Reclaiming Sophia: “All Her paths are peace; She is a Tree of Life.”

The image of Sophia is prominent in some of my YouTube videos. People have asked, “Who is Sophia?”

Sophia, the Greek word for Wisdom, is a resurrected biblical feminine divine image that opens new possibilities for liberation, justice, and peace. 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 records Jesus’ saying, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus identifies with Wisdom (Sophia): “the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet Wisdom (Sophia) is vindicated by her deeds” (Matthew 11:19). Origen, a prominent early Christian writer, declared Sophia to be the most ancient and appropriate title for Jesus.

My book In Search of the Christ-Sophia: An Inclusive Christology for Liberating Christians gives a thorough explanation of the connection between Christ and Sophia (Wisdom) in Scripture and in Christian tradition.

Sophia is one of the most powerful biblical Divine Feminine images. “Mother” may be an ambivalent image for some people, depending on their experiences with their own mothers or with the image of Mary. Wisdom, Sophia, helps us experience our own wisdom more powerfully. Sophia invites us to develop a partnership relationship with Her.

Even though Wisdom (Hokmah, Sophia) is a prominent name for God in the Bible, She is ignored and excluded in most congregations. Just as women have been excluded from leadership and still are in numerous congregations, Divine Wisdom may be excluded from worship because the Bible presents Divine Wisdom as female and refers to Divine Wisdom as “She.” Also, people don’t always want to know about Her paths of peace and justice “All Her paths are peace. She is a tree of life” (Proverbs 3:17-18). Sophia is one of the many biblical female images of God. Including these female images along with other biblical divine images to create gender-balanced worship will expand our spiritual experience and contribute to equality and justice in human relationships.

The pictures in my videos celebrate diversity in race, culture, and gender.

“Wisdom Sophia” by Mirta Toledo

One of these images, “Wisdom Sophia” by Mirta Toledo, blends races and illustrates what Rev. Rebecca Kiser calls “gender-full.” (See Rebecca’s story in Changing Church: Stories of Liberating Ministers and on my blog.  The videos also include pictures of people from a variety of races and genders to emphasize that the truth of Sophia (Wisdom) brings healing and freedom to everyone.

 

 

May these videos increase your hope and your experience of Sophia’s power to set us all free to be all we’re meant to be!

 

 

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Dallas Women’s March 2018

David Clanton

Arriving an hour early for the Dallas Women’s March, David and I found a spot in the parking lot of St. Paul United Methodist Church, where thousands of women, woke men, and children were gathering. As at the Austin Women’s March I participated in last year, the diverse crowd at this year’s Dallas Women’s March included various ages, genders, races, gender identities, religions, and abilities.

 

 

Colette, Akira, Nikko, and Zayden Numajiri

 

 

 

 

Amy Martin

Another advantage of arriving early was time to see friends, make new friends, and take pictures of people holding creative, colorful signs. Some of my favorite signs: Painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe with “We Are Sacred” on the other side of the sign; “Tried to bury us, did not know we were seeds”;  “Time’s Up! Women’s Rights=Human Rights”; “Trust Women”; “Code Pink: Women for Peace”; “Unlearn Racism”; “Rise, Resist”; “This Great-Grandma and her friends are persistent and we vote”; “Feminism is the radical notion that women are human.” I was delighted to connect with Amy Martin, Carolyn Henson, Pam Reinke-Walter, Ed and Amy and Penelope Meier, Rabbi Nancy Kasten (see her powerful blessing later in this blogpost), and other activist friends. And I finally found Colette, Akira, Zayden, and Nikko Numajiro, wonderful friends and colleagues in New Wineskins Feminist Ritual Community.

Carolyn Henson and daughter, Cammy Henson Dunford

Florence Quillin, and daughter, Laura Olivo

Isabel Docampo, wearing her “Nevertheless She Preached” shirt

I’d planned to meet Florence Quillin and Isabel Docampo, also great friends and colleagues in New Wineskins and Equity for Women in the Church. We kept texting back and forth, but in the sea of people we couldn’t find each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the march we moved slowly along, taking almost an hour for the large crowd of people—some in wheelchairs, some on walkers, and some in baby strollers—to go a mile. Everyone was peaceful and kind and polite. Along the way we chanted and sang. The most popular chant was:
“Tell me what democracy looks like; this is what democracy looks like.”

Other chants included:
“Women, united, will never be divided!”
“When women are under attack, what do we do? Stand up and fight back!”
Refugees are here to stay! Welcome them in every way!”
“Don’t give in to racist fears; immigrants are welcome here!”
“Child care, health care, education: women fight for liberation!”
“C’mon, c’mon, join the fight: equal pay is a basic right!”
“1, 2, 3, 4, Patriarchy has to go! 5, 6, 7, 8, Women’s rights are at stake”
“We’re women, say it loud. We vote and we’re proud!”

The focus of the 2018 Dallas Women’s March, joining hundreds of thousands in marches around the nation and world, was preserving and expanding our democracy. One of the slogans was: “Last year we marched, this year we run.” Many women and feminist men running for office participated in this year’s Dallas Women’s March, and many signs, like “Power to the Polls,” encouraged everyone to vote. One of the purposes of this second march was to get people to the polls. This year’s march was also energized by the “MeToo” and “Time’s Up!” movements to stop sexual harassment and sexual assault.

At the rally at Pike Park, the crowd responded with enthusiasm to the diverse group of speakers. All the speakers challenged women and everyone else to vote, as well to advocate for women’s rights and other justice issues.

Rabbi Nancy Kasten

Rabbi Nancy Kasten, community activist and co-chair of Faith Forward Dallas, gave an inspiring invocation as she stood by a sign that read: “Resisting tyrants since Pharoah.” She compared Miriam’s vital role in saving her nation to women of today who resist injustice to save lives. She was kind to send me her blessing with permission to publish it here:

“Her name was Miriam, and she joined the resistance at a very young age. As an Israelite girl living in the shadow of the royal palace, legend suggests she was one of two midwives who saved the male babies whom Pharoah had sentenced to death for the crime of being born. She went on to rescue Moses from the Nile and deliver him to Pharoah’s daughter, creating a sacred bond between women that crossed ethnic, class and religious lines in the name of saving a life, and, ultimately, a nation.

Her name was Miriam, and without her, there would have been no redemption. Her choice to act was rooted in moral reason, in an ethical concern for life, and in the capacity for deep empathy and compassion.* She knew that Pharoah had crossed a line that must not be crossed, and so she engaged in an act of civil disobedience. Whether saving babies from the Nile, or protecting Dreamers from deportation, women throughout history have dared to defy the male tyrant because we know what is demanded of us- demanded not only by our God, but by our babies, by our precious children, whom we have borne into the world and whose humanity we have a duty to protect and defend. Once again, in this time and in this place, women are called upon to set the wheels of redemption in motion. And as we do so, we must resist the human impulse to sacrifice compassion for the sake of power. Our power is rooted in our compassion. Without it, we lose.

We march today to let our oppressors know that we refuse to sacrifice the dignity and agency of the born of any race, gender, nationality, or faith tradition, while making the unborn into a false idol. We are here to say, “Me, Too,” in solidarity with women who are treated as disposable property, and in solidarity with women who claim their power by helping others to claim theirs.

And we are here today also to claim the legacy of that same Miriam, who led the women in celebration when they reached freedom’s shore. Miriam is mentioned 14 times in the Hebrew bible. But the only time she is referred to as a prophet is when she leads the women in song and dance after crossing the Sea of Reeds. In doing so she reminds us that we cannot wait to celebrate until redemption comes, until the work is complete -until we enter the Promised Land. Just a taste of the world to come encourages us to continue the work, knowing that we are not alone, knowing that redemption lies ahead. Today we sing and dance as we march together as one, in joy and in gratitude for this blessed community.

Holy One of Blessing, we pray that our steps this day will lead ourselves, our families, our city, our state and our country toward wholeness, justice, and peace. Be with us as we make our way, and lift our hearts toward you now and always.”

*Phrase adapted from Susan Niditch, “Another View” in The Torah, A Women’s Commentary” p. 324

Rev. Lucretia Facen

Rev. Lucretia Facen, senior pastor of New World United Methodist Church in Garland, Texas, also gave a powerful blessing. She kindly sent me a written copy of her prayer with permission to publish it here; in her email she included this note: “It doesn’t match word for word what I prayed at the march. Things change in the moment, and I try to allow God’s Spirit freedom. Here’s what I wrote”:

“Gracious, Loving, Life-Giving and Eternal God
We thank you for your presence among us this day
We thank you for this amazing event
Where women from all walks of life have gathered to affirm our right to be
For we live in a world that often devalues us, denigrates us and denies our worth
Yet we gather today to affirm and assert our right to “Be”
We have the right to Be valued
We have the right to Be powerful
We have the right to Be respected
We have the right to Be free from harassment
We have the right to Be safe in our own homes
We have the right today to Be advocates of justice and equality for all women
Because We are created in Your divine image
Therefore, we have the right to “Be”………all that you have created us to “Be”
And today we come together to be strengthened, to be encouraged, to be empowered, to be reminded that we are not alone
That You are with us
And since You are with us……who dare be against us…….
Bless us this day as we celebrate the gift of who we are
Bearers of Your image, Your light and Your love
In Your name we pray. Amen”

Representative Victoria Neave

Among the stirring speakers at the rally was Texas State Representative Victoria Neave, who organized the 2018 Dallas Women’s March, as well as the 2017 Dallas Women’s March. I’m proud that she’s our state representative and that in her first year in office, she’s helped pass legislation for women’s rights. Other rousing speakers included Representative Helen Giddings and County Commissioner Elba Garcia. 

Representative Helen Giddings

County Commissioner Elba Garcia

 

One of the march organizers, Rhetta Bowers, said, “Last year we said it was a moment, but it’s turned into a movement.“

 

carrying Christian Feminism Today (CFT) bag, filled with CFT and Equity for Women in the Church brochures to distribute

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Welcome to Nevertheless She Preached: Kyndall Rae Rothaus and Elizabeth Amondi Ligawa

Nevertheless She Preached, the dynamic grassroots preaching event in Waco, TX, is back! Registration is now open for the second celebration of women’s voices in the pulpit, September 24-25, 2018. Amazing preachers, like Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney and Rev. Julie Pennington-Russell, are already scheduled for this exciting event!

The first Nevertheless She Preached was an inspiring, empowering experience! Diverse, powerful voices proclaimed the Good News of liberation and inclusion of all, beginning with the welcome. Kyndall Rae Rothaus and Elizabeth Amondi Ligawa gave the most stirring, creative, inclusive welcome I’ve ever heard! Watch this video of the welcome:

Still getting chills from Kyndall Rae Rothaus and Elizabeth Amondi Ligawa and their powerful Spoken Word.

Posted by Nevertheless She Preached on Friday, September 15, 2017

Excerpts from Welcome:

You are welcome here!
Your body, your person, your presence, your gender are welcome here.
Your voice is welcome here.
Your calling, your gifts, your radiance are welcome here.
Your opinion is welcome here.
Your experience, your expertise are welcome here.
Your truth is welcome here.
Your questions are welcome here.
Your intellect is welcome here.
Your heart is welcome here.
There are no limits on your growth here.
Your strength is welcome here.
Your wounds, your struggles are welcome here.
Sisters and brothers and every delightful gender in between,
you are welcome in this place.

She was told she was too bossy, but
nevertheless, she preached.
She was told she was too timid, but
nevertheless, she preached.
She was told she was too loud,
she had too much to say,
too proud, but
nevertheless, she preached.
She was told emotions clouded her clarity, but
nevertheless, she preached.

Proclaimers of Welcome:

Rev. Elizabeth Amondi Ligawa

Rev. Elizabeth Amondi Ligawa is Director of Community Engagement at Prosper Waco, an organization with the mission of building an environment in which all members of the Waco community are able to measurably improve their education health, and financial security. She graduated from Baylor University with her Master of Social Work and from Truett Theological Seminary with her Master of Divinity. The focus of her graduate studies in social work was community practice.

Rev. Kyndall Rae Rothaus

Rev. Kyndall Rae Rothaus, senior pastor of Lake Shore Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, previously served as senior pastor of Covenant Baptist Church in San Antonio. A graduate of Truett Theological Seminary, she is the author of Preacher Breath (Smyth & Helwys, 2015). A pastor-poet, she is especially grieved by the plight of the marginalized and wishes to see the church become a safe haven and a reconciling force for all who are weary, wounded, and burdened.

 

 

Listen to sermons and lectures from the first Nevertheless She Preached event.

Equity for Women in the Church was a proud sponsor of this first Nevertheless She Preached event in 2017, and plans to continue collaborating with Nevertheless She Preached. We are teaming up on an exhibitor’s booth at the Texas Baptist Women in Ministry Conference.

You are all welcome to 2018 Nevertheless She Preached! Register now!

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Progressive Spirit Interview

Rev. John Shuck

John Shuck, Presbyterian pastor and radio show host, interviewed me for his show “Progressive Spirit.”

These are some of John’s questions I responded to in the interview:

(1) Many of your hymns include Christ-Sophia. Who is Christ-Sophia?
(2) How did you come to realize the importance of female imagery for God?
(3) Tell me more about your hymns and why you write new lyrics.
(4) Some feminists think the Bible is hopelessly misogynist, but you mine Scripture for female names and images of the Divine. Why do you use the Bible in your feminist work?
(5) You have a new Christmas CD, Sing of Peace. Do you find that churches are using these Christmas carols and your other hymns with feminine divine images?
(6) How did your recently published book Intercultural Ministry: Hope for a Changing World, co-edited with Grace Ji-Sun Kim, come to be? How do you distinguish between “intercultural” and “multicultural”?
(7) What is your experience of intercultural ministry?
(8) How can we be more inclusive of transgender people in rituals and hymns?

Here are songs with my lyrics included in the show:

(1) “Come Now, O Wisdom,” from Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians, performed by Pullen Memorial Baptist Church Chancel Choir, Raleigh, North Carolina, conducted by Larry E. Schultz
(2) “Sound Forth the News That Wisdom Comes,” from Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians, performed by Shannon Kincaid
(3) “Listen, Wisdom Is Calling,” from Imagine God! A Children’s Musical Exploring and Expressing Images of God, tune composed by Larry E. Schultz, performed by The Lodge
(4) “What Wondrous Thing,” from Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians and Sing of Peace CD, performed by Devi Vaani: Alison Newvine, Dionne Kohler, Kathleen Neville-Fritz, Lana Dalberg
(5) “Follow Her Peaceful Ways,” from Earth Transformed with Music: Inclusive Songs for Worship, tune composed by Larry E. Schultz, performed by Pullen Memorial Baptist Church Chancel Choir, Raleigh, North Carolina
(6) “O Holy Darkness, Loving Womb,” from Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians, performed by Shannon Kincaid
(7) “Mother Eagle, Teach Us to Fly,” from Imagine God! A Children’s Musical Exploring and Expressing Images of God, tune composed by Larry E. Schultz, performed by The Lodge

Brent Landau 3:00 – 14:08 Jann Aldredge-Clanton 14:08-54:00

 

 

Rev. John Shuck with Pippa

Rev. John Shuck currently serves as pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church in Beaverton, Oregon. Since his ordination in 1992, he has served congregations in Lowville, New York; Billings, Montana; and Elizabethton, Tennessee.  He is a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary. John has been involved in the work of the Westar Institute (the Jesus Seminar). John is proud that Southminster engages spirituality and critical thinking. John is a signatory of the Clergy Letter Project that advocates scientific literacy including teaching Evolutionary Theory. He hosts a weekly radio show “Progressive Spirit” and a monthly show on 90.7 KBOO “Beloved Community.” One of John’s passions is advocacy for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons in the church and in society. He is honored to serve a congregation that is More Light and fully inclusive.

John and Beverly have a daughter, Katy, who lives in Johnson City, Tennessee, with her wife, Amber, who are in turn parents of Pippa. Beverly and John are also the proud parents of Zachary Andrew Shuck, who passed away on June 28th, 2012.

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Caroling for Gender and Racial Justice

This Christmas season gives us a wonderful opportunity to sing carols for gender and racial justice. Our music can contribute to racial equality as well as gender equality.

Worship language and symbolism all too often contribute to racism as well as sexism. In many hymns, prayers, scripture readings, and sermons, images of darkness carry negative connotations while images of light carry positive connotations. Visual images of a white God fill many churches. This symbolism gives greatest value to white people while devaluing people of color.

Multicultural visual images of Deity and language that symbolizes darkness as creative bounty and beauty contribute to racial equality by affirming the equal sacred value of people of color. The Creative Spirit works in the darkness of the night, the earth, the womb. Multicultural images of Deity intersect with female images of Deity to form a foundation for equality and justice.

“O Holy Darkness, Loving Womb” images darkness as a sacred well of richest beauty. This song draws from Isaiah 45:3 that celebrates “the treasures of darkness” and from the Hebrew word rahum, usually translated “compassion” in the Bible, but Hebrew Bible scholar Phyllis Trible shows that it’s more accurately translated “womb-love.” The treasures of Her darkness inspire us all to claim our sacredness and to affirm the sacredness in all others.

O Holy Darkness, loving Womb, who nurtures and creates,
sustain us through the longest night with dreams of open gates.
We move inside to mystery that in our center dwells,
where streams of richest beauty flow from sacred, living wells.
 
Creative Darkness, closest Friend, you whisper in the night;
you calm our fears as unknown paths surprise us with new sight.
We marvel at your bounty, your gifts so full and free,
unfolding as you waken us to new reality.
 
O Holy Night of deepest bliss, we celebrate your power;
infuse us with your energy that brings our seeds to flower.
The voice out of the darkness excites our warmest zeal
to bring together dark and light, true holiness reveal.
 
O come to us, Sophia; your image, black and fair,
stirs us to end injustice and the wounds of earth repair.
The treasures of your darkness and riches of your grace
inspire us to fulfill our call, our sacredness embrace.

Words  © Jann Aldredge-Clanton, from Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians (Eakin Press, 2006)

Vocal Artist: Shannon Kincaid

Visual Artists:

Stacy Boorn: “Mystery,” “Smokey Sky,” “Mother & Child,” “Dancing after Work at ‘Speak I’m Listening,’” “Streams,” “Sunset,” “Feather Dance,” “Sunrise Crete,” “Holy Night,” “Addis Ababa Market Vendors,” “Seeds to Flower,” and “LightDarkness” © Stacy Boorn. Used with permission.
David Clanton: “Garden for Good or Evil” © David M. Clanton. Used with permission.
Mirta Toledo: “Sophia” © 2003 Mirta Toledo
Shannon Kincaid: “Oprah & Child”
Elizabeth Zedaran: “Flow”

Instrumentalists:

Keyboard: Ron DiIulio
Guitar: Danny Hubbard
Bass & Percussion: Jerry Hancock

Music Producer/Arranger: Ron DiIulio

The next carol “Ancient Wisdom, Mother of Earth” contributes to racial and gender equality by celebrating multicultural female names for Deity.

“Wisdom” is an ancient divine name, common to many religions and cultures. She is Hokmah in the Hebrew Bible, Hikmah in Arabic in the Quran, and Sophia in the Greek New Testament. Visual images of Wisdom have traditionally been dark or a combination of dark and light. This song also affirms the sacred value of people of color by praising Black Madonna and Our Lady of Guadalupe. The final stanza links races and genders in equal sacred value through the name “Christ-Sophia,” who connects the Jewish Jesus with Wisdom (Sophia) in both ancient and hellenized Judaism and draws from both Egyptian and Greek sacred symbols.

Ancient Wisdom, Mother of earth, bringing all creation to birth,
with Her power, we will flower, feeling our sacred worth.

Black Madonna, Mother of all, loving us whatever befalls,
always guiding and abiding, within our hearts She calls.

Guadalupe, Lady and Queen, from Her holy treasures we glean;
She is healing and revealing more than we’ve ever seen.

Christ-Sophia, Mystery of Old, in our souls Her blessings unfold,
Love abiding, always guiding into a future bold.

REFRAIN:

O now return to Her for peace;
hope and justice will increase.
Re-creating, liberating, She will all our dreams release.

Words © Jann Aldredge-Clanton; Music © Devi Vaani,
from Sing of Peace

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

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