Freedom Faith: The Womanist Vision of Prathia Hall, by Courtney Pace

This morning I woke up wanting to write for my blog but couldn’t decide on a topic. I prayed for Sophia Wisdom’s guidance.

Not long after my prayer, a package arrived with Courtney Pace’s new book on Prathia Hall. Now I’ve never been one to open the Bible and believe that the first thing I saw was an answer to prayer. But the book fell open to page 172 in Chapter Seven, and these were the first words I saw: “Hall continued: ‘Yes, you heard correctly. I said she in reference to God.’” Now I knew that Sophia had called me to write today about my excitement upon receiving this book and to invite others to read it.

Those first words I read are from Prathia Hall’s 1998 baccalaureate address at Vassar College. Here is a longer quote from the book about this speech:

Hall spoke on Isaiah 44, emphasizing the students’ parallel with Israel, emerging from “a time of trouble” at the same time as feeling “the possibilities for transformation.” Hall introduced the divine feminine: “She does not grow faint or grow weary, God’s understanding is unsearchable.” With a disorienting reassurance, Hall continued: “Yes, you heard correctly. I said she in reference to God. A part of the strength for your journey should be the knowledge that the living God who does all that these verses promise can and must be mournfully and authentically imagined as our divine Mother and our divine Father.” Explaining the Imago Dei meant that male and female were both created in the image of God, she elucidated the significance of the divine feminine: “How we image God determines how we image people.” Seeing our common humanity across social barriers was the first step to eradicating “dominance and hierarchy as if they are sanctioned by God.” She praised the graduates’ accomplishments and challenged them to see themselves in common with all of humanity: “Now it’s your turn to join the struggles for social transformation, armed with your wonderful skills, information, and youthful energy.” She promised their success “because the Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth, She does not grow faint or weary.”

In the preceding paragraph Courtney Pace wrote that Prathia Hall also challenged the church to include divine feminine language:

As part of her womanist hermeneutic, Hall challenged the church to embrace feminine language for God: “If we continue to ignore the maternal and feminine in Scripture then we have a distorted view of humanity. . . . Do you speak of the divine in male terms only because it’s easier—you feel better and besides, it’s risky to do otherwise.” Regardless of emotional preferences for the familiar, Hall insisted that in order to be a liberating community, black churches must imagine God as feminine, and feminine as holy: “I must tell you—that this is not about our comfort level—I am just as uncomfortable as you are right now. But much is at stake. Our humanity and God’s divinity have been misrepresented.” Hall raised these prophetic challenges in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, putting her at the forefront not only of preaching about these issues within black churches but also within U.S. religion broadly. During her preaching ministry, liberation theology was a small subset of intellectual religion, but she brought it to the pulpit across the country, week after week, year after year, spanning races, denominations, and regions.

For many years I have read and written about the importance of including female names and images of the Divine. But I don’t think I’ve read any more persuasive words than Hall’s about what’s at stake.

Also, the chapter titles in Freedom Faith: The Womanist Vision of  Hall intrigue me:

“I See Africa Rising”

“Living in the Face of Death”

“In Jail for a Just Cause”

“Equality Now”

“Black, Preacher, Baptist, Woman”

“I’m 5’6”, but I Should Have Been Taller”

“The Living God Is Not a Bigot”

“The Baptist Church Is Going to Have to Deal with Me”

“One of the Founding Mothers of the New America”

“Who Had the Dream? Prathia Hall and the ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech”

For months I’ve looked forward to the publication of this book. I’m grateful to my friend Rev. Dr. Courtney Pace for drawing my attention to Rev. Dr. Prathia Hall many years ago. Courtney, a church history professor at Memphis Theological Seminary, also serves on the board of Equity for Women in the Church. For a while Courtney has been researching and writing about Prathia. At the 2017 Nevertheless She Preached Conference, Courtney gave a presentation titled “Subversive Sisters: A Herstory of Our Foremothers,” in which she included Prathia. In 2014, in an article in EthicsDaily.com, Courtney wrote: “Little did I know at the beginning of this journey that Prathia would become a spiritual mother to me, continuing to inspire me about the real meaning of life and faith.” Prathia “worked tirelessly for justice” and “transformed her suffering into prophetic proclamation.” She “turned ashes into beautiful breaths of life.” Prathia “empowered people to realize their giftedness and calling in spite of obstacles; her faith inspired others to find their own.” Courtney inspired me to write a hymn and a blog article about Prathia Hall.

Freedom Faith: The Womanist Vision of Prathia Hall was just released on June 15. Courtney states that the book “explains how racism is perpetuated through unrepresentative government, white-owned capitalism, and heteronormative patriarchal structures.”

Freedom Faith is the first full-length critical study of Rev. Dr. Prathia Laura Ann Hall, a courageous civil rights movement leader and womanist theologian. “Freedom faith” was the central concept of her theology: the belief that God created all people to be free and assists and equips those who work for freedom. Courtney focuses on Prathia’s pioneer work as an activist and minister, examining her intellectual and theological development as well as her influence on Martin Luther King Jr., Marian Wright Edelman, and the early generations of womanist scholars. Rev. Dr. Hall was one of the first women ordained in the American Baptist Churches, USA, was the pastor of Mt. Sharon Baptist Church in Philadelphia, and later joined the faculty at the Boston University School of Theology as the Martin Luther King Chair in Social Ethics.

I invite you to join my excitement and read Freedom Faith: The Womanist Vision of Prathia Hall.

 

 

Rev. Dr. Courtney Pace

Rev. Dr. Courtney Pace is Associate Professor of Church History and Director of Admissions at Memphis Theological Seminary. Her research interests include race and gender, Baptist history, the Civil Rights Movement, and social justice in American religion. Her book Freedom Faith: The Womanist Vision of Prathia Hall was published by University of Georgia Press. She has authored numerous journal articles, book chapters, book reviews, encyclopedia articles, and blog articles. She also regularly presents her research at academic conferences. She is ordained through the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and also works closely with the Alliance of Baptists and Baptist Women in Ministry. She is a board member of Equity for Women in the Church, a non-profit organization that promotes the acceptance and placement of women in ministry as well as interracial and ecumenical cooperation, and she is the founder and chair of the Clergy Advocacy Board for Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi. She is frequently invited as guest preacher to churches across the country. She created popular podcast “Stole Sisters,” which features women preachers representing multiple denominations, races, and regions. Before joining the faculty of Memphis Theological Seminary, she taught Religion at Baylor University, where she also served as Assistant Director of Student Success, co-managing the Paul L. Foster Success Center and overseeing New Student Experience, Academic Excellence Opportunities, and First Generation College Student Support. At Baylor, she earned the nickname “Dr. Success.”

 

 

 

 

Posted in She Lives! | Leave a comment

Believe the Women, by Rev. Dr. Leah Grundset Davis

Rev. Dr. Leah Grundset Davis

The call to “believe the women” echoes through the centuries. Mary Magdalene and the other women proclaimed the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection to the apostles who didn’t believe them (Luke 24: 1-11). People today still too often refuse to believe women who preach Good News and who speak out against abuse and violence. But the voices of women in biblical times and today cannot be suppressed. Mary in the Magnificat (Luke 1: 46-55) challenged unjust powers, and women today proclaim liberation and justice and rise up in the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements.

Although told she couldn’t be a pastor, Rev. Dr. Leah Grundset Davis persisted in following her call. Today she is pastor of Ravensworth Baptist Church in Annandale, Virginia, and the author of a recently published, inspiring book, Believe the Women.

The Foreword to Believe the Women is by Rev. Dr. Amy Butler, also told she couldn’t be a pastor but is now pastor of Riverside Church in New York City. In the Foreword she writes that “God’s spirit will show up wherever she wants, creating new life inside and outside of institutions that have built walls and excluded certain people and tried to harness her work of redemption in the world.” Rev. Dr. Butler recommends Believe the Women as a “collection of theological work, sermons, and personal stories that remind us that we ignore the prophetic voices of women at our own peril, for they have kept—and they will keep—raising their voices and calling us to fix broken systems.”

Believe the Women features Alliance of Baptists clergywomen, and it will touch women of all denominations who continue to find their voices suppressed, devalued, and/or marginalized. Also, the book reaches out to all people with inspiration to follow the Spirit’s call and to proclaim justice and liberation for all. Rev. Dr. Davis includes in this book one of her sermons on Mary’s Magnificat in the Gospel of Luke. She challenges the congregation: “What might the world sound like if we all sang our songs about God’s justice-love as boldly as Mary did? Our songs would be powerful and point us to new understandings of God and one another. We would believe each other!” She continues that she believes Mary “that God is making all things new. . . . that God’s mercy is for the Dreamers and everyone else, that the proud will be scattered and the powerful knocked down from their thrones or oval offices or halls of Congress or Hollywood studios. . . . that God has lifted up the lowly to empower them and amplify their songs that the world needs to hear so we can all more fully be ourselves.”

Believe the Women challenged and inspired me. Rev. Dr. Davis graciously agreed to an interview about her new book. It was a joy to read the book and to interview her. Here are her responses to my questions.

How did you decide to focus on the Magnificat in your book Believe the Women?

The Magnificat has been a formative text for me, and I had this idea that just maybe it had been for other women too. And it turned out, I was right! It’s this beautiful song of justice and hope, promise and power, and I’ve always connected with Mary singing it in the Gospel of Luke.

Rev. Dr. Leah Grundset Davis with Rev. Kyndra D. Frazier, & Rev. Nancy Hastings Sehested, two of the women featured in Believe the Women

Why did you choose to lift up the voices of Alliance of Baptists women preachers in this book?

I was working on my Doctor of Ministry degree and that final project was the basis for this book. At the time, I was working for the Alliance of Baptists as the communications specialist, and I was noticing we needed to lift up the stories of Alliance clergywomen.

Recount your call to ordained pastoral ministry. How did women you feature in your book influence your call?

When I was 10, I knew I wanted to be a pastor. I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church that was formative for me, but the year was 1992 and it was at the height of the schism. So at 10, my pastor told me I couldn’t be a pastor because I was a woman. My road to ordained ministry was long and winding, never doubting that I could be a pastor, but wondering if I as a woman would ever receive a call to be one in a local church. Nancy Hastings Sehested and Isabel Docampo were early supporters of the Alliance, and I had heard their names. When I finished college at Baylor and began seminary at Truett, Rev. Julie Pennington-Russell was my pastor and all of a sudden, I saw a woman being a pastor. That’s when everything changed and I knew that I would pursue this no matter the obstacles because I felt a deep calling.

How does Mary’s song relate to the song you feel called to sing?

Mary’s song is one that I feel like I can sing every day. With the injustice we see around us, I can sing the Magnificat. With the pain and grief that circles, I can sing this song. In the same way, I can sing this song with joy and celebration. For me, Mary’s song is one that grounds me in my belief that God is love, and God’s hope calls us forward in the reality of our context.

Have you ever questioned your Baptist identity? Why have you remained in the Baptist denomination?

Yes! I tried so hard to not be Baptist when I was in seminary because I knew it would be a hard road to find a pastorate. But as it turns out, I’m Baptist raised and it really is who I am. I believe in what we proclaim—that we all have a direct connection to God, that with soul liberty both we are free and at the same time always demanding that others be free. The way we voluntarily organize ourselves as Baptists is a good match for me, both in my congregational leanings and my pastoral leadership.

What compelled you to write Believe the Women?

Once I hit submit on my Doctor of Ministry final project, I knew I needed a break, but I also knew I wasn’t done with this work. I wanted a larger audience to know of the stories of these six courageous Alliance clergywomen.

How do you answer those feminists who believe that the Bible is misogynistic and cannot be a helpful resource for dismantling patriarchy. Why do you draw from the biblical story of Mary in your book?

I think a lot of the writers of the Bible were misogynistic! But what I also know is that God’s calls for equity and justice are always there—sometimes in between the lines, sometimes on the margin of the text. As we interpret and re-tell the stories, we have a chance to lift up the voices that have too long been neglected and share their stories in the light of God’s liberating love.

Rev. Dr. Isabel Docampo, featured in Believe the Women

How do the stories and sermons of Rev. Dr. Isabel Docampo and Rev. Maria Swearingen illustrate intersectional feminism? Are there other women featured in your book who also draw from the intersection of justice concerns?

This work of intersectionality was one that I could only dip my toe into for a little book. I was living with the work of Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw and asking how do intersections influence how we preach and how we interpret the biblical text. Without writing a tome, I think Isabel’s story tells about what it meant to be Cuban-American and a mujerista theologian and Baptist in the United States South, and she preaches from that place. Maria preaches with attention to her identity as a Puerto Rican, queer woman, who can’t stop being Baptist. When we lift up these stories, we learn so much about these women, ourselves, and our Creator. I think all the women in the book touch on some form of intersectional justice concerns.

The voices of current-day women are still stifled by many churches who deny them opportunities for pastoral ministry. How do you see your generation opening more doors for women to sing the songs they feel called to sing? What is your hope for this book?

I think we are poised for more and more women to be singing freely. Transwomen are being ordained in Baptist churches and the world is hearing a whole new song—more songs of the beauty of God’s creation. It is still difficult to find pastoral positions, but the songs of liberation are only getting louder and bolder. Women, who have known of the oppressive weight of patriarchy, are leading the choir now–singing boldly against Islamophobia, Anti-Semitism, racism, white supremacy, and hate. We’ll keep singing just like Mary—we have to.

What’s one question about your new book you’d like to answer that I didn’t ask?

What comes next for Believe the Women? At the Alliance of Baptists Annual Gathering, I was speaking with a group of women pastors from Cuba, and they asked me if this would be translated into Spanish. My hope is that we can next gather stories of these pastors and their stories in Spanish and share them widely!

 

Rev. Dr. Leah Grundset Davis

Rev. Dr. Leah Grundset Davis began as pastor at Ravensworth Baptist Church, Annandale, Virginia, in September 2017 in a new model of shared pastoral ministry. Leah previously served as communications specialist at the Alliance of Baptists and Associate Pastor at Calvary Baptist Church, Washington, D.C. She graduated in May 2017 with a Doctor of Ministry degree from Candler School of Theology at Emory University, focused on Baptist women preaching the Magnificat. Her seminary studies were conducted at Baylor’s Truett Seminary where she received a Master of Divinity degree in 2007. Leah graduated from Baylor University in 2004 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Religion. She lives in Bristow, Virginia, with her husband John, and two young daughters.

 

Posted in She Lives! | 2 Responses

Gossamer Freedoms

Most of my poetry writing has taken the form of song lyrics. But I just found this poem that seems even more relevant now than when I wrote it a while back, so I decided to post it.

Gossamer Freedoms

Women’s rights are human rights;

human rights are women’s rights,

not always so,

may not be so for long,

still not completely so anywhere,

still not so everywhere,

 

Fragile freedoms, won

through years of suffering

in sit-ins and fasts and prisons,

through years of rising up in rallies and marches,

refusing to give up or give in.

 

Fragile freedoms won,

freedom to vote and freedom to learn,

freedom to teach and freedom to preach,

freedom to choose and freedom to dare

to be more than they said we could be.

 

Fragile freedoms,

floating now on gossamer wings,

hanging in the balance,

holding on

for life.

Posted in She Lives! | 5 Responses

Women Rise Up: Sacred Stories of Resistance for Today’s Revolution, by Rev. Katey Zeh

 

Rev. Katey Zeh

In Women Rise Up: Sacred Stories of Resistance for Today’s Revolution, Rev. Katey Zeh combines her gifts as a compelling storyteller, creative Bible teacher, and social justice activist. In a time when many people are misusing the Bible to limit the gifts of women called to ministry, to justify exclusion, to shame survivors of abuse, and to vilify immigrants, Women Rise Up illuminates the stories of biblical women to bring liberation and transformation to all. It was a joy to read Rev. Zeh’s inspiring new book and to interview her. Here are her responses to my questions.

Some feminists believe that the Bible is misogynistic and cannot be a helpful resource for dismantling patriarchy. Why do you draw from biblical stories in your advocacy of gender justice and equality in Women Rise Up?

What constantly amazes me about the Bible is that even though the text is deeply patriarchal and misogynistic, there are numerous women within its pages who find ways to survive against all odds and to resist oppression in creative, subversive ways. For example, in Exodus Shiphrah and Puah, the midwives to the Hebrew women, defy the order of the pharaoh to murder all the newborn baby boys, and they do so at great personal risk. Stories like these inspire me and give me hope for today’s struggle for gender justice.

How has your call to ministry led to your writing and your advocacy for women and girls?

My call to ministry emerged over a period of years as I began to learn about feminist theology and explore how to apply it in practical ways to my own life. Guided by the deep belief that women and girls are created in the image of God, I seek to make the world a more just, compassionate place for all, but in particular for those who are most vulnerable, including women and girls living at the margins of society. My writing is a natural outflowing of that calling: to lift up the sacred worth of women, both within the sacred texts and beyond it.

You are one of my Baptist sisters in ministry. What led you to ordination in the Baptist denomination and why have you remained Baptist?

I’m fairly new to the Baptist faith. I was part of the United Methodist Church for nearly 25 years, but I made the painful decision to leave after witnessing the denomination turn its back on reproductive dignity and denying the rights of my LGBTQ+ siblings. I felt denominationally displaced until walking into Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. What I found there was a celebration and an embracing of all of God’s beloved children and a fierce, firm, historic commitment to upholding the dignity, rights, and well-being of all.

Pullen was the first faith community in which I felt like I could fully and unabashedly articulate my commitment to advocating for women and girls, particularly their access to the full spectrum of reproductive health care, and it would not be liability. In fact, my advocacy work was the very basis upon which I sought and received ordination from my church. Being affirmed in that way has been such a gift to me because this work is not easy. Having a community of support around me keeps me going.

In Women Rise Up you emphasize the intersection of sexism with racism, classism, and other injustices. Which stories in the book do you think best represent this intersectionality?

The story of Sarai and Hagar illustrates the many ways in which women are culpable of great violence against one another. Hagar is a foreigner and a slave. Sarai is an abuse survivor who perpetuates the cycle of abuse by forcing Hagar into becoming her surrogate. My reading is heavily shaped by Delores Williams’s classic womanist text Sisters in the Wilderness, who explores the text through the lens of the African-American woman’s experience.

Another text I explored was the Book of Ruth. Too often we romanticize this story as one about sisterhood and faithfulness of female friendship, but there are troubling aspects of the story, namely how Naomi pushes her daughter-in-law Ruth, a foreigner, into a sexual encounter with Boaz, the wealthy landowner who holds the keys to their survival.  

I do not mean to villainize any of these women, but I do want to explore their full humanity and offer them both my critique and my compassion.

Women Rise Up combines your gifts as a compelling storyteller, a creative Bible teacher, and a social justice activist. Which biblical stories resonate most with your personal story?

I probably most resonate with Martha of Bethany. I’m naturally a doer and inclined to overwork. And I also have no problem letting folks know that I think a particular situation is unjust! She brings her complaints to Jesus on multiple occasions, which in my view demonstrates the strength of their friendship.

How did your seminary course on “Gender, Sex, and Power in the Books of Ruth and Esther” inform your reading of the story of Ruth and Naomi? Do you relate to them when they have to simultaneously resist and comply with the patriarchal norms of their time?

The Book of Ruth was one I have long cherished, but this class helped me see how differently Ruth is treated by the author. Repeatedly we are reminded that Ruth was a foreigner and thus excluded from full participation in the society. Again, I see Ruth and Naomi as fully human and in a dire situation–as widows they have no access to resources except through the (perhaps) benevolence of a man. In order to earn his favor, however, Ruth must make herself sexually available to him at great risk to her personal safety, not to mention her emotional well-being.

How do the messages women often get in church make them feel they have to find a way to be like Martha and Mary at the same time? Have you felt this way?

In my experience in church, women are expected to do the mundane work of daily life–cooking, cleaning, caring for the sick and the young–while also dedicating ample time to their spiritual lives. No matter which piece they are tending to, they are told they ought to be doing the other–all while smiling and not complaining. I always wished that Jesus would have offered to give Martha a hand with whatever she was doing.

How do you connect the story of Mary Magdalene to the widespread sexualization of women and girls today?

Mary Magdalene was the first witness to the resurrection, and yet nearly every reference to her in popular culture is rooted in the mythology of her being a prostitute, which was a falsehood created by a Pope over a thousand years ago.

One of the fastest ways to shut a woman up or make a girl feel small is to attack her body. An observation or even an accusation about a woman’s sexuality shifts the attention away from the fullness of her power. We see this in the problematic legacy of Mary Magdalene, which my book strives to correct.

You mention being open to the movement of the Spirit “who uncovers new revelations from the pages of these ancient texts.” What is one new revelation you had as you were writing this book?

Even the shortest of texts can have most profound insights if we would only spend the time allowing it to emerge.

In your book you point out that current-day women around the world still experience many of the injustices that biblical women suffered. How do you see your generation moving forward on the work of gender justice?

I see my generation taking a much more intersectional approach to gender justice. We see the connections between systems of oppression, and we refuse to address them in piecemeal ways. The work is more complex and more difficult–and the “wins” are fewer–but we see that this is the only way that we can find true liberation.

What’s one question about your new book you’d like to answer that I didn’t ask?

“Tell me about your grandmother Honey.” Honey was a humble, loving woman. She was small in stature and an amazing golfer. And she always made me feel like the most important person in the room. When I went to visit her, she always had a candy bar for me. She gently introduced me to God and to the Bible, and for that I will forever be grateful. Honey, I hope I make you proud!

 

Rev. Katey Zeh

Rev. Katey Zeh is a nationally-recognized advocate for gender justice. Her writing about faith and gender has appeared in Huffington Post, Sojourners, and Religion Dispatches, and her work has been featured in The Washington Post, The Nation, and Colorlines. The Center for American Progress named her one of their top justice-seeking faith leaders to watch. Rev. Zeh is also an ordained Baptist minister and the co-host of Kindreds, a podcast about faith, friendship, and feminism. She lives in North Carolina with her husband Matt and their daughter Samantha. Find her at www.kateyzeh.com or follow her on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook at @KateyZeh.

 

Posted in She Lives! | Leave a comment

Sophia the Goose: Guest Post by Rev. Sarah Wells Macias, preacher, pastoralist, eco-theologian, and environmental activist

Rev. Sarah Wells Macias

At a recent Equity for Women in the Church event, focused on ecowomanism, my friend Sarah Macias told me a fascinating story from her life and work on Sister Grove Farm in Van Alstyne, Texas. An ordained minister, Sarah is one of the leaders of the Alliance of Baptists Creation Justice Community with a mission of encouraging churches to model ecological responsibility and join voices as a collective Christian witness for just relations among all of creation. I invited Sarah to write this guest post.

“You can have that goose if you can catch her. No charge.” We had come to buy twelve heirloom chickens so this offer shortly after we met Joe, our poultry farmer friend, caught us by surprise.

We looked at each other with puzzled expressions. What would we do with a goose? Is there a reason he doesn’t want her? Why is she free?

“If you can catch her” was the only condition and as our thoughts were racing with questions and suspicions, the goose walked directly and deliberately into a doghouse. She was contained. We had “caught her.”

Her calm and confident demeanor remained intact as she was then transferred into a crate. We loaded her up along with the chickens, and all soon headed home to Sister Grove Farm.

With this unanticipated passenger, we suddenly had a dilemma. The decision had already been made to name the chickens after our favorite female eco-theologians and Biblicists – so we knew there would be a Rosemary and a Sallie; an Ellen and Elizabeth, etc…. But, what to call a goose?

Knowing that the wild goose is the Celtic metaphor for the Holy Spirit due to its wild and unpredictable nature, we often stop in reverence to their honking as they fly over our farm. We love watching them as they migrate to their various seasonal dwelling places.

But this soft, gray-feathered creature, that Joe estimated to be about three years old, is a Toulouse Goose and they tend to stay close to home. Like the chickens, the Toulouse are a heritage breed; hardy and disease resistant but threatened with extinction by modern agriculture; kind of like the divine feminine. Her name then became clear to us – she would be Sophia. And so, we headed to the farm with Lady Wisdom in the back of the pickup.

In fact, it could be that both modern agriculture and modern religion could benefit from a dose of her wisdom.

In the decades since World War II, small farms that have been in families for generations have been displaced by large, industrial farms. Corporate supported monocrop production, which depletes soil and water health, has come to dominate our rural landscapes and our grocery shelves have become stocked with processed, food-like substances. Paradoxically, both childhood hunger and obesity have become the norm from this dysfunctional system.

As families have been forced to leave the farm, our society has become more transient. Less attached to the places we live, we now shop around for a church, if we go at all. A spiritual consumerism has resulted in menus of programs and services offered often by super-size churches. Anonymity is easy to find here as is a homogeneity of congregants with little need to engage in understanding or even listening to people who think differently.

Meanwhile, Sophia is calmly getting to know her new place and community at Sister Grove Farm – the orchard, pasture, and our two ponds. She has even been getting to know the neighbors recently. She was at the Martins next door for a couple of days on their pond, along with a heron. We know Jerry and LaMerle Martin because they go to our church. Today we found her on the Duggars’ place. They have ducks. I don’t really know them; don’t know where, or if, they even go to church.

 

 

 

 

I have missed seeing Sophia the last few mornings with my coffee after her early swim but am comforted that she is close by. Unlike the Canadian geese, she is not wild, nor does she fly far away. She will come home but perhaps home is not only this address but those adjacent to me and maybe even those to them. Perhaps home is community – wherever we are. Perhaps there is a wisdom in staying put but not insulated; being neighborly and getting to know the community of creatures with whom we share our place.

It is my opinion and experience that the healthiest communities are those that are diverse; whether as crops in the field, animals in the barnyard, or people in the pew. Nature does not thrive as a monoculture. The same could be said for our understandings of God.

The divine can never be captured in one christology. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out – “God is male!” “No, God is female!” – they fly over to the neighbor’s pond because the divine can never actually be “caught,” confined, or limited. Our christologies can though, when they feel threatened enough to dominate and silence others as the exclusively patriarchal images have done – to the detriment of men, women, children, earth, and even God.

Sophia christology is inclusive of others. Her wisdom is patient and comes from a source as old as the cosmos yet is as fresh as the beginning of a new creation. It is holistic, recognizing the biodiversity of true relationships that connect rather than false boundaries that divide.

Christ-Sophia celebrates the male, female, and queer enfleshment of God in all things, which has been present since the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.

It is in the soil and the water from which all life is formed. It is in in the bread and wine from which all life is sustained. It is in you and me, in the places we call home, and in our neighbors, who may live across the fence but sit beside us at the table.

Which reminds me… I need to go meet the Duggars.

Rev. Sarah Wells Macias

Sarah Macias is an ordained Baptist minister with a background in eco-theology and a calling towards agricultural ministry. She and her husband, Rodney, live on Sister Grove Farm in Van Alstyne, Texas in an 1859 historic farmhouse. Through implementation of regenerative agricultural practices they hope to rebuild soil health, restore native prairie grasses, and promote a diversity of plant and animal species. They are also developing a small retreat center where individuals, groups, and families can reconnect with the land.

 

 

 

Posted in She Lives! | 2 Responses