Rev. Larry E. Schultz conducts the Chancel Choir of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, Raleigh, North Carolina, in singing “Our Strong and Tender God We Praise” to a tune he composed, with pictures from various artists.
This hymn draws from the imagery in Psalm 138: 2-3, 7: “I give thanks for your steadfast love and your faithfulness; for you have exalted your name and your word above everything. On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me.”
Scripture gives a multiplicity of divine names and images to suggest this steadfast love and faithfulness of God. Here are a few:
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).
Father: The Bible uses the metaphor of God as a tender Father, loving and caring for his children (Psalm 103:13).
Friend: The Bible gives the picture of Jesus as a Friend to everyone (Matthew 11:19).
Divine Midwife: The Bible gives the picture of Divine Midwife to reveal God’s tender care beginning at birth (Psalm 22:9-10).
The Bible includes female, as well as male and gender-neutral, images of the Divine. But most worship services use exclusively male language and imagery for Deity. This exclusivity lays the foundation for male domination and female devaluation. Including biblical female names and images of the Divine affirms the equal value of everyone and the biblical truth that all are created in the divine image (Genesis 1:27).
This hymn, “Our Strong and Tender God We Praise,” refers to God with female pronouns. Most people still think of God as male and refer to God as “He.” Because of centuries of association of “God” with male pronouns and imagery, this word generally evokes male images. I refer to God as “She” and “Her” not because I believe that God is literally a woman, but in order to balance male with female.
Also, I balance the word “God” with female pronouns to include people of all gender identities in the divine image. Dr. Virginia Ramey Mollenkott (http://www.virginiamollenkott.com/), author of The Divine Feminine: The Biblical Imagery of God as Female and Omnigender: A Trans-Religious Approach and co-author of Transgender Journeys, states: “When we use the male term ‘God’ along with the female pronoun ‘She,’ we are also including the people among us who are transgender: who feel they are both female and male inwardly, or who were born intersexual, or who have crossed over from one gender to the other in order to match their inner understanding of their gender identity. . . . since Genesis proclaims both female and male to be made in the image of God, inevitably that image is inclusive of both female and male. Transgender people are often attacked, abused, and even murdered in our society; so including them as sacred beings along with women and men is important to our Christian witness.” (Christian Feminism Today, “Why I Believe Inclusive Language Is Still Important,” Responses: http://www.eewc.com/inclusive-language-still-importan)
This video comes with the prayer that it will inspire us to love all people as sacred beings and to join with God in spreading Her steadfast love, justice, and peace in our world.Our strong and tender God we praise; She dwells within our souls, to strengthen us throughout our days, and make us fully whole. And when we pass through troubled lands, no foe can bring alarm. God stretches out Her mighty hands, and shelters us from harm. God speaks to us with gentle voice; She hears us when we call. Her comfort makes our hearts rejoice; She is our all in all. God’s steadfast love and faithful care renew our hearts each day. She gives us bold new dreams to dare, forever with us stays. Words © Jann Aldredge-Clanton Music © Larry E. Schultz BLACK POINT CHURCH 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: www.jannaldredgeclanton.com; for additional inclusive music for all ages, see: http://www.jannaldredgeclanton.com/music.php Performed by: Chancel Choir of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, Raleigh, North Carolina (http://www.pullen.org/). Conductor: Rev. Larry E. Schultz Visual Artists:
Rev. Dr. Angela Yarber: “SOPHIA” © Angela Yarber. Used with permission. http://angelayarber.wordpress.com/artist/
Alice Heimsoth: two photos inside Ebenezer/herchurch Lutheran, San Francisco (http://www.herchurch.org/); http://www.aliceheimsoth.com/gallery/258290; http://www.aliceheimsoth.com/Other/herchurch-Easter-2012/22366832_Whhj3j#%21i=1792348850&k=DT4MQbt
Shannon Kincaid: “Oprah & Child” © Shannon Kincaid. Used with permission. (http://www.shannonkincaid.com/)
Recorded by: Ward Productions, Pinehurst, North Carolina