, care of creation, and peacemaking flow from the prophetic tradition in Scripture. This collection also includes songs for comfort, healing, celebration, and thanksgiving.

Earth Transformed with Music! includes all new songs, most to widely-known tunes and some to new tunes. Many of the songs are appropriate for interfaith settings. A special feature of this new collection is the inclusion of multigenerational short songs for various parts of worship services, such as invocations and benedictions.

Here is one of the fresh, lovely new tunes that Larry created for one of the short songs of invocation in this collection, “Sister-Brother Spirit, Within Us and Above,” along with the lyrics:

Sister-Brother Spirit, within us and above,

show us all Your peaceful way to partnership and love;

Sister-Brother Spirit, empower us today;

stir in us new visions of justice, we pray.

This new song collection comes to you with the invitation to join in transforming earth through singing inclusive songs that give birth to justice and peace. Let your worship catch up with your theology!

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Visiting Churches of Various Cultures: Reflections by Colette Casburn Numajiri (cont.)

Continuing on our adventure of visiting churches of various cultures, Colette Numajiri and I went to Japanese Baptist Church of North Texas and to the Center for Spiritual Living.

We have been looking for a church where Colette’s pre-school sons, Zayden and Nikko, will see both their Japanese and Anglo cultures celebrated. At the Japanese Baptist Church there were a few Anglos and one African American, but the congregation was mostly Japanese. Like most of the other churches we’ve visited in the Dallas area, the Japanese Baptist Church is more single-cultural than multicultural. But as Colette remarked about visiting the Eritrean and Vietnamese churches, going to the Japanese church was an expansive experience, like stepping into another country. Because most of the service was translated into English at the Japanese church, the predominantly male language for Deity was more noticeable than at the Eritrean and Vietnamese churches.

At the Center for Spiritual Living we were glad to see more cultural diversity. The worship leaders included an African American woman and a Hispanic man, along with the Anglo spiritual director. The congregation included about 30% people of color. But we were disappointed and somewhat surprised that this liberal faith community didn’t include female divine names. The language for Deity was gender-neutral and masculine. Also, women’s history as healers was not included in a talk about the connection between spirituality and healing.

Colette Casburn Numajiri

Colette Casburn Numajiri

Colette expresses her mixed feelings about our visits to these churches. Here are some excerpts from her reflections.

We chose Japanese Baptist Church of North Texas for our next adventure. My brother, Kline, came with me, Zayden, and Nikko, and we met Jann outside a little mid-century modern house, where this church meets.

Several Japanese women greeted us and told us to have a seat and sign in. All came and introduced themselves and talked to the boys. My favorite was the preacher’s daughter, who was very on top of things and knew how to take care of guests. She gave us headphones to hear the English translations, and we sat near the back before the service began.

Including us, I counted 28 people in attendance. The congregation was 80% Japanese female; there were two Anglo male teenagers, a few Japanese men, one Anglo male, and one African American male, who had met his wife in the ‘80s when he worked in Japan for six months,

A few minutes into the service, Zayden and Nikko started crawling around. The Anglo man showed Kline where the nursery was, and a Japanese woman followed to watch them. They were the only children there; the next youngest were the teenage girls who later went to watch my boys.

The service went on with hymns like “Father, We Love You,” and the Lord’s Prayer in Japanese with the English translation under the Japanese words projected on the screen at the front of the room. In our usual style, we changed the words to be more inclusive. We were delighted that one hymn included lyrics that named God as like a mother caring for her children.

The sermon was about how Jesus is “the truth, the life, the way.” The older male Japanese preacher seemed very kind and sincere. He preached in Japanese, and we listened on our headphones to the English interpreter.

After a few more songs and the announcements, the Anglo man gave the closing prayer. During the announcements, the pastor asked us in English to stand and give our names and where we were from. We did, and they all applauded. We felt as warmly welcomed at this Japanese Baptist Church as we had at the first church we visited, the Eritrean Baptist. Later we realized that we had forgotten to tell them we were from New Wineskins Feminist Ritual Community.

We said our goodbyes, and many people kept asking us to stay and have lunch with them.

AmaterasuJapanese flagI wondered where these people got their Christian roots. Less than 1% of people in Japan are Christian; 80% are Shinto. Christianity doesn’t seem to mesh well with the culture. Japan is called “the Land of the Rising Sun,” referring to the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu, believed to be the founder of Japan. She is symbolized in the Japanese flag with the large red sun in the center. The Japanese believe that their island nation is the only holy place on Earth. That might be why more are not interested in changing their religion.

 

Our next adventure led us to the Center for Spiritual Living, also in North Dallas. When we entered the large meeting hall, the worship leaders were praying for the whole congregation, and everyone ended together with “and so it is.” Later, we would see a “Teaching Symbol” that includes the letters “ASII” (“and so it is”) underneath.

After the opening prayer, a great band and four joyful singers led us all through songs about peace and love. The songs were reminiscent to me of the ‘60s “Age of Aquarius” and peace rallies of that era, which were right on. As the songs continued, the band seemed to be having a full on jam session and most of the people were dancing along.

Everyone seemed to be really enthusiastic, but for some reason I was not. At this point in the journey, we’ve already realized that we’re not going to find much inclusive language outside of New Wineskins Community. Although their songs mostly called God “Spirit,” the service still used “God” and other words which are primarily masculine. So, I kept looking for Her. This church did fulfill our search for a culturally diverse community. I think all ethnicities would feel welcome at the Center for Spiritual Living.

When it came time for the sermon, there She was. Their high priestess, whom they call “spiritual director,” is a blonde, glamorous lesbian, and she shines brightly, like Amaterasu, for the congregation. She is strong and carries this church, and I could feel their adoration of her. She started talking about how our bodies are an extension of our spirits and how we have to take care of our health. “Right on,” I thought. She referred several times to Ernest Holmes, founder of Religious Science, which this church promotes.

Then the spiritual director called up a woman to share her findings on health and spirituality. This woman shared a picture of an early medical school in a quaint village in France, saying that this school was connected to a cathedral and that spirituality and healing should not be separate. I completely agree, but my mind quickly wandered off to the film “The Burning Times,” a 1990 Canadian documentary, about the women’s holocaust in Europe between the 15th and 17th centuries in which an estimated nine million women were killed. That little medical school in the picture was probably set up by the Catholic church during the Inquisition to train men (women were not allowed to go to school) to be doctors because they had burned all of the midwives and healers as witches. For thousands of years prior to this, most of the physicians and healers and nurturers were women. They knew all about nutrition and anatomy; they birthed babies and comforted the dying. They were a huge threat to the Catholic faith and endangered those in the male hierarchy, who declared that “anyone (woman) who cured without studying was a witch and must die.” This is how they gained control over women’s powers, and we still live under this patriarchal control. It took all of my strength not to raise my hand and stand up and share with these people what I knew.

The spiritual director concluded her sermon, and there was a blessing of the collection plates and welcoming of the visitors. I had planned after the service to run up to the minister and the woman who spoke about the medical school and share the truth about women as healers, but several people had come to greet and welcome us.

After the service, a friend who is a member of the Center for Spiritual Living gave us a tour of their awesome facility. There were altars hidden in corners along the way. But I didn’t really see any female images of the Divine.

Then I went to retrieve my happy sons from the nursery. As we were saying our goodbyes, the woman who had given the speech about the medical school walked up and started talking to Nikko in my arms. So, I told her everything about the witch trials as quickly as I could. She didn’t say much, but I felt her fear. Her cheeks got red, and she turned away from me, and that was it. I hate that I scared her, but it’s time for the truth to be revealed.

ChristSophia2FreedomSophia copyTime to free Sophia, heal the women and children and heal the world. That’s the way to peace and happiness.1BillionRising1

FreedR copy           

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If Eve Only Knew: Freeing Yourself from Biblical Womanhood and Becoming All God Means for You to Be, by Kendra Weddle Irons & Melanie Springer Mock

IfEVeOnlyKnew

If Eve Only Knew: Freeing Yourself from Biblical Womanhood and Becoming All God Means for You to Be, by Kendra Weddle Irons and Melanie Springer Mock, just came out! This is an important book that I highly recommend. Here are excerpts from my review in Christian Feminism Today.

If we ever question the great need for our work as Christian feminists, this book will re-energize and inspire us. In If Eve only Knew, Dr. Kendra Weddle Irons and Dr. Melanie Springer Mock deconstruct evangelical popular culture’s messages that girls and women as descendants of Eve are sinful, weak, deceitful, and inferior, and that our hope is through being pure, passive, “pink” princesses who find the right man to marry and to please through serving him and his children. At the same time Kendra and Melanie construct positive messages with convincing biblical support, empowering us to be all we’re created to be in the divine image.

Countering the belief of many people that we live in a post-sexist world where feminism is no longer needed, Melanie and Kendra demonstrate through vivid examples and compelling stories that patriarchy is still all too prevalent and that indoctrination in gender inequality continues on a wide scale. Their voices ring with authenticity because they witness firsthand the destructive effects of this indoctrination on the college students they teach. All Christians and other justice-loving people should know and care about the distorted biblical messages on gender that come from evangelical popular culture because they remain a pervasive force in our society. Also, I’m delighted to recommend this book because it includes insightful biblical interpretations that free us to become all we’re meant to be in God’s own image.

The chapter on the importance of language and imagery to gender equality includes these statements: “Refusing to embrace feminine images and language for God endorses the sexism embedded within us: that women are inferior to men, that to speak of the ‘womb of God’ is somehow too earthy or messy, that to think of God as Mother produces unsettling images. . . .Until we take seriously the need for our language and images of God to be fully expressed, sexism will exist in our workplaces, educational institutions, and most prominently, in our churches.”

In If Eve Only Knew, Kendra and Melanie do an amazing job of weaving vivid illustrations from contemporary culture with cogent biblical scholarship—all in an engaging, witty style, as in their blog, “Ain’t I a Woman.” Their book, like their blog and their presentations at Christian Feminism Today Gatherings, makes me laugh at the ludicrous mandates for “biblical womanhood” while feeling profound sadness over all the ways evangelical popular culture harms people with stifling gender prescriptions. Melanie and Kendra also inspire hope that by overturning these damaging messages with biblical interpretations that nurture gender equality, we contribute to transforming culture. If Eve Only Knew: Freeing Yourself from Biblical Womanhood and Becoming All God Means for You to Be is a must-read for everyone who wants to contribute to changing church and society so that all people have freedom to flourish in the divine image.

Read the complete review.

 

 

 

 

 

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New Inclusive Hymnbook to be Published in September

Earth Transformed coverFinal

Earth Transformed with Music! Inclusive Songs for Worship will be out soon. It’s been exciting to collaborate with composer Larry E. Schultz on this third collection of inclusive hymns.

This collection includes all new songs, most to widely-known tunes and some to new tunes. Many of the songs are appropriate for interfaith settings. A special feature of this new collection is the inclusion of multigenerational short songs for various parts of worship services, such as invocations and benedictions.

Here is one of the fresh, lovely new tunes that Larry created for one of the songs in this collection, “Come, Sophia Wisdom, Come,” along with the lyrics to the first stanza:

Come, Sophia Wisdom, come, live in our hearts;

come, Sophia Wisdom, come, peace to impart.

Heal us, bless us, stir us, and free us.

Come, Sophia Wisdom, come, live in our hearts.

Words © 2014 Jann Aldredge-Clanton

This new collection, Earth Transformed with Music! Inclusive Songs for Worship, will instill belief in the sacredness of all people and all creation. The songs in this collection name Deity as female and male and more to support the foundational biblical truth that all people are created equally in the divine image (Genesis 1:27).

Music has great power to touch the heart and change the world. Words we sing in worship shape our beliefs and actions. The inclusive songs in this collection will contribute to social justice, peace, equality, and expansive spiritual experience. The predominant themes of gender equality, racial equality, marriage equality, economic justice, care of creation, and peacemaking flow from the prophetic tradition in Scripture.

In a world of wars and violence, oppression and brokenness, we can join together as sisters and brothers in faith communities to transform the world through music.

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Visiting Churches of Various Cultures: Reflections by Colette Casburn Numajiri (cont.)

multiracial2

The fifth church Colette Numajiri and I visited on our adventure of visiting churches of various cultures was a United Methodist Church in Dallas. This church is closer to “multicultural” than any of the churches we’ve visited so far. We were delighted to see African Americans, Africans, Indians, and Anglos worshiping together.

It was also exciting to see a strong African American woman as pastor of this church. The other four churches we’ve visited have male pastors.

But we were disappointed not to find inclusive language and imagery. Several of the other churches we’ve visited also used exclusively male language, but we didn’t notice it as much because only parts of the service were translated into English, and the Catholic church did have the female images of Mary.

So this visit brought mixed feelings: we celebrated the racial and cultural diversity and the powerful African American woman pastor, but we longed for inclusive language and imagery. We felt a dissonance between the exclusively male language and this racially inclusive congregation with a woman pastor.

Colette Casburn Numajiri

Colette Casburn Numajiri

Colette expresses her strong mixed feelings about this visit. Here are some excerpts from her reflections.

Outside the sanctuary, robe-clad people were waiting to process down the aisle. We found our spot in the middle of the pews, and the service began. The strong, beautiful African American pastor greeted everyone after the opening hymn.

It was wonderful to see more racial diversity than in other churches we’ve visited. The congregation was about 70% Anglo, 28% African American, and the rest African and Indian. The choir was not as diverse as the congregation, but sang a glorious anthem.

As the pastor began to read the announcements, I started to recall the Methodist churches I grew up in. Although I was very proud to be watching this great woman leader, I quickly grew tired of the “He, Him, He, Lord, Jesus, Kingdom, sin, blood. . . “ Every few words were masculine, and now that I know better, it was very hard to hear. We tried to change the words to “She, Her, and Sophia” wherever we could in the hymns and everywhere the church was asked to recite aloud. It was hard and strange. I felt like this church was in a time warp: that it was right after the witch hunts in England were over and the “men of God” had written these creeds, Lord’s prayer, and Doxology that told everyone what to think and say. I felt like a slave, having to repeat something so unnatural that immediately equated to my psyche that I was lesser and did not matter. I am the daughter of the daughters of Eve and evil and unholy. I just shake my head thinking about how in the world they convinced people to think this for 2000+ years!

But there She was though, before us as an eloquent and charismatic female pastor, leading us. Perhaps she had to use these chosen words to stay in that position and to have this work.

I’ve never seen anyone sing along to the hymns as joyfully as did an elderly white-haired man several rows in front of us. I would have too if the songs were about Godde being a woman! I don’t blame him at all; he lucked out being born an Anglo male because evidently that’s what God is.

What if, in this same beautiful church, with its gorgeous stained glass windows (of all male images unless that figure crying at the foot of the cross was female), this same wombish minister was up there telling us that we are all made in the image and likeness of the Divine and showing us through her language that we are ALL equal and perfect and special? What if? And when?

Perhaps it’s not fair to single out this church. What was I expecting? It was really eye-opening to re-experience this feeling of exclusion in church and to realize that most churches still use exclusively male language. Sadly, it seemed like brainwashing to me. And so many people have been victims of it, starting the first time their parents took them to church.

So, what do we do? I hope to do my part. Just by our visiting these churches, we are planting seeds.

FreedR copyFreedomSophia copyAfter the service, we stood in line to see the minister. When it was our turn to visit with her, Jann introduced us, saying we were from New Wineskins Feminist Ritual Community and doing research for a book on multicultural churches. The minister stepped back a bit, as though we were selling something. We didn’t know how she took us. And maybe we are saleswomen. Then if so, we’re selling freedom, peace, love, and acceptance for all.

            

           

            visions1Peace

 

 

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