(Sound noisemakers)O Sophia, Source of all life, You have given us the gift of creativity. By your power, may we use our creativity for good. Cause justice must be done! (Sound noisemakers) O Sophia, River of life, You have quenched our thirst with abundant resources. By your power, may we quench every creatures’ thirst. Cause justice must be done! (Sound noisemakers) O Sophia, Co-Creator of the universe, You have blessed us with freedom. By your power, may we free the oppressed in the land. Cause justice must be done! (Sound noisemakers) O Sophia, Spirit of all that lives, You have shown us the way of righteousness. By your power, may we live righteously in every breath. Cause justice must be done! (Sound noisemakers) Cause justice must be done! (Sound noisemakers) Cause justice must be done!
A New Journey As we embark on this journey, we begin our new lives. The dawn breaks, and hope ignites for restoration. We reflect on our old lives and begin anew. The sun rises, And our spirits connect with all. Gathering the water of life, we wipe away our tears. We embark on a new journey with the Sophia of life we hold dear.
Seated in a circle with women and men in a beautiful room with stained glass windows at Grace United Methodist Church, Christina Cavener leads this liberating liturgy which she has created. She cleaned up and transformed this room that was not being used at the church. She also transforms Christian liturgy with her creative Feminine Divine Worship services.
Christina’s personal experience contributed to her passion for including female divine imagery in worship. “Growing up in a Presbyterian church with exclusive male language for God caused me to internalize that I was less holy than men,” she says. “I also felt that God could not quite identify with my experiences, and so I became increasingly distant from the God I knew. This inflicted so much pain on my spirituality that I began to doubt the mere existence of God.”
Remaining active in church as an undergraduate at Texas Woman’s University, Christina served as assistant youth director at First United Methodist Church in Rockwall, Texas, and as publicity director for the Denton Wesley Foundation. After completing her Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and women’s studies, she served as a missionary in the Congo from August of 2008 to May of 2009. During these months, her spiritual struggles intensified.
“In a desperate attempt to revive my spirituality and discover the God in whom I yearned to believe, I enrolled at Southern Methodist University Perkins School of Theology. It was during this academic journey that I was able to reconcile my theology with my experiences. God was no longer a distant, domineering Father who watched my every move, but a loving liberator of the oppressed in whom we live and move and have our being. God is Sophia, the Wisdom of the cosmos who seeks justice and indwells in all of creation.”
In August of 2009 when she began studying at Perkins School of Theology, Christina joined the staff of Grace United Methodist Church. In May of 2011, she completed her Master of Theological Studies degree with a certificate in women’s studies. In October of 2011, she initiated the Feminine Divine Worship services at the church.
To be true to biblical revelation, Christina believes it is vital to include female divine language and symbolism in the church. “There has not always been exclusive language for the Divine. The Bible is chock-full of various names and images—both feminine and masculine—for God that have been used in worship. Sexism has caused society to eradicate or simply ignore the biblical use of feminine images and names for God historically and into the present.”
Christina says that exclusively masculine imagery limits and distorts the nature of the Divine. “Referring to the Divine exclusively as male creates a confinement of God’s identity. When we label the Divine exclusively as ‘Father,’ ‘King,’ or ‘Lord,’ we limit the ways we can express the multiplicity that God really is. The more names we can use to describe the Divine, the further we are from idolatry. I agree with Mary Daly when she states, ‘If God is male, then male is God.’ If we only refer to God as male, then we are worshipping males. Instead, we should create as many names and images as we can conceive, including the Divine Feminine, to describe a multifaceted God beyond our linguistic comprehension.”
Working to expand understanding and experience of the Divine, Christina began with her youth ministry. She comments: “As a youth minister, I believe it is imperative that teenagers see themselves in the image of God. Youth experience a lot of difficulties in being comfortable with their identities. They are often ostracized, judged for their appearances, or excluded. Therefore, it is important for them to know that they are beloved creations of the Divine. This is why I began to write my own curriculum and worship services that include the Feminine Divine among other names for God.”
Then Christina began creating Feminine Divine Worship services for adults at Grace United Methodist and for others in the community. Although Christina says that Grace United Methodist is her “favorite church” in Dallas, she saw a need that was not being fulfilled through the traditional services of the church. In order to include women and men who are active in churches on Sunday morning, she schedules the Feminine Divine Worship services on Saturday morning.
Participants have affirmed the life-changing power of these services. “People do not always realize they need something different for their spirituality until they experience it,” Christina says. “Even though we may have a logical understanding that God is not a giant male living in the distant heavens, we do not realize the effect ritual has on our spirituality. Worship forms us and we embody it in our daily lives.”
“Exclusive male language in worship is the reason so many women feel less than holy or unable to identify with God. If God is male, then God cannot possibly understand me. If God is a domineering Father who punishes, then he is no different from my abusive dad. Worshiping the Feminine Divine opens the door for healing because it allows participants to experience what exclusive male language cannot offer: liberation from a male-dominated tradition and society.”
The Feminine Divine Worship services are bringing change to the church as well as to individual participants. Christina notes “small valuable improvements” in the worship services of Grace United Methodist Church. “The call to worship rarely refers to God as ‘Father’ or ‘Lord.’ The Senior Pastor now avoids male names for God. There are more conversations about why inclusive language is important. The people who do attend the Feminine Divine Worship services see them as integral to the church’s ministry.”
Christina acknowledges the risk she is taking by creating rituals that include female divine language and symbolism. “By simply using the Feminine Divine in ritual and conversation within the institution of the United Methodist Church, I am taking a risk. Institutions do not tolerate deviations from rules and doctrine without consequence.”
However, expansive liturgy is worth the risk to Christina because she believes it will bring liberating transformation not only to the church but to the wider culture. Including the Divine Feminine will contribute to “less sexualized and objectified images of women and girls” in the culture so that we all can claim our power in the image of the Divine.
Through a variety of ministries, Christina has been working to empower people. As a missionary, she has lived in the Democratic Republic of Congo for ten months, and has traveled to Haiti, Zambia, Cameroon, South Africa, Ireland, and Mexico to empower communities all over the globe. As an advocate, she serves as a trained Texas Woman’s University and Southern Methodist University ally to the LGBTIQ community and as a sexual assault advocate to survivors of violence.
Christina expresses an inspiring, hopeful vision for the future of the Divine Feminine in the church. “My vision is that there will no longer be any hesitancy to use the Divine Feminine during the ‘holy hour.’ When we can understand that in Christ there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female, then we will leave those hierarchies at the door. Sexism will no longer hinder our communities from seeing God in her fullest: as a multifaceted God who cannot be confined by our limited notions of God as exclusively male.”
Christina Cavener contributes to making this vision reality through her creative, prophetic ministry.