Rev. Larry E. Schultz conducts the Chancel Choir and congregation of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, Raleigh, North Carolina, in singing “Let Justice Like Waters Roll Down” to a familiar hymn tune, with pictures from various artists. Rev. Schultz and Pullen Memorial Baptist Church make a major contribution to justice through their expansive, progressive worship and ministry. (For more on the prophetic ministry of Rev. Schultz and Pullen, see: http://jannaldredgeclanton.com/blog/?p=319.)
This song invites us to work for social justice, drawing from two biblical passages: Amos 5:24—“Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream”; Luke 4:18—“The Spirit is upon me, because God has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.”
The songs we sing carry great power to shape belief and action because the music embeds the words in our memories. We can make a difference for justice, peace, and liberation in our world through the words we sing, especially those we give sacred value to in worship services.
Worship and social justice cannot be separated. Without justice, our worship rings hollow. The prophet Amos denounces those who offer sacrifices and songs in worship while oppressing people. God will not accept the offerings of those who “push aside the needy in the gate” (Amos 5:12, 22-23). Neither could She be pleased with hymns and other worship rituals that by their very language oppress by excluding or devaluing people.
Many traditional hymns sanction and perpetuate injustice through exclusively masculine references and symbolism of darkness as evil. “Christ-Sophia” is the central divine symbol in “Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters.” This symbol holds promise for inspiring social justice through shared power. “Christ-Sophia” reclaims a lost biblical image and offers new possibilities for wholeness by overcoming dualisms and 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.
Sophia, the Greek word for Wisdom, is a resurrected biblical feminine divine image that opens new possibilities for justice and liberation. New Testament writers link Christ to 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).
The name “Christ-Sophia” suggests equal connection instead of dominance and submission. “Christ-Sophia” images the equal connection between male and female in that the name “Christ” traditionally denotes male divinity, and Sophia is a feminine name for the Divine. Also, “Christ-Sophia” links races, connecting the Jewish Jesus to Wisdom in both ancient and hellenized Judaism and drawing from both Egyptian and Greek sacred symbols. Bringing Christ and Sophia together in worship can inspire powerful partnerships that contribute to peace and justice in our world.
This photograph at the beginning of the video, illustrating the title of the hymn, is Rev. Stacy Boorn’s “Streams.” © Stacy Boorn. Used with permission. (For more of her “visual spirituality,” see: http://stacy.awegallery.com/; http://www.awegallery.com/index.php?page=artists&aid=1.) Rev. Boorn, pastor of Ebenezer/herchurch Lutheran in San Francisco, has brought change to the church and the wider culture through her boldness in re-imaging divinity to include the Divine Feminine. (For more on the prophetic justice ministry of Rev. Boorn and herchurch, see: http://jannaldredgeclanton.com/blog/?p=78.)
The photograph of the preacher in the video is Rev. Sheila Sholes-Ross, co-chair of the national, ecumenical, multicultural Equity for Women in the Church Community. Rev. Sholes-Ross makes a major contribution to justice through this Equity Community, through her ministry in two churches, and through her work as Executive Director of Communities in Schools of Orange County, North Carolina. (See her story: http://jannaldredgeclanton.com/blog/?p=633.) The justice vision of the Equity for Women in the Church Community is equal representation of clergywomen as pastors of multicultural churches in order to transform church and society so that all are free to become all we are created to be in the divine image.
Let justice like waters roll down on our land; help us, Christ-Sophia, to join in your plan. Let righteousness like everflowing streams rise; come fill and anoint us, O Spirit most wise. Pure wisdom and justice flow forth from your hand; with you as our guide evil forces disband. Give us, Christ-Sophia, the grace to prevail O’er systems and powers that keep captives held. Come now, Christ-Sophia, with blessings and peace to calm us and stir us our visions release, Good News for the poor and fresh sight for the blind; your voice calls us on the oppressed to unbind. O may we flow freely like waters and streams to heal and restore broken hearts and lost dreams. Awaken us fully to all we can be, reclaiming our souls as we set people free.
Words © Jann Aldredge-Clanton, from Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians (Eakin Press, 2006). For permissions, contact: www.jannaldredgeclanton.com. For additional inclusive music for all ages, see: http://www.jannaldredgeclanton.com/music.php
Performed by: Chancel Choir and Congregation of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, Raleigh, North Carolina (http://www.pullen.org/). Conductor Rev. Larry E. Schultz
Stacy Boorn: “Streams” © Stacy Boorn. Used with permission. http://stacy.awegallery.com/; http://www.awegallery.com/index.php?page=artists&aid=1
Mirta Toledo: “Sophia” © 2003 Mirta Toledo. Used with permission. http://www.afrolatinart.com/#/mirta- toledo/4532396991; http://www.jannaldredgeclanton.com/books.php#book3
David Clanton: photo of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church Chancel Choir, Orchestra, & Congregation © David M. Clanton. Used with permission. http://www.davidclanton.com/; http://david-clanton.artistwebsites.com/
Recording by: Ward Productions, Pinehurst, North Carolina