Hersay: Songs for Healing and Empowerment

During these challenging days there are many things we can’t do. But there are also so many things we can do to bring healing and peace to ourselves, others, and the world.

We may connect with others online and on phone calls, participate in worship services online, do some kinds of work online, read inspiring books, take online courses, watch uplifting videos, create, exercise, and eat nutritious food. We can practice social distancing and wear masks to keep ourselves and others safe. We may choose to donate to food banks, to World Health Organization, and to other organizations and churches ministering to people. We can pray and support medical caregivers and other essential workers and others.

And we can sing! Singing has great power to bring peace, healing, and empowerment.

Hersay: Songs for Healing and Empowerment has just come out! I collaborated on this collection with Katie Ketchum, lead musician at Ebenezer/herchurch Lutheran in San Francisco. Ruah, the Creative Spirit, called us to write these songs, and She energized and guided our creative flow. We believe that She also guided the release of this collection for such a time as this.

This new collection of 60 songs originated in response to a request Katie received from a music minister for songs inclusive of the Divine Feminine set to Taizé chant tunes. He had used some of my songs with lyrics including female divine names and images, and he wondered if there were any to Taizé tunes. Since I hadn’t written any songs to these tunes, Katie suggested that we collaborate in writing some. But we discovered that all the Taizé tunes are under copyright. So Katie created new tunes in the musical styles of Taizé and other chant traditions, and I created lyrics that include female divine names and images. Katie and Stacy Boorn, pastor of Ebenezer/herchurch Lutheran, also created some of the lyrics.

The title of this collection, Hersay, comes from our excitement about meeting the need for Divine Feminine lyrics to tunes in the style of Taizé. Like Taizé and chants from other cultures, the songs in Hersay are simple and short, sung repeatedly and sometimes in canon. Also, like Taizé, many of the songs in our collection draw from the Psalms and other biblical literature and are intended for singing in multicultural communities.

Distinctive characteristics of Hersay songs are the inclusivity of the lyrics and the versatility of the style. The lyrics include female names and images of the Divine, such as “Mother,” Sophia, and Ruah, whereas Taizé lyrics have mostly male names and images of Deity. Also, Hersay lyrics change the traditional symbolism of darkness as evil and light as good to symbolism of both darkness and light as good, as sacred and holy. In addition, most Taizé chants have only one verse sung over and over, but Hersay is versatile in that many of the songs have more than one verse. Groups can choose one of the verses and sing it over and over as a chant, sing all the verses as a song, or sing any combination of verses in the style they choose.

Hersay brings peace, healing, and empowerment through songs with lyrics inclusive of the Divine Feminine. Female names and images of the Divine heal the wounds of patriarchal oppression and violence, and empower us to create a just and peaceful world. Singing calms the mind and body, bridges cultural divides, and moves us to transform our world. Through singing multicultural songs inclusive of female names and images of the Divine, we bring healing to ourselves and our communities while giving birth to justice, peace, equity, and new life in our world.

Hersay is also timely in that these simple songs can easily be sung by individuals alone, as well as in churches and other groups. While I love congregational song and have written lyrics mostly for congregational singing, in these days of social distancing group singing is difficult. On Zoom worship services some church communities try singing together but often, because of the off-sync sound, they decide to silence all voices except the music leader. The songs in Hersay are effective with one voice or many voices singing, so an individual participating in an online service from home will find it easy to sing along with the leader. Apart from faith communities, individuals can also use the songs in Hersay for personal meditation and prayer.

Hersay comes to you with a prayer that these songs will inspire individuals and communities to claim our power in the Divine image and to bring healing and peace to all during this challenging time—and beyond.

Audio recordings of all the songs in Hersay are available on YouTube at “Hersay, Katie.”

Here are recordings of three of the songs in Hersay:

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