Sing of Peace, “O Come, Christ-Sophia”

Begin Advent season with inclusive lyrics to familiar Christmas carol tunes you love. Sing Advent and Christmas songs with lyrics that include female names and images of the Divine to celebrate the sacredness of all people and all creation. Sing of peace for all people and for the earth.

Sing of peace through the coming of Christ-Sophia.

O come, Christ-Sophia, full of grace and wisdom;
come bless us, come challenge us to make life anew.
Come bring us power, beauty, hope, and harmony.

We long for your coming, labor for your birthing,
for you are our hope of peace, our power for change.
Come Christ-Sophia, break down walls and free us.

Rejoice all you people, sisters, brothers, join now
to sing of a bright new day just dawning for all.
Sing now a new song, sing with jubilation.


O come now, Christ-Sophia, O come now, Christ-Sophia,
O come now, Christ-Sophia, wisdom and peace.

Words © Jann Aldredge-Clanton                                    ADESTE FIDELES

Lana Dalberg, Kathleen Neville Fritz, Dionne Kohler-Newvine, Alison Kohler-Newvine

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

Here is an excerpt from a piece by Kathleen Neville Fritz about this new inclusive Christmas music:

The holidays are wonderful… but do you ever get just a little tired of the same old Christmas carols, endlessly reworked and replayed all over the radio during December?  If you’re like us, you might cringe occasionally at yet another manufactured, trying-too-hard rendition of Jingle Bells or Let It Snow.

It often feels as if the music of Christmas has lost its soul.

Personally, some of my fondest memories of the holiday season are singing Christmas carols around the tree with family. But now, as an adult, I am painfully aware of the exclusively masculine language for God that runs through these time-honored songs. Each year, each generation that we sing them further calcifies these patterns of naming the Divine.

What if we began naming the Solstice, the time when Jesus’ birth is celebrated as the return of light in the darkness – as the moment when Wisdom comes into the world to dwell among us?

Wisdom – Hokmah in Hebrew, Sophia in Greek – is a feminine name for the Divine found in the Hebrew Scriptures. The figure of Wisdom represents God/dess’ immanent presence within creation, shaping and sustaining the world, delighting in Her people and filling us with Her insight and love. And it is precisely the Jewish tradition of Wisdom that shaped Christian ideas of the Incarnation of the “Word of God” in Jesus! In other words, Jesus is Wisdom, Sophia made flesh.

And in remembering the birth of the “Christ-Sophia,” what we celebrate is not a male human king come to establish the dominant rule of a male God over the world, but the birthing of Wisdom Herself into human lives and hearts, everywhere and in every age.

By singing of the birth of Wisdom, we welcome Her coming to transform our world with Her peace and justice and love.

Painting by Katie Ketchum, photography and image effects by Stacy Boorn

Sing of Peace brings together Christmas songs that combine words of inclusion and justice with familiar and dear Christmas tunes,” writes Lutheran theologian Dr. Caryn D. Riswold in her Patheos blog.





Join together now to sing new songs—songs that include female and male and more, songs that bring fresh hope and healing to our world. Join together to transform our world through singing inclusive songs that give birth to peace and justice and love.

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The Persistent Preacher: The Samaritan Woman at the Well as a Model for a Nevertheless Homiletic

Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis

Among the outstanding presenters at “Nevertheless, She Preached” was Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis, an ordained Lutheran pastor and Associate Professor of Biblical Preaching at Luther Seminary. She is the author of SHE: Five Keys to Unlock the Power of Women in Ministry and John: Fortress Biblical Preaching Commentaries.

In a column for Working Preacher she writes about “Nevertheless, She Preached”:

“A grassroots event, dreamt by two female Baptist preachers who saw and heard a need and did something about it. In only five weeks, they recruited speakers, musicians, and helpers to make their dream come true. They did it with their connections and selling t-shirts. They did it with taking risks. They did it with the sure and certain hope that God’s Spirit would show up. And she did. And the conference happened. And it was extraordinary—a testimony to the kind of resistance, vigilance, and persistence that is essential for how we do church these days.”

Rev. Dr. Lewis’s presentation was titled “The Persistent Preacher: The Samaritan Woman at the Well as a Model for a Nevertheless Homiletic.” She begins by naming an “unauthorized reformation in homiletics” that’s been going on for some time, but has been ignored and silenced. This reformation preaching “gives witness to experiences of God, what Scripture itself says about preaching.” She continues to proclaim: “The Good News is the presence of God in our midst. Preaching should be about encounters with God, not lessons on texts or theology.”

Such divine encounters often lead us to expose social injustices and resist them. Rev. Dr. Lewis quotes from adrienne maree brown’s  “Living Through the Unveiling”: “Things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered. We must hold each other tight and continue to pull back the veil.” Brown delineates many injustices currently being uncovered, including white supremacy, denial of climate change, racial profiling, abuse of women of color and poor women. She wrote this blog in February of 2017. It brings to mind also the recent “Me too” campaign on social media where millions of women all around our country have come forward with stories that uncover the pervasive evils of sexual harassment and sexual assault. And after the latest horrific mass shooting in our country, the connection between domestic violence and mass murder continues to be uncovered.

Biblical misinterpretations continue to support our patriarchal culture and the resulting violence and injustices. Rev. Dr. Lewis calls for preaching that corrects interpretations of biblical passages “that have had a negative hold on women, that confuse the voice of the author of the biblical texts with the voice of God.” One of these misinterpreted texts is John 4:5-42, the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. She is often misinterpreted as a woman of loose morals. In a Commentary on this passage Rev. Dr. Lewis writes that the Samaritan woman has been misinterpreted as a “five-time loser” and a “passive recipient of Jesus’ offer.” She corrects this misinterpretation, illustrating that the Samaritan woman actively engages in theological conversation with Jesus and then in witnessing to her community.

At the “Nevertheless, She Preached” event, Rev. Dr. Lewis demonstrates that the story reveals the resistance, vigilance, and persistence of the Samaritan woman at the well. “Where do we resist?” she challenges. “Before there can be persistence, there has to be resistance and vigilance.”

Resistance involves truth-telling, Rev. Dr. Lewis declares.  We have to uncover injustices in order to resist them. By choosing to go to Samaria and speaking with a woman who is a religious and political outsider, Jesus uncovers prejudices and illustrates the extent of the “world” that God loves (John 3:16). The Samaritan woman resists religious and gender societal barriers and engages Jesus in deep theological conversation.

Vigilance is not about answers but questions. Rev. Dr. Lewis emphasizes the importance of openness to questions, of awareness of the possibility of revelation, and of engaging in conversations about faith. Although marginalized because of her religion and gender, the Samaritan woman exercises her agency and challenges Jesus: “You are a prophet. I have theological questions for you!” In her Commentary on this passage, Rev. Dr. Lewis writes: “The woman at the well shows us that faith is about dialogue, about growth and change. It is not about having all the answers.”

Persistence comes when we actually say something out loud. Rev. Dr. Lewis continues: “The first revelation of ‘I Am’ is to a woman.” She responds to ‘I Am’ by speaking her witness. Without all the answers and in spite of her marginalized status, she nevertheless persists in advocacy. She leaves her water jar behind and says, “Come and see.”


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Trauma Informed Preaching: A Case Study of Jezebel

Rev. Dr. Irie Session

Rev. Dr. Irie Session gave a compelling presentation, “Trauma Informed Preaching: A Case Study of Jezebel,” at the “Unauthorized: Nevertheless, She Preached” event. Rev. Dr. Session, a womanist preacher and theologian and ordained Disciples of Christ pastor, currently serves as Director of Training & Spiritual Support for New Friends New Life, an organization that restores and empowers formerly trafficked girls and sexually exploited women and children.

The “Me, Too” campaign, recently gone viral on social media but originally created by a black woman named Tarana Burke 10 years ago, further underscores the urgency of Rev. Dr. Irie’s message about women’s universal experience of the trauma of abuse. She connects traditional patriarchal readings of biblical texts to the abuse of women, as do many who tell their “Me, Too” stories. She emphasizes reinterpreting biblical texts so that they empower instead of oppress women. “When we preach Good News,” she says, “we must make sure it’s Good News for everyone in the house, because everyone has experienced some trauma.”

As a womanist preacher and theologian, Rev. Dr. Irie empowers women and  dismantles patriarchy. Womanism, she says, is “situated in the intersections of race, class, and gender oppression and recovers black women as equal partners,” and womanist preaching is “trauma informed.” Trauma informed womanist preaching asks this question: “Who experiences trauma and who dishes it out?” Trauma informed womanist preaching examines “what happens to people, not what’s wrong with people.” Womanist preaching “is prophetic because it exposes patriarchal oppression in certain biblical texts.” Womanist preaching mines biblical texts for “women’s self-love, communal concerns, strength, resiliency, creativity, and ingenuity.”

Rev. Dr. Irie urges us to recognize that “there is trauma in the pews; people are hurting; people are wounded.” Because what we “say behind the pulpit has great power, we must take care how we preach the texts.” She asks, “Will our preaching repair or revictimize survivors of trauma?” This is a question she hopes to ask every week for the rest of her life.

In her preaching and teaching Rev. Dr. Irie empowers women by re-examining biblical stories. She believes in the power of the Bible to bring death or life. On her website she explains: “I believe the church has traditionally interpreted and taught the Bible in a manner that devalues women and girls. Such interpretations adversely affect their survival and ability to experience wholeness. As a result, certain biblical passages have become death dealing for women and girls. As a womanist, I am committed to the survival and wholeness of entire people. Therefore, I teach the Bible to liberate both men and women. I teach the Bible to highlight God’s love for every human being. I teach the Bible to summon life from dead places. I teach for resurrection.”

At the “Nevertheless, She Preached” event, Rev. Dr. Irie re-examines the story of Jezebel, one of the most misunderstood and despised women in the Bible. According to the CEB Women’s Bible, Jezebel has become a symbol for “uncontrolled female power and unrestrained sexuality,” even though the Old Testament story portrays her as a “devoted spouse.” Like many other biblical females, Jezebel has long been defamed, demeaned, and misinterpreted. The name “Jezebel” has been used as a derogatory epithet to denounce and shame women. When Rev. Julie Pennington-Russell became the first woman to pastor a Baptist church in Texas, outside protesters came with picket signs that referred to her as “Jezebel.”

Rev. Dr. Irie reclaims and revalues Jezebel as a woman who “resisted adopting the traditional role of women” in her time. “Even though Jezebel lived in a time when women were voiceless, when daddy could just give you to whoever he wanted to give you to, when you had no rights of your own, she refused to surrender her identity.” Jezebel “refused to take on the religion of her husband,” remaining faithful to her own religion to her death.

Jezebel shows us what a woman can do “when she’s oppressed, put in a box,” Rev. Dr. Irie says. “When we feel oppressed, when we feel that we have no voice, when we feel that we have been subjugated, something within us will rise up. Something will happen in us that we will not feel comfortable with that. Now we may go along to get along for a little while. But something about that just doesn’t feel right, and it ought not feel right because God didn’t make us to be dominated.” Something within us will help us rise up and resist.

Here is a short video clip from Rev. Dr. Irie’s powerful presentation:

Jezebel: A Case Study from Dr. Irie Lynne Session on Vimeo.

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Sheroes in the Faith: Rising Above Adversity

Rev. Jewel London

Rev. Jewel London gave an outstanding presentation, “Sheroes in the Faith: Rising Above Adversity,” at the “Unauthorized: Nevertheless, She Preached” event in Waco, Texas. Rev. London, a minister at The Church Without Walls  in Houston, Texas, inspired us by lifting up current women who have overcome obstacles to fulfill their call to ministry.

Pastor Tabatha C. Whitten


Pastor Tabatha C. Whitten: Founder and pastor of Remnant Fellowship Church in Houston, Texas, she is also a licensed social worker and has worked with troubled youth and their families for over 20 years. She preaches the Gospel in prisons and cares for the poor, and ministers to families through a company she established called L.I.F.E. (Living Intentionally For Eternity). She is also a writer, vocalist, and producer.




Rev. Dr. Claudette A. Copeland

Rev. Dr. Claudette A. Copeland: In spite of those who argue that women shouldn’t preach, nevertheless, she preaches and co-pastors New Creation Christian Fellowship in San Antonio, Texas. She and her husband were the first African American clergy couple in the history of the U.S. Military Chaplaincy. She has ministered in Haiti, South Africa, West Africa and East Africa, and is the founder of a national empowerment group for women.

Rev. Dr. Pam Durso

Rev. Dr. Pam Durso: Executive Director of Baptist Woman in Ministry (BWIM), she is a strong, tireless advocate and resource for women serving in all areas of Christian ministry. Currently serving as adjunct faculty at McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta, she edited and contributed to This Is What A Preacher Looks Like: Sermons by Baptist Women in Ministry. She and Rev. London serve together on the BWIM leadership team.

Rev. Dr. Traci Blackmon

Rev. Dr. Traci Blackmon: Director of the United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries, she is an active campaigner for civil rights and the rights of women in the United States. She is the first woman pastor in the 156-year history of Christ the King United Church of Christ in Florissant, Missouri. A powerful voice for social change, she is a courageous and visionary leader in the Black Lives Matter movement, and she ministers to underserved women and children.

Pastor Dianne Dabney

Pastor Dianne Dabney: Ordained through the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (P.A.W.) in the mid-nineties, she pastors Life N The Word Church in Houston, Texas. Overcoming obstacles, she has preached in many churches and in a prison ministry. She is also the founder of Helpers One to Another Ministries.


Rev. Dr. Gina Stewart


Rev. Dr. Gina M. Stewart: She overcame obstacles of sexism to become the first African American female pastor in Memphis, Tennessee. In addition to serving as pastor of Christ Missionary Baptist Church, she serves as Faculty Mentor for the United Theological Seminary Doctor of Ministry Program, Visiting Professor of Practical Theology for the Samuel D. Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University, and Co-Convener for the Women in Ministry Conference. She was the first female to receive the Carter G. Woodson Award from Southwest Community College.

Pastor Julie Pennington-Russell

Pastor Julie Pennington-Russell: She was the first woman to pastor a Baptist church in Texas. On her first Sunday as pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Waco, people came from outside the city to protest in opposition to a woman pastor. Nevertheless, she became a prominent preacher, currently serving as pastor of The First Baptist Church of the City of Washington, D.C. Her sermons have been featured on television and radio broadcasts and at the Festival of Homiletics.

Rev. Dr. Cynthia L. Hale

Rev. Dr. Cynthia L. Hale: Some people questioned her call to preach and she also struggled with her call because she hadn’t seen women preach. Nevertheless, she preached. And she became the founder and pastor of a Disciples of Christ church that now has 5000 members. She developed the national Women in Ministry Conference, was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships, and was inducted into the African American Biographies Hall of Fame.


Rev. Sharnelle Jones

Rev. Sharnelle Jones: She was in a church that doesn’t affirm women’s call to ordained ministry. Nevertheless, she claimed her call and was ordained by another church. She is a spiritual counselor and chaplain with Harbor Healthcare Hospice in Houston, Texas. She created “Be Great Now!,” a one-day event where five eleven-year-old girls spend four hours learning and exploring how to exercise their dreams and career goals.

Rev. Cheryl Young Archer

Rev. Cheryl Young Archer: The pastor of her home church opposed her ordination. Nevertheless, she preached, and she served as Women’s Staff Chaplain of Harris County Jail in Houston for ten years. Founder and president of Mannequin Ministries, she reaches out to women in jails and prisons who have been abused. Having experienced healing from abuse herself, she brings healing to other women.




“Nevertheless, She Preached” participants praying for Rev. Jewel London

Rev. London had to leave right after her presentation to go back to Houston to minister to victims of Hurricane Harvey. We all gathered around her to pray that she would have strength and wisdom for this ministry. She says, “This was one of the most encouraging and loving moments in my entire ministry career.”


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Subversive Sisters: A Herstory of Our Foremothers

Rev. Dr. Courtney Pace

“Unauthorized: Nevertheless, She Preached” exceeded all expectations of organizers Rev. Kyndall Rae Rothaus and Rev. Natalie Webb. They launched a facebook page with a really cool logo and t-shirt, designed by artist Rev. Heather Mooney, and within a few days they had the conference fully funded. They raised enough money to bring amazing speakers, including Rev. Dr. Courtney Pace, church history professor from Memphis Theological Seminary and board member of the national, ecumenical Equity for Women in the Church.


Rev. Dr. Courtney Pace gave a compelling presentation titled “Subversive Sisters: A Herstory of Our Foremothers.” She began by supporting her statement that “patriarchy is at the root of every systemic evil, including slavery, racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, and every other form of oppression.”

Nevertheless—in spite of patriarchal oppression women down through the centuries have answered God’s call to preach, teach, write, and lead in ministry. Rev. Dr. Pace drew from diaries, journals, and other publications to reclaim and celebrate the stories of some of these “subversive sisters.” She challenged us also to publish in order to “establish our voices in unerasable form.”

It was inspiring to hear about these faith-filled foremothers who courageously resisted, persisted, preached, and advocated.

Christina of Markyate

Christina of Markyate (c.1097- c.1155): She had deep faith from the time she was a child and made a private vow of chastity. Her mother arranged for her to be raped so she would have to marry. But she dressed herself as a man to escape. She became an anchoress and Prioress of St. Albans Abbey at Markyate in England.





Beguines (13th-14th centuries): These religiously dedicated laywomen lived together in simplicity, chastity, and prayer. They were financially independent, so their own visions were unregulated by ecclesiastical authorities. They described the Divine in female names and images, and questioned gender norms.

Marguerite Porete

Marguerite Porete (1250-1310): She was a French mystic, believed by historians to have been associated with the Beguines. She authored The Mirror of Simple Souls, in which she espoused the centrality of divine love. Refusing to remove her book from circulation or recant her views, she was jailed as a heretic and then burned at the stake.



Teresa of Avila


Teresa of Avila (1515-1582): Spanish mystic and Carmelite nun, she worked within the system to change it. She was a reformer in the Carmelite Order and taught contemplation and active charity. Her theological works include The Interior Castle. She had to defend what she wrote against power plays to discredit her work, but she was finally canonized in 1989.


Sor Juana Ines De La Cruz

Sor Juana Ines De La Cruz (1651-1695): A Hieronymite nun during Mexico’s colonial period, she became a nun so she could study and write. She critiqued male leaders as not being true to biblical texts. In her convent cell, she amassed one of the largest private libraries in the New World. She criticized the misogyny of church leaders who taught that women shouldn’t write theology, and she was silenced and forced to divest herself of her library.


Marguerite d’Youville.


Marguerite d’Youville (1701-1771): A French Canadian widow, she founded the Order of Sisters of Charity of Montreal. She established and directed a hospital and an orphanage. She was called a heretic because she would help anyone, but she was finally canonized in 1990.



Anne Hutchinson


Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643): A Puritan charismatic teacher, she drew large crowds of women and men to her meetings. Religious leaders accused her of heresy because she claimed grace to be separate from works, but they were really objecting to her gender, believing that she shouldn’t be teaching men. Also accused of witchcraft, she was tried and banished from Massachusetts Bay Colony.


Jarena Lee

Jarena Lee (1783-1864): She walked thousands of miles on her itinerant preaching tours. When she was first called to preach, she told the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Richard Allen, but he refused to let her preach because she was a woman. Later she became the first woman authorized to preach by Allen, but she continued to face hostility to her preaching because of her race and gender. She was the first African American woman to have an autobiography published in the United States. She was not ordained in the AME denomination until posthumously in 2016.

Maria Fearing


Maria Fearing (1838-1937): Born a slave in Alabama, she learned to read and write when she was freed and went on to graduate from Freedman’s Bureau School. She became a successful teacher and then a Presbyterian missionary. Failing to get support from the denomination, she financed her own mission work in the Congo as a teacher and Bible translator for twenty years. She became known as “Mother from far away.”



Lucy Farrow

Lucy Farrow (1851-1911): Born into slavery in Virginia, she became a prominent holiness pastor. In spite of experiencing prejudice and injustice, she became an important voice in Pentecostalism and sparked a revival in Los Angeles that spread across the world. She was the first African American to be recorded as having spoken in tongues. She helped others receive the Holy Spirit and the gift of glossalalia. On a preaching tour to Liberia, she continued her powerful ministry.



Helen Barrett Montgomery

Helen Barrett Montgomery (1861-1934): In 1921, she was elected as the first woman president of the Northern Baptist Convention, the first woman to become president of any religious denomination in the United States. A social reformer, educator, and writer, she was the first woman scholar to publish a translation of the New Testament. She helped women in the United States become aware of unjust conditions of women around the world.



Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day (1897-1980): Journalist and social activist, she co-founded the Catholic Worker Movement to combine direct aid for the poor and nonviolent activism on their behalf. She was also an activist in the pacifist and women’s suffrage movements. Practicing civil disobedience, she was imprisoned for her women’s suffrage activism and arrested many times when advocating for other social justice causes. She has been considered for canonization, but some have objected because she wasn’t a virgin.


Ida B. Wells-Barnett

Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1862-1931): Born a slave in Mississippi, she became an early leader in the Civil Rights Movement. She was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). A journalist, she led an anti-lynching crusade through her writing and was active in the women’s rights and women’s suffrage movements. She criticized the temperance movement for not letting black women participate. Her work contributed to waking Southerners’ conscience about race.

Nannie Helen Burroughs


Nannie Helen Burroughs (1879-1961): An educator, religious leader, and social justice activist, she founded in 1909 the National Training School for Women and Girls in Washington, DC, the first school in the nation to provide vocational training for African American females who otherwise had few educational opportunities. An activist for wage equality and women’s equality, she gave a speech titled “How the Sisters Are Hindered from Helping,” at the 1900 National Baptist Convention.


Prathia Hall

Prathia Hall (1940-2002): Civil Rights Movement leader and womanist theologian, she was one of the first African American women ordained by the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. Courageous in civil rights activism, she was arrested many times, shot at, wounded, and jailed for weeks. Nevertheless, she persisted. Nevertheless, she preached. Active in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), she was head of the Selma Project and the Atlanta Project, training many Northern white college students. Her repetition of “I have a dream” in a public prayer inspired Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech. She spoke with such power that MLK once remarked, “Prathia Hall is one speaker I prefer not to follow.” For many years Rev. Dr. Courtney Pace has been researching and writing about Rev. Dr. Prathia Hall and is currently completing a book on her. In an article Courtney writes: “Little did I know at the beginning of this journey that Prathia would become a spiritual mother to me, a ‘shero’ who continues to inspire me about the real meaning of life and faith.”

After presenting this stirring “herstory of our foremothers,” Rev. Dr. Pace left us with this challenge: “What will young people see in us? I want to leave a legacy of bold resistance and persistence for social justice.”

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