This Christmas season gives us a wonderful opportunity to sing carols for racial and gender 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 soul, 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, as nurturing love, and as creative bounty. 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.” “O Holy Darkness, Loving Womb” also includes Sophia (Greek word for “Wisdom” in the New Testament), a female divine name and image. Sophia is most often pictured as dark. 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
It was a joy to collaborate on this video with Shannon Kincaid, an outstanding vocal and visual artist. Shannon sings “O Holy Darkness, Loving Womb” to the tune of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Her beautiful painting of Oprah Winfrey holding a child creates a powerful finale for this video.
Shannon painted “Oprah and Child” to get attention on a national scale for the cause of women with ovarian cancer. For many years Shannon has been a generous, tireless advocate for this cause. She generously gave her artistic talent for the covers of two books of stories by ovarian cancer survivors: TORCH: Tales of Remarkable Courage and Hope and TORCH: Still Burning Brightly. To get Oprah’s attention to do a show featuring ovarian cancer survivors, Shannon painted a large picture of Oprah cradling a child and sent it to her with all the TORCH materials inside the crate. After a long and winding road, Oprah met with Shannon, accepted the painting, and promised to let her know if she ever discussed ovarian cancer at some point on her show. In February after this meeting in October, Oprah chose an ovarian cancer fund as one of her favorite ten charities. Soon after, The Oprah Winfrey Show went off the air, but Oprah influenced Dr. Oz to highlight the cause of ovarian cancer on two of his shows. Shannon’s painting of Oprah now hangs above the fireplace in the library of The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Performed by: Shannon Kincaid
Lyrics: Jann Aldredge-Clanton
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.
David Clanton: “Garden for Good or Evil”
Mirta Toledo: “Sophia”
Shannon Kincaid: “Oprah & Child”
Elizabeth Zedaran: “Flow”
Keyboard: Ron DiIulio
Guitar: Danny Hubbard
Bass & Percussion: Jerry Hancock
Music Produced/Arranged by: Ron DiIulio