Songs Celebrating Prophetic Women Leaders in History: Inclusive Songs for Resistance & Social Action

Many prophetic women leaders down through history have been ignored, excluded, demeaned, and defamed. Many have even risked their lives in the service of liberation and justice. In an effort to reclaim and draw inspiration from some of these prophetic women, I have written songs to celebrate them.

 

Inclusive Songs for Resistance & Social Action includes songs that highlight women mystics, like Julian of Norwich and Hildegard of Bingen, and women activists, like Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman. These songs honor the power of the Female Divine proclaimed and embodied by these prophetic women.

 

Here is one of these songs, sung to the tune “Go Down Moses,” featuring Harriet Tubman, the most famous “conductor” on the Underground Railroad.

Harriet Tubman Leads to the Promised Land
Exodus 6:2-8; Luke 4:18-19

When Harriet Tubman leads the way, setting people free,
they call her Moses of that day, setting people free.  Refrain

The Spirit gives her faith and power, setting people free;
she rises in that urgent hour, setting people free.  Refrain

When Harriet Tubman helps those bound, setting people free,
they flee by Railroad Underground, setting people free. Refrain

With Spirit strong she risks her life, setting people free;
she helps the slaves escape the strife, setting people free.  Refrain

Like Harriet Tubman we will rise, setting people free;
like her we will be brave and wise, setting people free.  Refrain

Refrain:

Harriet Tubman leads to the promised land;
we will join her, setting people free.

Words © 2017 Jann Aldredge-Clanton                     GO DOWN MOSES

Born a slave in Maryland around 1820, Harriet Tubman escaped to freedom in 1849 and then worked hard to save money to go back and rescue other slaves. She risked her life to lead hundreds of slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad, the elaborate secret network of safe houses. She became the most widely recognized symbol of the Underground Railroad.

In honor of Harriet Tubman’s courage in rescuing people from slavery, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison named her “Moses.” On numerous trips to lead a group of slaves to freedom, she placed herself in great danger. There was a bounty offered for her capture because she was a fugitive slave herself, and she was breaking the law in slave states by helping other slaves escape. Frederick Douglas, a former slave and famous abolitionist, praised her: “I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people than you have.”

During the Civil War, Harriet Tubman worked for the Union Army as a nurse, cook, spy and scout. She was the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war, guiding the Combahee River Raid, which liberated more than 700 slaves in South Carolina.

Later, Harriet Tubman also worked for the liberation of women. She supported the women’s rights movement because she believed in the equality of all people, black or white, female or male. As a woman who had fought for her own freedom and the freedom of others, she traveled widely to give speeches in favor of women’s suffrage. Especially interested in the rights of African American women, she spoke at the first meeting of the National Association of Colored Women in 1896.

Drawn especially to the stories of deliverance in the Hebrew Scriptures, Harriet Tubman had a deep faith. She cited her religious beliefs as giving her courage to liberate people from slavery.

Harriet Tubman still has not been given the credit she deserves. There was a grassroots movement to put her picture on U.S. currency, and in April of 2016 Jack Lew, U.S. Treasury Secretary at that time, announced that Harriet Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson on the center of a new $20 bill. The announcement came after the Treasury Department received a groundswell of public support for Harriet Tubman, following a campaign calling for a notable American woman to appear on U.S. currency. She emerged as the choice of more than half a million voters in an online poll, and plans moved forward to debut the Harriet Tubman $20 bill in 2020 (100 years after women earned the right to vote).

But the current administration has put these plans on the back burner. The current Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, won’t commit to the $20 Harriet Tubman bill, stating that the administration has “a lot more important issues to focus on.” Professional historians and many others have signed letters and petitions to Secretary Mnuchin, urging that he carry out previously announced plans to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill in 2020.

Inspired by Harriet Tubman, we can continue the movement for freedom and equality. We can advocate for the recognition of Harriet Tubman and other world-changing women. And like them, we can set people free to be all we’re created to be.

Harriet Tubman leads to the promised land;
we will join her, setting people free.

 

 

 

 

 

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Biblical Revelations of Divinity

Epiphany, the manifestation of the divine nature of Jesus to the Magi, has come to mean “any revelation of divine being.” Revelations of the Divine continue to happen where minds and souls are open. The Bible includes revelations of Divinity that people are continuing to discover.

by Pam Allen

Genesis 1:27 proclaims that female and male are created in the image of the Divine; therefore, Deity includes female and male. This fullness of Divinity has long been hidden under layers of exclusively male sacred images. Female divine names and images may at first startle us with their unexpectedness. Because of our culture’s long devaluing of females, some people may even feel that female names are not lofty enough to carry Divinity, just as the Magi must have at first wondered if divine revelation could come in the form of a small infant in a manger. The Female Divine has been hidden, but now people are discovering Her in the Bible.

by Mary Plaster

 

1 Corinthians 1:24 and 30 declare that Christ is the Wisdom (Sophia) of God and that Christ became for us Sophia from God. The early church believed that Jesus was a revelation of Sophia (Greek word for “Wisdom”). Early Christians associated Jewish wisdom literature’s personified Sophia with Jesus, believing Jesus to be the incarnation of divine Sophia.

Pastors of The Gathering, A Womanist Church: Rev. Dr. Irie Lynne Session, Rev. Kamilah Hall Sharp, Rev. Yvette Blair-Lavallais

 

 

 

Jeremiah 31:22 celebrates a “new thing on the earth”: the power of woman reordering relationships and saving life. This “new thing” that began long ago in Jeremiah’s day is springing up on a larger scale today as churches, and other organizations discover the great need for women’s gifts for the healing of our world. A record number of women now serve in the U.S. Congress, but still comprise only 23 percent. Only about 12 percent of church pastors are women; Equity for Women in the Church has the mission of facilitating equal representation of clergywomen as pastors of multicultural churches in order to transform church and society. Our world longs for the healing power of women’s gifts and graces.

The lyrics of this song draw from these biblical passages.

What wondrous thing is happening here
where minds and souls are opening?
The scales fall off our blinded eyes;
new sight arouses hoping.

A new thing springs forth on the earth,
with blessing, hope, and healing;
the power of woman saves all life,
Sophia-Christ revealing.

Epiphany surrounds us now,
as we reclaim our wholeness;
Sophia-Christ within us all,
inspires us with new boldness.

Refrain:
Look, look, for She is here;
Her wisdom words have long been near.
Now, now, behold Her grace,
Divinity in Her image.

Words © Jann Aldredge-Clanton, from Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians

Our world stands in great need of the healing the Female Divine brings. Our world longs for all people to discover biblical revelations of Her and exclaim “Look, look, for She is here; Her wisdom words have long been near. Now, now, behold Her grace, Divinity in Her image”!

 

Performed by: Spiral Muse (formerly Devi Vaani: Kathleen Neville-Fritz, Dionne Kohler, and Alison Newvine), from album “Sing of Peace,” recorded by Joe Hoffmann Studios, Occidental, CA
Lyrics: Jann Aldredge-Clanton
Visual Artists: Stacy Boorn, Colette Cashburn Numajiri, David Clanton, Elizabeth Zedaran,
Lucy Synk, Mirta Toledo, Mary Plaster

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“Sound Forth the News That Wisdom Comes” Christmas Carol Video

Sing and celebrate the good news that Wisdom comes to bring new life to birth!  Recording artist Shannon Kincaid sings “Sound Forth the News That Wisdom Comes” to the tune of “Joy to the World.” This Christmas carol video comes with the hope that Wisdom will guide us to co-create with Her a world of justice, peace, equality, love, freedom, and joy.

Sound forth the news that Wisdom comes
to bring new life to birth.
Arise with hope, Her labor join,
and peace shall fill the earth,
and peace shall fill the earth,
and peace, and peace shall fill the earth.

No more let fear and custom hide
the path of Wisdom fair.
She leads the way to life and joy,
with gifts for all to share,
with gifts for all to share,
with gifts, with gifts for all to share.

Joyful are we who heed the call
of Wisdom in our souls.
With Her we break oppression’s wall,
so love may freely flow,
so love may freely flow,
so love, so love may freely flow.

Crown Wisdom Queen of heaven and earth;
Her reign will set us free.
Fling wide the gates that all may come
join hands and dance with glee,
join hands and dance with glee,
join hands, join hands and dance with glee.

Words © Jann Aldredge-Clanton, from Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians

This Christmas season gives us a wonderful opportunity to take action for social justice, peace, and new life. Christmas carols are popular throughout our culture, not only in churches. We can sing these well-loved tunes but with inclusive lyrics. Including biblical female names for Deity in Christmas carols contributes to gender justice and equality.

“Sophia, Divine Wisdom” by Mary Plaster

One of the most prominent female names for Deity in the Bible is “Wisdom” (Hokmah in the Hebrew Scriptures and Sophia in the Christian Scriptures.) “Happy are those who find Wisdom. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with Her. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all Her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of Her; those who hold Her fast are called happy. Prize Her highly, and She will exalt you; She will honor you if you embrace Her. She will place on your head a fair garland; She will bestow on you a beautiful crown” (Proverbs 3:13,15,17-18; 4:8-9).

Rev. Sheila Sholes-Ross

The first photograph in the video is of Rev. Sheila Sholes-Ross, co-chair of Equity for Women in the Church. 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.

Through inclusive leadership, as well as inclusive language, churches can help create a culture that gives equal power and value to all genders. Churches can help change male-dominated religion and culture at the root of gender injustice and violence. By making changes in leadership and language churches can stop contributing to this culture that gives greatest power, privilege, and value to men. Equal representation of clergywomen and laywomen as leaders and inclusive worship language make powerful contributions to the transformation of church and society. Many churches, along with Equity for Women in the Church and Christian Feminism Today, are working toward this transformation.

May we reclaim Wisdom in our churches and our world. She will set us free to be all we’re created to be! “Sound forth the news that Wisdom comes to bring new life to birth”!

Video Credits

Performed by: Shannon Kincaid

Visual Art:

David Clanton: “Tree of Life” and two dancing children photos

Alice Heimsoth: seven photos inside Ebenezer/herchurch Lutheran, San Francisco

Mirta Toledo: “Sophia” painting

Shannon Kincaid: “Oprah & Child” and “Queen Maeve” paintings

Elizabeth Zedaran: “Flow”

Mary Plaster: “Sophia, Divine Wisdom”

Instruments:

Keyboard: Ron DiIulio

Guitar: Danny Hubbard

Bass & Percussion: Jerry Hancock

Produced/Arranged by: Ron DiIulio

 

 

 

 

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“Longing for Her Rebirth” Christmas Carol Video

Alison Newvine created this video with lyrics I wrote to a familiar Christmas carol  tune, and photos by Elaine Chan-Scherer, Lori Figueroa and Carol Schlesinger. This carol is sung by Alison and others in Spiral Muse—Dionne Kohler, Kathleeen Neville Fritz and Lana Dalberg.

Our weary world in anguish cries, longing for Her rebirth;
we yearn to bring Sophia nigh, longing for Her rebirth.

When will Her peace and love increase? When will all know Her worth?
Sophia yearns to help us learn Wisdom for Her rebirth.

For ages long Sophia’s song rings out through all the earth;
we seek today Her peaceful way, longing for Her rebirth.

Wisdom Sophia helps us see everyone’s sacred worth;
with voices strong we sing Her song, longing for Her rebirth.

Words © 2017 Jann Aldredge-Clanton         COVENTRY CAROL

Wisdom is an ancient divine image, common to many religious traditions. “Wisdom” is Hokmah in the Hebrew Scriptures and Sophia in Greek in the Christian Scriptures. Divine Wisdom existed before creation and took part in creation. “Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth” (Proverbs 8:23).

So whatever happened to Wisdom? In all my years growing up in church I never heard of God as Wisdom. I never heard God referred to as “She,” even though the Bible uses Wisdom as a female personification of God and refers to Wisdom as “She.” “Happy are those who find Wisdom. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with Her. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all Her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of Her; those who hold Her fast are called happy” (Proverbs 3:13,15,17-18).

More than ever, our country and our world are in deep need of Wisdom. But Wisdom and other female divine images continue to be excluded, as women have been excluded from leadership and still are in many religious traditions. Wisdom is sadly missing. Instead of Wisdom, we have racism, sexism, misogyny, heterosexism, and other injustices. Instead of Wisdom, we have violence. Instead of Wisdom, we have greed. Instead of inclusive images of Deity that affirm all human beings as created in the divine image, we have exclusive images that devalue more than half of humanity. We need Wisdom and other female divine images so that there will be justice for females and for all human beings. Without Wisdom we all suffer.

Our weary world longs for Her rebirth. We all long for Her rebirth. All creation longs for Her rebirth.

“Longing for Her Rebirth” is one of the Advent and Christmas carols in the new collection Inclusive Songs for Resistance & Social Action.

 

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“Come to Our World, O Christ-Sophia” Christmas Carol Video

Our world is in deep need of healing. As we join together to labor and to sing of healing, peace, and justice, we create a better world. We give birth to Christ-Sophia, who provides a foundation for equality and justice. Christ-Sophia empowers us to make the Gospel vision of new creation a reality. This Christmas carol video expresses longing, hope, and celebration of the birth of Christ-Sophia.

Come to our world, O Christ-Sophia, Wisdom;
our hearts are longing for Your peaceful way.
Lead us from fear and bondage into freedom;
with You we labor to bring Your new day.

Transform our world, O Christ-Sophia, Wisdom;
the poor and wounded await healing days.
Give us the power to sound Your call to freedom;
as equal partners, we show Your new way.

Led by Your Truth and Life within us growing,
we follow You on Your pathways of peace.
Filled with Your grace, Your loving kindness showing,
we share our gifts and our visions release.

REFRAIN:

Our weary world still longs for new creation,
for peace and justice coming to the earth.
Hope springs anew; we sing in celebration;
O Christ-Sophia, blessed be Your birth;
O Christ-Sophia, blessed be Your birth.

Words © Jann Aldredge-Clanton                              CANTIQUE DE NOEL

It’s been a joy to collaborate on “Come to Our World, O Christ-Sophia” and other inclusive carols with a splendid music group from Ebenezer/herchurch Lutheran in San Francisco. Alison Newvine, Dionne Kohler, Kathleen Neville Fritz, Lana Dalberg, and I had a wonderful time creating an Advent/Christmas album, Sing of Peace.

“Christ-Sophia” is a biblical symbol of the Divine, making equal connections between male and female, black and white, Jewish and Christian traditions, thus providing a foundation for communities based on partnership instead of domination. Christ-Sophia brings change to church and society by forming a theological foundation for gender and racial equality, dismantling patriarchy and creating egalitarian communities.

Sophia, the Greek word for “Wisdom,” is a biblical female divine image. New Testament writers link Christ to Sophia (“Wisdom”), a feminine symbol of God in the Hebrew Scriptures. Wisdom (Hokmah in Hebrew) symbolizes creative, redemptive, and healing power. In their efforts to describe this same power in Christ, the apostle Paul and other New Testament writers draw from the picture of Wisdom. The apostle Paul refers to Christ as the “power of God and the Wisdom (Sophia) of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24), and states that Christ “became for us Wisdom (Sophia) from God” (1 Corinthians 1:30). The book of Proverbs describes Wisdom as the “way,” the “life,” and the “path” (4:11,22,26).  The Gospel of John refers to Christ as “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Bringing this biblical connection of Christ and Sophia to our worship can inspire partnerships that contribute to peace, justice, and equity in our world. For a fuller explanation, see In Search of the Christ-Sophia: An Inclusive Christology for Liberating Christians.

Video Credits

Performed by: Spiral Muse (formerly Devi Vaani)—Dionne Kohler, Kathleen Neville-Fritz, and Alison Newvine with Lana Dalberg on violin—from album “Sing of Peace,” recorded at Joe Hoffmann Studios, Occidental, CA

Lyrics: Jann Aldredge-Clanton

Visual Art:

Mirta Toledo:  “Sophia”

Alice Heimsoth: photo of candlelight service in Ebenezer/herchurch Lutheran, San Francisco

Katherine Skaggs: “Black Madonna”

Sande Harte: photo of circle of women, Alchemy of Women’s Collective Wisdom and Power

Black Lives Matter photo, “How Black Lives Matter is Changing British Universities,” Sadhvi Dar, The Nation 

Me Too March photo, “People are questioning why Taylor Swift’s was among Time Magazine’s ‘The Silence Breakers,’” Ruchira Sharma, International Business Times:

Equity for Women in the Church, photo from website

Photo of woman crossing river with 3 children, “Mexico Worries About Its Own Southern Border” The New York Times

Eastside Baptist Church Choir photo, “’PLU Sunday’ Celebrates Life, Faith, and the Friendship Shared by BLU and Eastside Baptist Church,” Pacific Lutheran University website

Nevertheless She Preached 2018, photo from Facebook page

Photo of abused woman, “We Can Save Some of America’s Most Vulnerable Women from Violence,” Jenny Shank, Nation Swell

Nevertheless She Preached 2017, photo from Facebook page

The Gathering: A Womanist Church, photo from website:

Photo of house destroyed, “Puerto Rico Two Months After,” Mato’s Blog

Photo of woman holding sign, “Peace, Jobs, Justice, Schools Not Bombs,” Santa Cruz IMC

Photo of Our Lady of Guadalupe at march, “Mexicans Celebrate Virgen de Guadalupe,SF Gate

Photo of relief workers in Puerto Rico, “2017 Hurricane Maria: Facts, FAQS, and How to Help,” World Vision

Photo of students at March for Our Lives Rally, “Thousands register to vote at March for Our Lives demonstrations,” NBC News

 

 

 

 

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