Leading Northaven United Methodist Church Pentecost Worship Service with Dr. Kendra Weddle

photos by David Clanton

Dr. Kendra Weddle, my good friend and collaborator, and I led the Pentecost Worship Service at Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas. We did a conversational sermon with songs interspersed to illustrate a variety of biblical divine names and images. It was also a joy to collaborate with Pastor Ann Willett, Director of Worship and Music Nick LaRocca, Director of Children and Youth Jen Hanson, Organist Larry McCain, and Associate Pastor Mike House.

photo by David Clanton

Here is my response:

Some of you may remember that 20 years ago composer Larry E. Schultz and I led children here at Northaven in the musical we created, Imagine God! A Children’s Musical Exploring and Expressing Images of God. In this musical children learn a variety of divine images so they know they’re all equal in the divine image. It was a delightful experience involving some children and adults at Northaven and children from Girls and Boys Clubs.

In the Baptist church where I grew up, hymn singing had a prominent place, and I loved singing hymns. But later I discovered the problem with mainly male language for God in the hymns, militaristic language, and language of salvation in the afterlife instead of justice and peacemaking in this life.

The word Ruah in the song the children are about to learn is the feminine Hebrew word for “Spirit, Breath, and Wind” in the Bible. In the first chapter of Genesis we read that in the beginning the Spirit (Ruah) moved over the waters to give birth to all life. Ruah gives life to us all. She created all the children everywhere and all of us. In the song the children will learn, there’s the line “in Her image dark and fair.” We contribute to racial justice and equity by changing traditional negative symbols of darkness to symbols of both darkness and light as sacred and good. All people, dark-skinned and light-skinned, are created in the divine image.

photo by David Clanton

Kendra: There was a point several years ago when I taught a course called Women and the Bible, and I learned that there are multiple ways to translate the Hebrew word El Shaddai. Before that, I thought it simply meant “All- Sufficient One.” But then I learned that it also can be translated “Many Breasted One.” I wondered how it would change my relationship with God if I could take that image seriously. You’ve written about Shaddai. How has this image affected you?

Jann: Kendra, you’ve also written about Shaddai. You have an article in Red Letter Christians about how She has affected your relationship with God. I wrote about Her in my book In Whose Image? God and Gender. El Shaddai is usually translated “God Almighty,” but I learned that the more accurate translation is “the Breasted God.” Experiencing this nurturing Divine Mother brings healing from wounds of sexism and patriarchy. She comforts and sustains me through many challenges. In our next hymn we sing of Shaddai’s healing wounded hearts, calming our fears, bringing hope and comfort.

2 thoughts on “Leading Northaven United Methodist Church Pentecost Worship Service with Dr. Kendra Weddle

  1. Yes, “Music embeds words in our memories.” So important to have feminine nouns for God as often as masculine.
    I like your term “expansive language for God” –hadn’t heard it before.

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