“Transforming Church and Society Through Sophia Wisdom,” Presentation at The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, NYC

Grace Ji-Sun Kim, Ann Smith, Victoria Sirota, Jann

Giving a presentation with Grace Ji-Sun Kim and Ann Smith at The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine was one of the exciting experiences I had during the week I spent in New York City at the UN Commission on the Status of Women (UN CSW). This presentation, “Transforming Church and Society Through Sophia Wisdom, ” a parallel event of the UN CSW, drew people from the UN conference and from the church. The Reverend Victoria Sirota, Canon Pastor & Vicar of the Congregation of Saint Saviour at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, hosted this event.

Grace Ji-Sun Kim, Ann Smith, and I talked about ways that reclaiming Sophia Wisdom and other biblical female images of God will empower our work together for peace, justice, and sustainability. Including multicultural female divine images in our worship affirms the sacred value of females throughout the world who continue to suffer from violence and abuse. The earth, traditionally referred to as feminine, likewise suffers from exploitation and abuse. Worship services that include female images can make a powerful contribution to a more just world. In our presentation we highlighted ways that multicultural female divine names and images in worship form a foundation for gender equality, racial equality, marriage equality, economic justice, care of creation, nonviolence, interfaith collaboration, expanding spiritual experience, and changing hierarchies to circles

Grace Ji-Sun Kim drew from her book The Grace of Sophia, which deals with Wisdom Christology as understood from a global religious perspective. She talked about the Korean concept of “han,” that indescribable pain from injustices suffered, and how Sophia liberates us from suffering, patriarchy, and other sources of oppression. Grace also engaged participants with stories from her book Contemplations from the Heart.

Ann Smith discussed the new leadership emerging that embodies Sophia and Circle Principles, transforming the human-made ecological and social crises, co-creating God’s dream for Mother Earth. She read her poem “God Is Not a Single Parent” from her book Women’s Uncommon Prayers, also published in She Lives!

I drew from my book She Lives! Sophia Wisdom Works in the World, which features inspiring stories of clergy and laypeople, including Grace and Ann, who are bringing transformation through restoring the power of Divine Wisdom and other biblical female images of Deity.

Victoria Sirota accompanied the group as we sang hymns from She Lives! Sophia Wisdom Works in the World: “Celebrate the Works of Wisdom,” “Wisdom, Sophia, Joins in Our Labor,” and “We Invite All to Join Our Circle Wide.” I led the group in a litany “Creating a Path Toward Liberation,” by Christina Cavener, also published in She Lives!

Instead of a traditional Q&A after the presentation, we formed a large circle and invited everyone to voice a reflection, idea, or blessing. We used Circle Principles from Circle Connections and the Millionth Circle.

Several days later at the Episcopal Church Center Chapel, Ann Smith led another sacred circle, “She Lives in Circles, ” also a parallel event of the UN CSW.

She Lives in Circles

Circles empower every voice to be heard and full participation as co-creators of a peaceful and just world.     
Circle Principles used everywhere and all the time bring us into harmony with all creation. 

Honor and Celebrate Sacred Space.

Speak from the Heart and one at a time.

Listen from the Heart without judgment.

Respect for all Creation.

Call for Silence when needed.

Share Leadership, Information, Resources.

Come to Consensus when possible.

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From Dallas to New York City: Celebrating Women and Working for Equality

From Dallas to New York City, we sounded the call to celebrate women’s achievements and to join together to work toward full equality for women. 

photo by Rosemarie Rieger

photo by Chad Clanton

Dallas Celebration of International Women’s Day: “Make It Happen”

In Dallas on March 7, we celebrated International Women’s Day. Rosemarie Rieger chaired the planning committee for this celebration with the theme “Make It Happen.” With people around the world, we celebrated the achievements of women while calling for greater equality.

Phyllis Goines

Phyllis Goines gave an informative talk on the history of International Women’s Day (IWD), beginning in 1908 with 15,000 women marching through New York City demanding voting rights and better working conditions and pay. In 1911, more than a million women and men in many countries attended IWD rallies campaigning for women’s rights to work, vote, hold public office, and have full equality. IWD has continued annually since then in countries around the world. International Women’s Day is an official holiday in many countries, but not yet in the United States.

Pamela Reséndiz gave participants a quiz on issues affecting working women. Through this quiz we learned about the work that still must be done to achieve women’s equality:

  • Women overall earn only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.
  • African American women earn only 64 cents for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men.
  • Latinas earn only 55 cents for every dollar earned by white men.
  • Out of the wealthiest 20 countries in the world, the U.S. ranks 17 on gender equity.
  • U.S. employers are not required by federal law to provide paid time off for workers to care for sick familly members.
  • The percentage of private businesses with onsite child care centers is only 7%.
  • The percentage of minimum wage workers who are women is 66%.

At the Dallas International Women’s Day celebration we formed circles to share our stories of navigating our ways through a patriarchal system. We also sang “Join Together, Work for Justice,” a hymn I wrote for women’s rights and workers’ rights, and heard beautiful, inspiring poetry spoken by edyka chilomé from her book She Speaks Poetry.

edyka chilomé


UN Commission on the Status of Women

The following week I spent in New York City at the UN Commission on the Status of Women continued to impress me with the amazing achievements of women even in the most difficult circumstances, the work still to be done to achieve gender equality, and the connection between women’s rights and workers’ rights.

The first session I attended on March 9, “Equality, Development & Peace: 2015 and Beyond,” sponsored by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership emphasized the inseparability of women’s rights and economic systems. The panelists at this session discussed ways that investors in many parts of the world exploit women and contribute to polluting the environment. They challenged us to hold companies accountable and not support those who don’t support women’s equality. They demonstrated the connection between militarism and global economic injustice and gender-based violence. The panel called for more women in positions of economic and political leadership around the world.

The Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) is working on these issues. CWGL envisions a world in which all people are equal and gender equality is systemically realized by the achievement of human rights for all. CWGL strengthens and facilitates women’s leadership for human rights and social justice worldwide.

Also, on March 9, I attended a session sponsored by Zonta International, a global organization of professionals empowering women worldwide through service and advocacy. The panelists at this session focused on ending violence against women. Women suffering violence have great difficulty achieving equality in any area of life. The panel emphasized the importance of partnering to end violence against women and children, making clear that violence is preventable when we join together and make it visible. We must say that no violence is acceptable; we must make the invisible visable. To end gender-based violence, social change is as vital as political change.

Zonta International is working to end violence against women and to achieve women’s equality. The goals of Zonta are to improve the economic, political, educational, legal, health, and professional status of women at the global and local levels; to promote justice and human rights and justice; and to advance goodwill and peace throughout the world.

Call Sounded Around the World

The call sounded by the voices of women in Dallas and New York and around the world is to join together to claim our collective power to achieve equal rights for women.

 

Annika Rieger, Pamela Resendiz, Helen Rieger from Dallas (photo by Rosemarie Rieger)

Dr. Vetty Agala, Dr. Olukunni Tjeruh, Dr. Adeloiyi Obelelora from Nigeria (photo by Chad Clanton)

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WATERtalks: Feminist Conversations in Religion Series “She Lives! Sophia Wisdom Works in the World”

On March 4, 2015, I had the honor of being the featured guest on WATERtalks: Feminist Conversations in Religion Series, sponsored by Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual. This teleconference focused on my new book She Lives! Sophia Wisdom Works in the World.  Mary E. Hunt, co-founder and co-director of WATER, hosted the teleconference that included people from around the country.

I began by inviting everyone on the call to join in the responsive “Pentecost Prayer: Come, Sophia-Spirit” by Diann L. Neu, co-founder and co-director of WATER.  It was a powerful experience to hear the invocation, “Come, Sophia-Spirit, come,” echoing over the phone lines.

Divine Wisdom, Sophia-Spirit, calls for the liberation of all from patriarchy and kyriarchy. This is what we celebrate today as we bless bread, wine, juice, and food.  
 
Blessed are you, Womb of All Creation, Spirit-Sophia. With joy we give you thanks and praise for creating a diverse world and for creating women in your image.
Come, Sophia-Spirit, come. 
 
Blessed are you, God of our Mothers, Spirit-Sophia. You call diverse women to participate in salvation history: Eve, Lilith, Sarah, Hagar, Miriam, Naomi and Ruth, Mary, Mary Magdalene, Tecla, Phoebe, Hildegard of Bingen, Sor Juana, Sojourner Truth, Mother Theodore Guerin, all WATER women, and countless others.
Come, Sophia-Spirit, come. 
 
Blessed are you, Creator of all seasons and all peoples, Spirit-Sophia. You call us to be prophets, teachers, house church leaders, ministers, saints, and to image your loving and challenging presence.
Come, Sophia-Spirit, come. 
 
Blessed are you, Companion on the Journey, Spirit-Sophia. In your abundant love you welcome all to come and dine. You proclaim from the rooftops, “Come and eat my bread, drink the wine which I have drawn.”
Come, Sophia-Spirit, come. 
 
Come, Holy Sister, Spirit-Sophia, upon this bread, wine, juice, and food. Come as breath and breathe your life anew into our aching bones. Come as wind and refresh our weary souls. Come as fire and purge us and our communities of sexism, racism, classism, heterosexism, ageism, and all evils.
Come, Sophia-Spirit, come. 
 
As we eat, drink, and enjoy the Pentecost banquet, may Sophia-Spirit rise within us like a rushing wind. May Sophia-Spirit spark the churches like a revolutionary fire. May Sophia-Spirit flow through the world like a life-giving breath.
Amen. Blessed be. May it be so.
 

© 2013 Diann L. Neu. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Following this prayer I told a little of my story as a feminist Baptist minister, awakening to my call to pastoral ministry and to writing on the inclusion of multicultural female names and images of the Divine to support social justice and equality. Then I talked about my book  She Lives! Sophia Wisdom Works in the World, which features inspiring stories of clergy and laypeople who are bringing transformation through restoring the power of Divine Wisdom and other biblical female images of Deity, and which also provides gender-balanced worship resources and locations of feminist faith communities.

After my presentation, Mary opened the conversation to others on the call. During this time of Q&A, we discussed such topics as resistance to inclusive language in many churches, encouraging signs of many churches and small communities who are including female divine names and images in worship, creating new faith communities that include the Female Divine, inclusive resources for parents and children, and including non-hierarchical as well as female images of the Divine.

Here is the audio recording of the teleconference:

You can also  read notes from the teleconference.


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“O Mother-Father God” Video

Sophia Wisdom continues to call us to expand our spiritual experience. For centuries religious traditions have limited the great Creator of the universe to a few male names and images, one of the most common being “Father.”

Our Milky Way Galaxy contains more than a hundred billion stars. The Milky Way is only one of hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe. How could we ever limit the Creator of so vast a universe to a few male names and images? How could we have missed the many biblical female divine names and images, including “Mother”? The Bible uses the word picture of God as a loving Mother who not only gives birth to Her children, but also comforts and nurtures them toward their full potential (Isaiah 66:13); and the picture of God as a Mother whose relationship with Her children is so strong that nothing can ever break it (Isaiah 49:15). The picture of God as a tender Father, loving and caring for His children (Psalm 103:13), is just one of the many images of God in the Bible. 

             As Ann Landaas Smith writes, “God Is Not a Single Parent”

Ann Landaas Smith

Father God, Creator of us all.
How long will we see you as a single parent?
Send your loving wisdom to fill our hearts
and minds with new words of inclusivity.
Open our eyes to see images that nurture and heal our brokenness.
Grant us courage and your freedom to try new words that
restore balance in all our relationships.
And like baby swans being guarded and cared for by both parents,
let the wholeness of you be illuminated in us.
Mother, Father, Creator of us all. 
 
(poem from Women’s Uncommon Prayers, included in She Lives! Sophia Wisdom Works in the World)

 

This hymn video invites people to expand spirituality and contribute to justice and equality through inclusive metaphors for the Divine. Including multicultural female divine names and images along with male and other gender images in worship contributes to equality and justice in human relationships and right relationship with the earth, while expanding our experience of divinity.

This collage of divine images, repeated throughout the video, is by Pam Allen. She created this picture for the books God, A Word for Girls and Boys and God, A Word for Girls and Boys Coloring Book

Rev. Larry E. Schultz conducts the Chancel Choir and Orchestra of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, Raleigh, North Carolina, in “O Mother-Father God” to a familiar hymn tune, with pictures from various artists.

 

O Mother-Father God, your love surrounds us all;
through rustling wind and sparkling glen, we hear your gentle call.
With strong and tender care, you nurture us each day;
you calm our fears and wipe our tears, and with us always stay.
 
O Mother-Father God, your beauty fills the earth;
from morning light to starry night, you bring new life to birth.
The fields in rainbow hue are blooming everywhere,
while robins sing to welcome spring, and fragrance fills the air.
 
O Mother-Father God, the heavens sing your praise;
all earth joins in the glorious hymn; a grateful song we raise.
Your grace exceeds all thought, embracing everyone;
your kindness flows more than we know, from dawn to setting sun.
 

Words © Jann Aldredge-Clanton, from Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians (Eakin Press, 2006). Recording © Jann Aldredge-Clanton & Larry E. Schultz, from Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians CD (Eakin Press, 2007)For permissions, contact Jann Aldredge-Clanton; also, see inclusive music for all ages.

Performed by: Chancel Choir and Orchestra of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, Raleigh, North Carolina. Conductor Rev. Larry E. Schultz

Visual Artists:

David Clanton: photo of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church Choir and Congregation, © David M. Clanton. Used with permission.

Pam Allen: collage of divine images © Pam Allen. Used with permission.

Hartwig Kopp-Delaney: “His Hand”

Ansgar Holmberg: “Black Madonna and Child” © Ansgar Holmberg. Used with permission

Robert Lentz: “Holy Wisdom” © Robert Lentz. Used with permission

Lucy A. Synk: “Ruach” © Lucy A. Synk. Used with permission.

Shannon Kincaid: “Oprah and Child” ” © Shannon Kincaid. Used with Permission.

Recorded by: Ward Productions, Pinehurst, North Carolina

 

 

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V-Day, One Billion Rising, at Ebenezer/herchurch Lutheran

On the weekend of February 13-15, I had a powerful experience participating in the V-Day events at Ebenezer/herchurch Lutheran in San Francisco. V-Day, One Billion Rising, is an activist campaign held around the world on February 14 to end violence against women and girls and to promote justice and gender equality. The project was founded on the alarming statistic that one in every three women will experience violence  at least once in their lives. This means that over one billion women will be impacted by violence and thus the “One Billion Rising” campaign. The project urges women to walk, dance, and rise up in opposition to violence. It has reached over 140 countries including North Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the United States.

"Devi Vaani": Dionne Kohler, Alison Newvine, Kathleen Neville-Fritz

The V-Day, One Billion Rising, events extended over 3 days at Ebenezer/herchurch Lutheran in San Francisco. On Friday evening, February 13, Devi Vaani , a gifted trio of singers/songwriters dedicated to celebrating the Divine Feminine, performed a benefit concert to raise money for SAGE (Standing Against Global Exploitation), a survivor-led organization that works to eradicate human trafficking. Devi Vaani performed original pieces decrying violence against women and calling upon the redemptive, empowering presence of the Divine Feminine.

Judith Lavender Dancer

On Saturday, February 14, Judith Dancer, Minister of Embodiment, led us in “One Billion Rising Divine Dance of Protest.” It was an amazing experience to feel the energy in our group and to imagine ourselves joined with ONE BILLION people across the globe in protest of violence against women and girls and in solidarity with the Divine Feminine to eliminate this violence. We danced, we sang, we meditated, we shared stories of what we protested and what we prayed for. Our prayers were moved, sung, and shared for the healing of this deep wound inflicted on women and children throughout our global community.

Rev. Stacy Boorn (photo by Viva van Assen http://www.vanviva.com)

On Sunday morning, February 15, Pastor Stacy Boorn led us in the Liturgy of the Divine Feminine. On this last Sunday of the Epiphany Season, we indeed experienced Epiphany, “revelatory manifestations of divine being” within, among, and around us. Pastor Stacy believes 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. The more we can provide church in a different way, the more we can hope things change.” She provides church in a different way, a prophetic and creative way. Here is a portion of the February 15 liturgy:

Pastor: Beloved, You are the one with healing in your wings and through compassionate touch and wisdom you raise up companions, advocates, and friends to assist us in seeking health for ourselves and those who are ill and in distress. May oppression and all kinds of controlling submission of women and children be dismantled so that their empowerment and self-worth are restored. May suffering be overcome and all that is amiss in this universe be repaired! Wise Grandmother, Compassionate Child, Restoring Spirit.
All: Blessed Be!
 
Reading: Psalm 30 (from Rejoice, Beloved Woman! The Psalms Revisioned, by Barbara J. Monda)
 
            Voice 1:         I will praise you, Mother, because you have come to empower and
                                      restore my wholeness. You have transformed those who maliciously
                                      enjoyed my pain.
            Voice 2:         I cried out and you listened and healed me. You returned me from
                                    despair.
            Voice 3:         In my Mother’s presence there is life and in her absence there is
                                    death. Her gifts fill my soul as her silence drains my strength.
            Voice 4:         When she says “Yes” to me the tears of grief I shed at night become
                                    tears of joy in the morning. Again, I am made confident.
            Voice 5:         With you at my side I am like a mountain, strong and persevering.
                                    You are my friend and confidant, my mentor and reflection.
            Voice 6:         I am lonely and despairing when you turn away from me. Anguish
                                    fills my void and I feel the coldness of death around me.
            Voice 7:         What good comes from a despairing woman and how can I do any
                                    good if dead? If you abandon me, how can our commitment be
                                    honored?
            Voice 8:         Look at me and be generous. Come back and let us resume our
                                    relationship. There is much for you to teach me and I hope to
                                    learn it all.
            Voice 9:         You have turned my groans into songs and my body dances again.
                                    I will change my clothes, put on my best things.
            Voice 10:       With joy, I welcome you; my heart sings to have you back. I am
                                    forever grateful to be your friend.
 

Pastor Boorn, in her proclaimed “Wisdomscapes,” inspired and empowered us to continue our liberating feminist mission as long as we live—to protest, pray, and act in partnership with one another and the Female Divine to change the church and the world so that there is gender equality and justice. She challenged us to keep on co-creating a world where all people are free from violence and oppression and free to become all we’re created to be in the divine image.

Before Holy Communion, Vocal Divine led us in singing “Our Mother.”

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!
 
(Words: Miriam Therese Winter; Music: Pamela Parker; Arrangement: Dionne Kohler; Vocals/Guitar: Dionne Kohler, Kathleen Neville-Fritz, Alison Newvine; Violin: Lana Dalberg; Visual Artists: Alice Heimsoth: four photos in the sanctuary and one outside of Ebenezer/herchurch Lutheran and one photo of Divine Feminine paintings by Shiloh Sophia McCloud; Lucy A. Synk: “Ruach”; Stacy Boorn: “Goddess in Blue” and “LightDarkness”; Elizabeth Zedaran: “Flow”; Mirta Toledo: “Sophia”; Sister Marie-Celeste Fadden, O.C.D.: “God Who Gave Birth to Humanity”; Mary Plaster: “Sophia, Divine Wisdom”)
 

On Sunday afternoon, February 15, I had the honor and joy of continuing the V-Day spirit by presenting my book She Lives! Sophia Wisdom Works in the World and then facilitating a playshop on “Writing Our Stories” that included time for writing and sharing stories. Participants shared wonderful, creative stories that inspired and energized us to keep on discovering our sacred voices and to keep on writing our sacred stories because they transform the world.

 

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