Equity Live! GoFundMe

Click here to support Equity Live.

(This invitation includes excerpts from “Calling in the Key of She: Empowerment Program” brochure, created by Equity for Women in the Church Board member Rev. Andrea Clark Chambers.)

You’re invited to support “Equity Live,” conversations on the equal representation of clergywomen as pastors. These liberating and illuminating conversations will be live-streamed on social media and available on YouTube. Your tax deductible donations go to the 501(c)3 nonprofit Equity for Women in the Church, Inc., to be used for professional video equipment and technological expertise and time of production professionals.

Equity for Women in the Church is partnering with The Gathering: A Womanist Church to create “Equity Live” with a mission of dismantling the interlocking injustices of sexism and racism that impede clergywomen. Equity for Women in the Church is an ecumenical movement to facilitate equal representation of clergywomen as pastors of multicultural churches in order to transform church and society. The Gathering’s social justice priorities are racial equity, dismantling PMS (patriarchy, misogyny, and sexism), and LGBTQ equality.

Many people would like to believe that we live in a post-sexist world because of the strides that have been made toward gender equity. Unfortunately, we know that gender inequality is still prevalent in every sector of our society, and painfully, often unashamedly, present in the church.

The #MeToo movement that raised widespread awareness of the prevalence of sexual abuse and violence empowered women to break their silence about the abuse they have suffered in churches. #ChurchToo stories are a powerful reminder that sexual abuse isn’t limited to Hollywood.

Male dominance in the leadership and language of churches forms the foundation for this abuse of women. When males are given God-like status, they are more likely to feel entitled to do whatever they like and females not to question their authority.

Although the number of women in theological education has increased to almost 40%, only about 10% of pastors of all Protestant churches are women. The percentage of women of color who find places to fulfill their call to pastor is much lower. In many denominations the percentage of women pastors of all ethnicities is lower than 1%. The average compensation of female pastors is much lower than that of male pastors, although clergywomen are more likely to have seminary degrees. “Equity Live” plans to address these inequities and to bring change through the power of diverse voices advocating for women in ministry.

Despite advances that have been made over the past decades, there are still alarming numbers of people who have only experienced male pastors and religious leaders because of the erroneous teaching that the Bible mandates that women should not and cannot serve as church leaders. Often congregants learn in Sunday school and sermons only about male biblical characters who are revered as God’s chosen ones, while females sit on the sidelines of the stories. They are taught about a male God who sent a male Savior who called male disciples. So in the minds of many, images of the clergy and leadership are exclusively male. For this reason, churches are frequently male-centered, male-dominated, and male-privileged in their practices even though females consistently make up the majority of church members. “Equity Live” will work toward gender equality in church and society.

Females experience prejudice and discrimination in churches through the theology, language, and practices. Congregants are trained and ingrained in patriarchal understandings of the Bible, misogynist views of biblical passages, and distorted theologies that promote the relegation of women in the church and the larger society. If they do hear about female figures in the Bible, they are often presented in a negative light. They are cast as insignificant players whose roles as mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, warriors, servants, midwives, prophets, queens, mourners, intercessors, disciples, leaders, and deacons only serve to bolster the males in their lives. So the very tool that should be used to bring liberation and freedom to women is regularly used as a means to assault and abuse females within our sacred walls and stained-glass ceilings. “Equity Live” will work to end this abuse and to transform church and society.

Often because of the church’s culture, the vocation of ministry is not even a consideration for females. When they do express their calling to serve in leadership positions, many are told that they are only allowed to serve as missionaries, teachers, or children’s assistants but never over a man. Women and girls are informed that they can work in the kitchen, but not in ministry. It is permissible for them to dust the pulpit, but not stand in it. They are allowed to clean the robes, but never wear one. It’s fine for them to prepare and serve meals, but never behind the Communion table. “Equity Live” will address these inequities in order to effect change on an individual and systemic level.

“Equity Live” conversations will include “Calling in the Key of She,” a program of Equity for Women in the Church that provides churches with resources to develop and maintain “female-friendly congregations who live out their beliefs that God equally loves, calls, values, affirms, and embraces the gifts of all females in the church. “Calling in the Key of She” guides congregations to work toward justice and equality for women and girls, and in so doing to transform everyone. The goal is to move beyond imagining to working to create equitable congregations in order to create a more just world.

Please join our ministry of transforming church and society. Your tax deductible donations go to the 501(c)3 nonprofit Equity for Women in the Church, Inc., to be used for professional video equipment and technological expertise and time of production professionals.

Donate to “Equity Live”!

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“Ruah, Breath of Life/Jesus, Bread of Life” Video

Ruah, Breath of Life, breathe in us.
Jesus, Bread of Life, give us strength.

Ruah, Breath of Life, breathe in us, we pray,
that we may spread goodness to all people on earth.
Spirit, wind of change, bring a peaceful day,
and we will join you, bringing life to birth.

Ruah, Breath of Life, breathe in us.
Jesus, Bread of Life, give us strength.

Jesus, Bread of Life, give us strength we pray,
that we may help others who are hungry and poor.
Fill us with your grace; show us all the way
to share your table and your open door.

Ruah, Breath of Life, Jesus, Bread of Life,
come strengthen and breathe in us, we pray.

Music: Larry E. Schultz   
Words: Jann Aldredge-Clanton  
Visual Art: Lucy A. Synk, “Ruah” © Lucy A. Synk. Used with permission.
photos from The Gathering: A Womanist Church, Dallas, TX
photos from Equity for Women in the Church Conferences
David Clanton, photos of children ” © David M. Clanton. Used with permission.
Recording and Production:
The Lodge, Indianapolis, IN
from Imagine God! A Children’s Musical Exploring and Expressing Images of God (Choristers Guild, 2004).

In times like these, we long for renewed life. Children have been at the forefront of the call to end violence against people and all life on earth. “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6).

March for Our Lives, organized and led by Emma González and other teenagers, calls for gun violence prevention policies that save lives. Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old environmental activist, has inspired a movement of young people to demand stronger action to stop global warming.

In the video at the beginning of this post, children sing a prayer for transformation to “Ruah, Breath of Life” and “Jesus, Bread of Life,” from Imagine God! A Children’s Musical Exploring and Expressing Images of God. Ruah and Jesus link creation and redemption, birthing and rebirthing life.

“Ruah,” by Lucy A. Synk

In the beginning Ruah gave birth to the universe. “The Spirit (Ruah) of God was moving over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2). In this verse the Hebrew word for Spirit is Ruah. The word Ruah also means “breath.” Ruah is the Breath of Life. The Hebrew word in Genesis 1:2 translated “moving” (rachaph) is used to describe Divine action only one other time, and that is in Deuteronomy 32:11, which images the Divine as a Mother Eagle. The first word for Spirit in the Bible is feminine. The first picture of the Divine is of a Mother Eagle giving birth to the universe. 

Minister Christian S. Watkins and Rev. Dr. Irie Lynne Session serving Communion at The Gathering: A Womanist Church

Jesus brings new birth (John 3:3-16). Jesus brings new life to everyone. “Jesus said, ‘I am the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’” (John 6:35). Jesus is the Bread of Life who “gives life to the world” (John 6:33). When we celebrate Communion, we remember that Jesus is the Bread of Life for everyone.

In the video, photos from The Gathering: A Womanist Church and from Equity for Women in the Church Conferences illustrate the new life that Ruah breathes into our world and that Jesus brings to the world.

The Gathering Co-Pastors and Staff: Rev. Winner Laws, Minister of Congregational Care and Spiritual Support; Rev. Kamilah Hall Sharp, Co-Pastor; Rev. Dr. Irie Lynne Session, Co-Pastor; Faith Manning, Minister of Music

The Gathering: A Womanist Church welcomes all people into community to follow Jesus in ministry with the marginalized and oppressed, to transform our lives together, and to create an equitable world.  This church creates worship experiences that address social justice issues through womanist preaching and action. The Gathering’s social justice priorities are racial equity, dismantling PMS (patriarchy, misogyny, and sexism), and LGBTQ equality.

Rev. Andrea Clark Chambers leading “Calling in the Key of She” program at Perkins School of Theology

Equity for Women in the Church is an ecumenical movement to facilitate equal representation of clergywomen as pastors of multicultural churches in order to transform church and society. Equity works to dismantle the interlocking injustices of sexism and racism that impede clergywomen. One of Equity’s current projects is “Calling in the Key of She,” an ecumenical program for clergy and religious leaders that seeks to address the gap of female leadership in churches by educating and empowering congregations to become more “female-friendly.”

For our work of transformation, The Gathering: A Womanist Church and Equity for Women in the Church draw power from Ruah, Breath of Life and Jesus, Bread of Life.

Let us all join together in prayer and activism. “Ruah, Breath of Life, breathe in us. Jesus, Bread of Life, give us strength.”


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The Art of Resilience: Latinx Public Witness in Troubled Times

Artwork by Gerardo Robles
Rev. Dr. Isabel Docampo

The Art of Resilience,” an event organized and led by my good friend Rev. Dr. Isabel Docampo, inspired and challenged me. The title perfectly described the event that employed creative arts—poetry, music, painting, photography, sculpture, drama—to amplify the Latinx witness to strength and courage through our troubled times.

Dr. Docampo, director of The Center for the Study of Latino/a Christianity and Religions at SMU’s Perkins School of Theology, expressed her hope that “The Art of Resilience” would captivate our “intellect and soul through lectures, dialogue, and the arts.” The event, she said, was designed “to engage all our senses to emphasize the message of including all in the work of justice and liberation.” It offered “an opportunity to interact with outstanding Latinx scholars, local artists, and religious and community leaders” in reflecting “deeply on race, gender, and immigration as matters of moral and faith concerns.”

The Art of Resilience” did speak powerfully to my mind and soul, engaging all my senses to explore the intersection of race, gender, immigration, and other social justice concerns. Here are some of the highlights.

The event began with a theme interpretation through the poetry of Rev. Dr. Hal Recinos, professor of Church and Society at Perkins, and the music of Brazilian composers Lucas Ferreira Fruhauf and Márcio Steuernagel. Recinos’ poetry, interwoven with the music pieces “Four Sad Songs” and “Wasted Beauty,” created a solemn, moving experience. Here is one of the poems Recinos read.

Border Crossing

today I crossed the border
when the faithful joined
the president to pray for
a great big wall and the
Fox News host with the
barrel of a gun said spic
just leave. today, I crossed
the border when every face
on the TV screen was
brown and white illegals
ran around free to carve
their English names on
detested migrant skin.
today, I crossed the border
in the local shop with the
sign saying English only
or you don’t get served.
today I crossed the border
when the big church bells
began to ring, the migrants
were outside sweating grass
and God was in the sanctuary
forgetting the obscenity of
America made rich from our
colored lives.

© h.j. Recinos

The music joined with the poetry to engage us as co-participants in the drama of Latinx experiences across borders. The music pieces and the poetry invited us to suffer with those who have to leave their homes and to find compassion in one another and signs of hope.

Dr. Fernando Segovia, professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Vanderbilt Divinity School, presented one of the keynote lectures. His research includes early Christian origins, cultural studies, postcolonial studies, minority studies, and non-Western Christian theologies, especially from Latin America and the Caribbean. His publications include Decolonizing Biblical Studies: A View from the Margins and Interpreting Beyond Borders.

Segovia talked about the emergence of U.S. Latino/a theology in the 1980s and 1990s, influenced by earlier Latin American liberation theology. He addressed the current struggle in academia for Latino/a studies and the needs of non-white student populations not being met. These students have suffered the consequences of the upsurge of white supremacy and xenophobia and of unjust economic and political realities. Changes in one country affect other countries; violence and economic injustice have resulted in the migration of large numbers of have-nots. Segovia also connected migration to ecology. Climate change has affected some of the most economically disadvantaged people, causing them to have to leave their homes. He ended on a note of hope in the power of collaborative efforts, like The Center for the Study of Latino/a Christianity and Religions at Perkins.

This Center, formed in 2007 by Perkins faculty, creates a counter-force to all the hate and division that threaten our world. Dr. Hugo Magallanes, Perkins Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, celebrated the success of the Center. Included in the important work of the Center is the promotion of a deeper understanding of the different religious expressions of the Latino/a communities in the U.S. and in Latin America, the facilitation of research that shapes theological education in light of the rapid multiethnic change in the U.S. and a resulting demographic shift in the Latinx mosaic, the sponsoring of interdisciplinary collaborations and travel-study immersions to the U.S./Mexico border, the Caribbean and Latin and South America, and the empowerment of students to make positive contributions as global citizens.

Another keynote speaker was Rev. Dr. Daisy Machado, Professor of Church History at Union Theological Seminary and the first U.S. Latina ordained in the Disciples of Christ. Her publications include Borders and Margins: Hispanic Disciples in the Southwest, 1888-1945 and A Reader in Latina Feminist Theology: Religion and Justice. She has a special interest in the concept of “borderlands,” not only as a specific location, but for Latinas and other women of color also refers to social, economic, political, and personal location within the dominant culture.

Machado emphasized the inseparability of religion from the practices of everyday life, from the desires and hopes of people, from the spaces we inhabit. The U.S.-Mexico border is an open wound, where two worlds grate against each other. To live in the borderland is to experience an unnatural boundary, a constant state of transition. She stressed the important role of religion in the U.S. borderlands; beliefs, practices, and devotions help marginalized people in the borderlands make meaning, find hope, and resist. The fluidity of religion in the borderlands, Machado continued, “helps to maintain a resiliency where despite the bloody encounters between U.S. colonizer and Mexican colonized that led to the death of so many, and despite the assimilation, forced and organic that has taken place, borderlands people still seek the sacred and do so by merging the religious understandings of the past with their present.”

Machado talked about people’s blending their devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe and Santa Muerte into their Catholic faith. People marginalized by race, class, sexual orientation, and gender identity especially identify with Santa Muerte, who is excluded from official Catholic rituals and who is nonjudgmental and accepting of all. Machado explained that while Santa Muerte has been associated with violence, she is more often invoked for her power to bring health and healing, justice, success, protection, and safe passage to the afterlife.

Rev. Dr. Daisy Machado, Dr. Mayra Picos Lee, Maria José Recinos, and Dr. Maria-Pilar Aquino

Following this keynote address, Rev. Dr. Isabel Docampo facilitated a panel of awesome scholars and activists that included Rev. Dr. Machado along with Dr. Maria-Pilar Aquino, Professor of Theology & Religious Studies at the University of San Diego; Maria José Recinos, Director of the Oscar Romero Center for Community Health & Education. and Dr. Mayra Picos Lee, Senior Lecturer in Counseling at Palmer Seminary. They discussed their work of education, healing, and social justice activism.

The Art of Resilience” theme was also carried out through an exhibit, curated by Sofia Bastidas and Gerado M. Robles, featuring artists from the SMU Meadows Division of Art and the Dallas artistic community. The exhibit illustrated the complexity of socio-political and geographical borders, both visible and invisible. Through the lens of theology, the works in the exhibition highlighted important Latinx issues, exploring migration, identity, and culture through painting, photography, sculpture, and other media. The artistic works not only focused on the turmoil of our times but also on the inherent hope that exists in human nature.

Jin-Ya Huang

The meals added to our experience of “The Art of Resilience.” Break Bread, Break Borders, a social justice enterprise empowering refugee woman, catered lunch and dinner. The mission of Break Bread, Break Borders, which serves the Dallas/Fort Worth community, is “to raise social awareness over meals eaten together, to create safe spaces that offer a full stomach and help create an open mind.” Founder Jin-Ya Huang talked about the rewards of providing training and professional mentorship to refugee women and of sharing stories along with healthy, delicious food. I resonate with Huang’s belief that sharing food and stories is a powerful way to break down borders and inspire our work of equity, diversity, and inclusion.

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“Resonate! A Philosophy for Communal Music-Making,” by Larry E. Schultz, composer, hymnwriter, teacher, minister

Larry E. Schultz

For almost twenty years I’ve had the joy of collaborating with Rev. Larry E. Schultz on inclusive hymnbooks, anthems, a children’s musical, and a children’s song and activity book. His story is included on my blog and in my book She Lives! Sophia Wisdom Works in the World, and a longer version in Changing Church: Stories of Liberating Ministers.

The story of our collaboration began at the 2001 Alliance of Baptists Gathering in Atlanta, Georgia. I preached a sermon titled “A Still More Excellent Way in Worship,” emphasizing ways in which balanced female and male names and images for the Divine contribute to justice and peace. That evening the congregation also sang two of the inclusive hymns I’d written to familiar hymn tunes. Several months later I received an email from Larry. He had been at the Gathering, but we hadn’t met. Larry wrote that he was minister of music at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, and that he’d like permission for the church to use my hymns that were sung at the Gathering. A little while later came another email from Larry, telling me that he was also a composer and asking if I had any texts without music that I might want to send him. Until then, I’d been writing words to traditional hymn tunes, with one exception. I’d written a hymn trying to express the theodicy questions I asked and heard others voice in my ministry as chaplain. Can the Creator be both benevolent and powerful with so much suffering and evil in the world? The hymn text came to me in the form of a child’s questions. On the morning of September 11, 2001, Larry opened my email in which I’d sent the hymn text, “Are You Good and Are You Strong?” He later told me of the cathartic experience it was for him, after the horrors of 9/11, to take these words and compose a children’s anthem and a hymn tune.

Larry and I have continued collaborating on songs for all age groups, songs that include male and female divine names and images so that all will know that we are all created equally in the divine image. Our hope is that our music inspires transformation through an expansive theology and an ethic of equality and justice. One of our early collaborations is the hymn “Sister Spirit, Brother Spirit,” that comes at the beginning of our first hymnbook, Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians. Sister-Brother Spirit has been the divine image that Larry and I have seen as important in our creative collaboration.

Larry has recently created a website and a blog. In his first blogpost he writes about his philosophy of communal music-making. I’m delighted to introduce you to Larry’s new website and to include his first blogpost here.

Welcome to LarryESchultz.com and Resonate! – a site offering downloadable and published music for faith, school and community groups, and a blog that offers notes on the music and other items of interest related to communal music and music-making.

I describe my work as “communal,” because both my ministry and compositions seek to assist groups (choirs, congregations, orchestras, bands) whose individual participants make music together. I also use the word “communal” to communicate that all persons are musicians and are welcomed into the experience of music-making. It is a part of what makes us human, and is not an exclusive opportunity for the “trained.”

A seminary course on “The Philosophy of Music Ministry,” taught by gifted educator, Milburn Price, instilled within me the importance of developing and communicating a philosophy that supports and meaningfully directs my work. Though my initial philosophy of music ministry was bound to church history, church tradition and the Hebrew/Christian scriptures, it has evolved through the years to include more.

Ever since reading John Shelby Spong’s “A New Christianity for a New World,” I have been on a quest to provide a music ministry and creative works that break down religious and social barriers. Spong encourages all to walk so deeply in their own tradition that the tribalistic boundaries fall away. We then discover our connections with other people, and the oneness of all.

Like the efforts of present-day scientists who are seeking a “theory of everything,” I’ve been seeking such a theory related to communal music-making, and have borrowed three words that I hope for now succinctly state my ideas: Resonance, Transcendence and Relevance.  So far, I find that these three words encompass the goals and outcomes of communal music-making, whether it be in church, other faith groups, school or community settings. (Though sometimes needed for clarity, I hesitate to use the words “sacred” or “secular” as I find them to be inadequate descriptions that can bring further division.) I’ll speak to Transcendence and Relevance in another blog article, but want to briefly express my thinking on Resonance (and therefore, the name of this blog: Resonate!). 

Though science cannot yet empirically prove it, “String Theory” as posited by quantum physicists is a beautiful description that I think can pertain to a philosophy of music-making and music ministry. String Theory suggests that the smallest elements of literally everything are tiny vibrating “strings.” Smaller than other sub-atomic particles, these vibrations make up all that is – from the computer keyboard on which I am typing to my own human cells. These vibrating strings may indeed turn out to be the common denominator of all things.

Not only are the smallest elements of life thought to be vibrations, but in 2003, astronomers discovered that a supermassive black hole in space was producing sound waves that created the deepest note yet detected from any object in the known universe!

Human biology and anthropology come in next. We humans have evolved with lungs to fill with air and a larynx through which to pass that air causing vibrations of sound. As humanity grew, we developed language out of that sound – words that convey meaning.

After considering all of this, I then am in awe, and wonder as I think: “If the tiniest quantum element as well as one of the largest known objects both vibrate with sound (music), and if humans ‘in the middle,’ also have the capacity to resonate sound…then there must be something very formational and primal to the experience of music-making. It must be foundational to our humanity, it must connect us with ‘everything,’ and there must then be benefits to music therapy, music ministry and communal music-making of any kind!”

I’m not alone in these scientific ponderings. I know of at least two other hymn writers, Brian Wren and Jann Aldredge-Clanton, who have included the specific idea of String Theory in hymns, and others like Shirley Murray and Thomas Troeger express ideas from science in their hymn poetry. I have connected scientific reality with faith-language metaphor in my hymn, Spirit of God, Spark of Creation.  

When groups gather to make music, sound waves from one individual are produced and carried through the air until they are detected in the ear cells of other individuals. There is then an instant and physical connection! Music-making literally unifies and connects individuals into one community – a good foundation on which to build a more peaceful world. (For choral expressions that connect to this idea, see my compositions: Where Two or Three, May a Song RemainGathered Here to Share Our Music, Tear Down the Walls and others.)

And so, the name of this blog, Resonate!, refers to our human capacity to make music with all that is, and the exclamation point reminds us to do so with joy and energy. The name also reminds us that when we add words to our music, we can give emphasis and meaning to important ideas and philosophies with which we “resonate.” (Several congregational hymns I hope assist progressive communities in resonating their ideas are: We Are a People on a Journey, From Wisdom Emerging, and A Stranger, Starving on the Street).

Not all of the words to every composition I’ve written are as progressive as I’d desire them to be, but even these creations represent a part of my journey and can reveal an ever-evolving progression – one that continues and is life-long. I hope on this site you find a choral anthem, congregational hymn or instrumental selection that is useful in your community, and I look forward to offering additional works in the days to come.

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Faith Responses to Gun Violence and White Nationalism

Rev. Deanna Morgan Hollas

On Friday, August 2, I had lunch with Florence Quillin, my dear friend and New Wineskins Community co-leader. She told me about Deanna Morgan Hollas, who had recently been ordained as the first minister of gun violence prevention by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Rev. Hollas is the first person in the country to hold a national ecclesiastical role of this kind. Like Florence, I was delighted about this much-needed appointment. Later that day Florence sent me this inspiring New York Times story about Rev. Hollas and her new ministry.

The following day, August 3, we heard the news of the horrific mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, killing 31 people and injuring 42.

On Wednesday, August 7, I had the opportunity to meet and talk with Rev. Hollas at a meeting to discern faith responses to gun violence and white nationalism, held at Central Christian Church. I was impressed by her hopeful, systemic approach to gun violence prevention and by her response to her new national platform. She told me she was just following her clear call and hadn’t thought she was doing anything unusual. She was, in fact, surprised by the national attention she had attracted and didn’t feel prepared for all the interviews. But she said she appreciated the opportunity to help bring attention to the gun violence crisis, and had now added media training to her schedule.

This story about Rev. Hollas on the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship website includes a link to the Fellowship’s Gun Violence Prevention Congregational Toolkit, a helpful free resource for all faith communities and other organizations. This toolkit also inspired the Baptist Peace Fellowship to publish a gun violence prevention toolkit, based on the one published by the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. You can download this resource, also free, from the link on this Resources page on the BPFNA website.

Rev. Hollas is following her call as a minister to go beyond thoughts and prayers in response to the epidemic of gun violence in our country. The NYT story includes her statement of a comprehensive approach to her ministry: “And while legislation is an important part of the work, it is not what gets me up in the morning. I am more interested in creating the cultural change that is needed along with legislation.” This hymn, sung at her ordination, reflects this approach:

If We Just Talk of Thoughts and Prayers
–by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette

Tune: O WALY WALY 8.8.8.8

If we just talk of thoughts and prayers
And don’t live out a faith that dares,
And don’t take on the ways of death,
Our thoughts and prayers are fleeting breath.

If we just dream of what could be
And do not build community,
And do not seek to change our ways,
Our dreams of change are false displays.

If we just sing of doing good
And don’t walk through our neighborhood
To learn its hope, to ease its pain,
Our talk of good is simply vain.

God, may our prayers and dreams and songs
Lead to a faith that takes on wrongs —
That works for peace and justice, too.
Then will our prayers bring joy to you.

Text: Copyright © 2017 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
Email: carolynshymns@gmail.com     New Hymns: www.carolynshymns.com/
(Rev. Carolyn Winfrey Gillette wrote this hymn after the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas. She generously gives permission for free use of this hymn in local churches.)

Ken Crawford, pastor of Central Christian Church, facilitated the conversation at the meeting I attended to discern faith responses to gun violence and white nationalism. Rev. Crawford listed our ideas on poster paper. In addition to contacting our elected officials to urge them to pass gun violence prevention legislation, voting for people committed to passing this legislation, and registering people to vote, we discussed things we can do to contribute to cultural change. One participant suggested studying the book White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo, to change attitudes that form foundations of racism, white nationalism, and white privilege. We also talked about violence rooted in the intersection of racism, sexism, misogyny, and heterosexism.

Recent reports point to the strong connection between misogyny and violence against women and mass shootings. At the meeting we mentioned ways faith communities can contribute to changing our culture of toxic masculinity.

Later I remembered a presentation, “Men, Masculinity, and the Struggle for Gender Justice in Church and Society,” by Memphis Theological Seminary professor Matt Matthews at an Equity for Women in the Church’s Calling in the Key of She program. Dr. Matthews questioned our culture’s definitions of “masculinity.” His presentation takes on greater urgency in the aftermath of more mass shootings by white men.

Dr. Matthews challenges men to liberate masculinity from patriarchy: “For men to become allies of women in the struggle for gender justice, they must do the hard work of reimagining masculinity and liberating it from the same patriarchy that oppresses women.”

Dr. Matthews shows how socialization of males has created and maintained violence against women. He recommends the documentary series Tough Guise, by Dr. Jackson Katz. This series demonstrates that the ongoing epidemic of men’s violence in America is rooted in our inability as a society to move beyond outmoded ideals of manhood. Tough Guise examines the violent, sexist, and homophobic messages boys and young men routinely receive from every corner of the culture— U.S. political culture, television, movies, video games, advertising, pornography, and the sports culture. Tough Guise seeks to empower young men — and women — to challenge the myth that being a real man means putting up a false front and engaging in violent and self-destructive behavior.

At the Equity for Women in the Church program, Dr. Matthews also gave us a handout titled “10 Things Men Can Do to End Men’s Violence Against Women” (Copyright © 2004, ACT Men Inc.):

  1. Acknowledge and understand how sexism, male dominance and male privilege lay the foundation for all forms of violence against women.
  2. Examine and challenge our individual sexism and the role that we play in supporting men who are abusive.
  3. Recognize and stop colluding with other men by getting out of our socially defined roles, and take a stance to end violence against women.
  4. Remember that our silence is affirming. When we choose not to speak out against men’s violence, we are supporting it.
  5. Educate and re-educate our sons and other young men about our responsibility in ending men’s violence against women.
  6. “Break out of the man box.” Challenge traditional images of manhood that stop us from actively taking a stand to end violence against women.
  7. Accept and own our responsibility that violence against women will not end until men become part of the solution to end it. We must take an active role in creating a cultural and social shift that no longer tolerates violence against women.
  8. Stop supporting the notion that men’s violence against women is due to mental illness, lack of anger management skills, chemical dependency, stress, etc. Violence against women is rooted in the historic oppression of women and the outgrowth of the socialization of men.
  9. Take responsibility for creating appropriate and effective ways to develop systems to educate and hold men accountable.
  10. Create systems of accountability to women in your community. Violence against women will end only when we take direction from those who understand it most, women.

Like Equity for Women in the Church, The Gathering: A Womanist Church works to dismantle racism, white nationalism, patriarchy, sexism, and misogyny at the foundation of so much violence in our country. Each week through prophetic sermons and liturgies, The Gathering contributes to changing these oppressive systems.

New Wineskins Community also contributes to dismantling patriarchy and creating the cultural change that is needed to stop all this violence. New Wineskins Community offers rituals especially focused on the Divine Feminine, to change culture from devaluation to empowerment of females. The mission of New Wineskins is to expand experience of Divine Mystery and to contribute to healing, peace, and justice in our world.

There are many ways we can contribute to transforming our violent culture. Each one of us can play a part. We cannot let ourselves become so overwhelmed or numb that we do nothing. Our gifts and callings and social locations can guide us to choose those things we can do as individuals and communities to contribute to bringing change. Together we can bring transformation so that children and adults of all races, genders, cultures, and religions can become all we’re created to be in the divine image.

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