It’s been my joy to collaborate for 15 years with composer Larry E. Schultz, Minister of Music at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, on music that names Deity as female and male and more to support the foundational biblical truth that all people are created equally in the divine image (Genesis 1:27). At the 2017 Alliance of Baptists Gathering held at Pullen, we led workshops titled “Transformational Music for all Ages.”
Thirty years ago the Alliance of Baptists began as a prophetic voice for changing church and society. Now more than ever, our world needs the Alliance’s prophetic message of love, peace, social justice, freedom, inclusiveness, and equality. Music has power to embed this message in our hearts in order to shape our actions. Music has great power to transform our world.
For many years the Alliance of Baptists has encouraged and supported Larry and me in our hymn writing, singing our hymns in annual Gatherings and local churches. At an Alliance Gathering in Washington, DC, we presented a workshop titled “Inclusive Song! Let Your Worship Catch Up with Your Theology.” Many times church music lags behind the progressive, inclusive theology of churches, and many times it’s hard to find inclusive music. So our mission is to create music with inclusive, justice and peacemaking lyrics. Our hope is that our music inspires transformation through an expansive theology and an ethic of equality and justice.
In the 2017 Alliance workshops we presented inclusive music that can be used in various settings and for all age groups. We included music appropriate for interfaith and multigenerational settings. We sang songs that name the Divine as female and male and more, providing a foundation for all people from the youngest to the oldest to know we are all created equally in the divine image.
Members of the Pullen Chancel Choir joined with other workshop participants to make the singing glorious! Talented life-long church musician Cindy Schultz added her beautiful piano accompaniment. Choir member Bo Reece accompanied on flute and xylophone and also contributed his talent to make the workshops flow smoothly.
We began with singing short songs from our latest collection Earth Transformed with Music! Here are the lyrics and music to one of these songs, “Come, Sophia Wisdom, Come.”
Come, Sophia Wisdom, come, live in our hearts;
come, Sophia Wisdom, come, peace to impart.
Heal us, bless us, stir us, and free us.
Come, Sophia Wisdom, come, live in our hearts.
Come, Sophia Wisdom, come live throughout earth;
come, Sophia Wisdom, come, bringing new birth.
Heal all, bless all, stir all, and free all.
Come, Sophia Wisdom, come, live throughout earth.
Words © 2014 Jann Aldredge-Clanton; Music © 2015 Larry E. Schultz
Included among the children’s songs we presented was “Our God Is a Mother and a Father,” from Imagine God! A Children’s Musical Exploring and Expressing Images of God.
In the workshop we sang one of our first collaborations, “Sister-Spirit, Brother Spirit,” published at the beginning of Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians. Sister-Brother Spirit has been the divine image that Larry and I have seen as important in our creative collaboration. Here is a video with this hymn:
From our latest collection, Earth Transformed with Music! Inclusive Songs for Worship, we sang “Follow Her Peaceful Ways.” Larry created a beautiful, vibrant musical composition for this song. The refrain and third stanza of this song were also included in the Sunday morning worship service of the Alliance Gathering. I made this video on my iPhone from the back of the large sanctuary, so the quality could be better! But I hope you will get the wonderful tune in your mind as you read the stanzas and the refrain below the video.
Follow Her Peaceful Ways (Proverbs 3:13-18; 1:20-23)
Follow Her peaceful ways; join Holy Wisdom,
changing the world with Her kindness and grace,
blessing all cultures, all genders and races,
welcoming all in Her loving embrace.
All through the world many suffer from violence,
hunger, oppression, and plundering of earth.
Wisdom cries out with a voice full of longing,
“Join me in labor to bring peace to birth.”
Rise up to answer the calling of Wisdom,
working together for peaceful reforms.
Come to the Tree of Life blooming forever,
filling the world with Her love that transforms.
Follow Her peaceful ways! Follow Her peaceful ways!
Join Holy Wisdom to end all the strife.
She gives us power to meet every challenge;
follow Her peaceful ways, bringing new life.
Words © 2014 Jann Aldredge-Clanton: Music © 2015 Larry E. Schultz