Hymn in Celebration of the Supreme Court’s Ruling on Marriage Equality

rainbowMy heart is filled with joy over the triumph of love, justice, freedom, truth, and equality. Marriage equality is not only a huge victory for LGBTQ persons but for all people. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (Martin Luther King, Jr.). I would add: The victory of justice anywhere is a victory for justice everywhere.

Believing in the power of music to continue bringing transformation, I offer this hymn 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.

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)

Note on this Hymn:

In 2012 the Religious Institute sponsored its first hymn contest on the subject of the gift of sexuality, calling for hymns specifically addressing themes articulated in the Institute’s “Declaration on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing.” Among these themes are working to end sexual abuse and gender violence, and working for full inclusion of women and LGBTQ persons in congregational life, including their ordination and marriage equality. I was delighted and honored that “Praise the Source of All Creation” was selected as the winner. When asked by the director of the Religious Institute to comment on the hymn, I wrote: “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. The Religious Institute’s prophetic mission inspired my hymn, and I feel honored to contribute to this mission of celebrating the goodness of all creation and affirming a sexual ethic based on justice, equality, and full inclusion of all persons.”

 

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Hymn Prayer for an End to Violence and Hymn of Hope

Joining people all around our country, I grieve over the horrific massacre that occurred at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. My heart is broken over this racially motivated hate crime, and my heart goes out to all who are suffering from this heinous act of violence.

When will there be an end to all this violence? What can we do as individuals and as faith communities to help end the violence? We can pray, we can speak out, and we can act to help end racism. We can come together across races to work together for peace, to learn from one another, and to engage in mutual relationships that give equal value and respect to each race. We can advocate and take action for gun control. We can pray and work to transform our culture of violence to a culture of peace and love.

We can write, preach, and sing our laments over the violence, and our hopes for a world of peace. I offer this hymn as a lament and a prayer for violence to end.

How Long, Christ-Sophia

Psalm 74:3-7; Psalm 94:3-7

How long, Christ-Sophia, how long must we wait?

O when will the violence and suffering abate?

The children are crying; O come to their aid;

our pleadings and prayers on your altar we’ve laid.

 

How long, Christ-Sophia, how long will it be

till justice will triumph so all can be free?

O surely you feel all the anguish and pain;

for you also suffer; rejected you’ve lain.

 

Arise, Christ-Sophia, and help us, we pray;

with you we will labor to bring a new day;

with you we will challenge the forces of wrong,

till we overcome with your love, deep and strong.

Words © Jann Aldredge-Clanton       sung to the tune of “My Jesus, I Love Thee”

I offer this hymn video as a lament and an expression of hope that peace and justice will come.

This hymn draws from the imagery in Isaiah 42. The prophet Isaiah pictures God crying out “like a woman in labor” over injustices: “For a long time I have held my peace, I have kept still and restrained myself; now I will cry out like a woman in labor, I will gasp and pant” (vs. 14). We all labor and often suffer as we labor. Sometimes we suffer because our labor for nonviolence and justice seems in vain. Sometimes our work is rejected, demeaned, trivialized, discounted, criticized. This picture of Deity as a woman suffering in Her labor can encourage and strengthen us with the assurance that our labor takes part in God’s labor, and Her labor takes part in ours.

Also, we can find hope as we join with Her in co-creating peace and new life: “See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them” (Isaiah 42:9).

This video comes with the prayer that it will bring strength as we labor together for racial justice and nonviolence. Also, may it give us hope that we do not labor alone and that our labor is not in vain. God labors with us, and She will help bring new life from our labor for justice and peace.

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Coming in September: Earth Transformed with Music! Inclusive Songs for Worship

This September, 2015, look for a new inclusive hymnbook! I’ve had the delightful experience of collaborating with composer Larry E. Schultz on this third collection of inclusive hymns.

This collection includes all new songs, many 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, vibrant new tunes that Larry created for a song in this collection, along with the lyrics to stanza 1 and the refrain:

Follow Her Peaceful Ways

Follow Her peaceful ways; join Holy Wisdom,

changing the world with Her kindness and grace,

blessing all cultures, all genders and races,

welcoming all in Her loving embrace.

Refrain:

Follow Her peaceful ways! Follow Her peaceful ways!

Join Holy Wisdom to end all the strife.

She gives us power to meet every challenge;

follow Her peaceful ways, bringing new life.

Words © 2014 Jann Aldredge-Clanton

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.

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 equalty, 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.

 

 

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If people of faith will not speak out against gender violence, who will?

One of the most moving sessions I attended at the UN Commission on the Status of Women (UN CSW) was titled “Global Faith Perspectives on Sexual and Gender-based Violence.”  At the front of the large room where we met was a banner with this challenging question: “If people of faith will not speak out against gender violence, who will?”  Presentations highlighted ways that faith groups can be mobilized to create powerful change at local and national levels to end sexual and gender-based violence.

The first panelist, Nikki Rineer, told her heartbreaking story of the sexual abuse she suffered from a leader in her church when she was a little girl. Her abuser was never confronted or challenged by the church. She talked about what churches can do to prevent abuse and to bring healing to survivors.

Another panelist, Constance Mogina, HIV/AIDS Development Officer for the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea, brought the perspective of a field practitioner working to raise awareness on prevention, care and support, and intervention for HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence. She lamented that in Papua New Guinea 67% of women are beaten by their husbands, 50% experience forced sex, and 50% of reported rape victims are under 15. One of the challenges she faces is that government leaders aren’t interested in learning about how to intervene. Nevertheless, she continues to advocate for change and to provide care and support to survivors.

Representing a faith leader’s perspective, Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya of the Anglican Church in Swaziland, the first female bishop in Africa, talked about the church’s role in responding to violence and emphasized key theological points supporting equality for women. Bishop Wamukoya stated that in Swaziland, as elsewhere, culture and tradition are used to justify discrimination against women, despite biblical teaching. “Liberation from sexism must be a major preoccupation of the church in the 21st century,” she said. “If the church recognizes the value of all people in the image of God, it cannot accept or perpetuate discrimination! The irony is that many women church leaders don’t speak out; clergywomen often support male-dominated churches that overlook violence against women. They become part of institutionalized sexism instead of speaking out against it.”

Kera Street, a doctoral student at Harvard Divinity School, provided an academic researcher’s perspective. She expressed her hope that research on the prevalence of gender-based violence will empower people to take action to end this violence. But she said that for academic research to impact people, it must be accompanied by stories of survivors. Stories give faces to statistics. Research also sheds light on how faith communities are responding, helps raise awareness, puts gender-based violence in cultural and historical context, and shows how race, class, gender, and nationality intersect. She also emphasized the importance of inclusive language for God and humanity in our work to end gender-based violence.

The moderator of this panel was Rev. Amy Gopp, a Disciples of Christ minister currently serving as Director of Member Relations and Pastoral Care at Church World Service and as co-chair of the Steering Committee of the We Will Speak Out U.S. campaign to end sexual and gender-based violence. Rev. Gopp encouraged us to take this pledge to end sexual and gender-based violence. I have taken this pledge, and I hope that you will also.

Here is a video of this UN CSW panel presentation, “Global Faith Perspectives on Sexual and Gender-based Violence.”


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“Our God Is a Mother and a Father” Video

Sophia Wisdom works in the world for gender and racial equality. She guides us to lay a foundation for gender and racial equality through inclusive names and images of Deity in our worship. Wisdom guides us to use multicultural divine images that include female and male and more.

Human beings of all genders and races are created in the image of the Divine (Genesis 1:26-27). When we include female and male and more in our naming of God, e.g. “She” and “He,” “Mother and Father,” “Sister and Brother,” and “Friend,” and when we include various races in our imaging of God, then all people can truly believe we are in the divine image and all people are given equal value in the divine image.

Among the many biblical images of the Divine are Mother, Father, and Friend.  The Bible names and images 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 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 divine images in the Bible. God is also a Friend to everyone (John 15:12-15). The biblical divine image of Friend is inclusive in gender and race, and suggests mutual, reciprocal relationship.

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

Our God is a Mother and a Father too,
and God is a Friend who will always see us through.
Our God is a Sister who loves you and me,
and God is a Brother who sets us free.
 
Come, sisters and brothers, come and dance with glee;
together we grow into all we’re meant to be.
By joining with God both He and She,
we open a world more than we can see.
 
REFRAIN:
 
God’s image all are we,
but our loving God is more you see,
for God, who made both you and me,
is as great as great can be.
 

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; for additional inclusive music for all ages.

Performed by: Chancel Choir and Children’s Choir 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 and photos of children in performances of Imagine God! A Children’s Musical Exploring and Expressing Images of God

Rev. Dr. Angela Yarber: “Gaia (Mother Earth)” © Angela Yarber. Used with permission.

Hartwig Kopp-Delaney: “His Hand”  © Hartwig Kopp-Delaney

Recorded by: Ward Productions, Pinehurst, North Carolina

 

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