The Sunday following the Women’s March in Austin, Texas, I had the joy of worshiping with St. Hildegard’s Community. It was just what I needed to strengthen my resolve to work for justice and to give me the spiritual power so necessary to this work.
Rev. Judith Liro, pastor of this community, led the inspiring service, beginning with this Collect:
Empower us to step out:
To denounce evil,
To resist with courage and imagination;
To announce the good news,
To live with kindness and compassion. —Judith Liro
Judith gave a creative, prophetic interpretation of the Gospel reading, Matthew 4:12-23, connecting it to our current day. She challenged us to follow Jesus in fulfilling our mission in the world in this crucial time. Just as Jesus proclaimed good news and brought healing to people in troubled times, so can we.
Hope and encouragement also filled my spirit through a reading Judith chose from She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse, by theologian Elizabeth A. Johnson, C.S.J. These words, written in 1992, seem even more relevant today:
The radical transformation of crushing structures and murderous situations does not happen automatically but only through human effort that through active nonviolent resistance struggles for justice and against suffering. In the midst of this agony, Spirit-Sophia who loves people teaches the ways of justice and courage. Like a midwife she works deftly with those in pain and struggle to bring about the new creation. . . . Wherever she moves, there awakens modest and even bold engagement against the principalities and powers that crush and oppress. Wherever she succeeds, structures are transformed and liberation and community gain a foothold. The Spirit’s renewing power thus manifests historically in shaping the praxis of freedom, those myriad forms of people’s struggle toward more peaceful and equitable circumstances, a stunning example being women’s struggle against sexism.
For some this means the call to utter the dangerous, critical word of prophecy. . . . Inspiring the denunciation of evil, the announcement of the good news of freedom, and courageous efforts of resistance and imagination to bring it about, the Spirit’s renewing presence is always and everywhere partial to her beloved creatures suffering from socially constructed harm, working to liberate oppressed and oppressors from the distorted systems that destroy the humanity of them both. Like a bakerwoman she keeps on kneading the leaven of kindness and truth, justice and peace into the thick dough of the world until the whole loaf rises. (pp. 136-137)
Printed in the worship service program was another excerpt from Elizabeth Johnson’s book She Who Is:
An even more explicit way of speaking about the mystery of God in female symbol is the biblical figure of Wisdom. This is the most developed personification of God’s presence and activity in the Hebrew Scriptures. . . The biblical depiction of Wisdom is itself consistently female, casting her as sister, mother, female beloved, chef and hostess, preacher, liberator, establisher of justice. . . she symbolizes transcendent power ordering and delighting in the world. She pervades the world, both nature and human beings, interacting with them all to lure them along the right path to life. (pp. 86-87)
The communion liturgy included Carolyn McDade’s hymn “O Beautiful Gaia,” imaging the Divine as “Ancient Sophia,” and J. Philip Newell’s version of the “Prayer of Jesus,” titled “Ground of All Being,” balancing the images of “Mother of life” and “Father of the universe.
The service closed with this blessing, which we spoke in unison:
May Holy Wisdom, kind to humanity,
steadfast, sure and free,
the breath of the power of God;
may she who makes all things new in every age,
enter our souls, and make us
friends of God and prophets. — adapted from St. Hilda’s Community
I left the St. Hildegard’s Community service feeling renewed and empowered by Wisdom Sophia for the work she has called me to do in the world.
On the website of St. Hildegard’s Community, beneath the name of the community, are the words “Radically Inclusive.” The mission of the community is also on the website:
St. Hildegard’s is a transformative, intentional, contemplative/active community in Austin, Texas. The whole of our life—our liturgies, music, retreats and the community itself, as well as our Servant Leadership School—is the primary justice ministry we offer to all who are seeking. The use of expansive, non-hierarchical language in our liturgies and music, and our shared creativity creates peace and comes from a deep theological commitment. With our words and our actions, we consciously seek to embody a vision of God’s dream: a culture of non-violence, using collaboration and partnership to express our talents and gifts and to exercise community discernment. We seek to empower and support each member to follow and develop his/her personal call for the healing of the world and also nurture initiatives that emerge in the community.