“When someone with the authority of a teacher, say, describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked into a mirror and saw nothing. Yet you know you exist and others like you, that this is a game done with mirrors. It takes some strength of soul – and not just individual strength but collective understanding – to resist this void…and to stand up, demanding to be seen and heard. Adrienne Rich

I have been blessed with powerful teachers in my life. One is a seminary professor who has written extensively and agitated consistently about the issue of language, particularly language used for the Holy. She is a part of the church community I serve. Amazing grace, that.

Her wisdom is with me as I write worship week after week because I know so very well the psychic disequilibrium that has been perpetrated against women through the ways we name God as male male male. The United Methodist hymnal – all three iterations currently in use – has perhaps a handful of hymns that name the sacred using feminine imagery or pronouns. This from a denomination that proclaims a desire to welcome all into transformational relationship with the Holy.

Parker Palmer maintains that “the soul is shy. It won’t show up unless it feels safe.” How can soul show up in a culture that asks it to participate in “a game done with mirrors”?

Every week this tension of finding hymnody capable of inviting embodied praise. Every week the realization that the soul crush of non inclusion is perpetrated in uncounted sanctuaries.

According to Adrienne Rich, it takes individual strength and communal understanding. As community, will we welcome those who stand up and demand to be heard? Can we unpack the depth of woman-demean that provokes disgust at the very notion of feminine divine?

I’m tired of psychic disequilibrium. I’m tired of trying to choose the least offensive hymns when song is meant to sing – not silence – the soul.

Words matter. Mirrors contort.

This is no game.


It seems to be vexatious to use feminine pronouns for the Holy.

A church volunteer remarked on an intriguing church bulletin.  Since we reuse our music inserts, Monday brings a day of sorting and recycling.

The Monday bulletin sorter noted that one of our church bulletins had been painstakingly edited (I surely hope not during the sermon!).  Throughout the Parker Palmer version of the Prayer of Jesus, in which God is addressed as Mother and Father, any reference to the feminine in the Holy had been deliberately crossed out.  It seems the notion of God as both male and female (and more) was too much to be borne on a given Sabbath.

I understand that language for God is a powerful thing.  Surely there is no intention of “taking away” each believer’s preferred name for God.

And, at Richfield UMC there is a deliberate choice made to include the feminine when imaging God.

For centuries, nearly the only language used for the Holy was male, even though scripture tells us from the get-go that In God’s image God made them; male and female God made them” and there are a myriad of non-male images of God used throughout scripture.  Even so, church culture through the ages reflected the seemingly sure sense that combing in the feminine would sully the power of the Holy.

Our Women and the Sacred group at church is reading “Half the Sky” by Kristof and WuDunn.  It is a really hard read, since it details the ongoing subjugation of women through sex trafficking, substandard maternal care and the use of rape as a weapon of war, among other things.

Statistics in the beginning of the book take the breath away:  “It appears that more girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the battle of the twentieth century.  More girls are killed in this routine “gendercide” in any one decade than people were slaughtered in all the genocides of the twentieth century.”  (“Half the Sky”, pg. xvii)

There is a life-denying denigration of women rampant in the world today.

Naming matters.

I am saddened that the use of feminine language for the Holy would cause church-goers to methodically excise such offending words from their worship bulletin.

But more than that, I am heart sickened by the deaths; day by day, minute by minute, of God’s createds born into woman form.

Perhaps when we can speak the sacred feminine, we will end the devastation that is woman kill.

May it be so.