By Wilda C. Gafney, Ph.D.
Church Publishing Inc., 2021
Reviewed by Dr. Katie M. Deaver
A Women’s Lectionary for the Whole Church is an exciting new resource from Church Publishing, from a writer whose name is familiar to those connected to Christian Feminism Today. Wilda C. Gafney has created a woman-focused lectionary resource for today’s churches. When completed, this four-volume series, following the traditional lectionary format used by the vast majority of Christians all over the world, will feature lectionary readings, text notes, and preaching prompts for liturgical years A, B, and C, as well as a multi-Gospel single-year lectionary Year W (for woman). Year W and Year A are currently available for purchase and are the focus of this review.
Each volume begins with an introduction to the project, explanations of using these lectionary resources, and considerations on the texts and their translations.
Gafney begins the introduction by asking, “What does it look like to tell the Good news through the stories of women who are often on the margins of scripture and often set up to represent bad news? . . . what would it look like if women built a lectionary focusing on women’s stories?” (xii).
Each resource features weekly lectionary reading as well as additional lectionary-based readings for certain special services throughout the church year. The weekly sections offer a full text of the typical four scripture readings, including an Old Testament lesson, a Psalm, a New Testament lesson, and a Gospel text. Gafney includes textual notes as well as preaching prompts. Obviously, the author took great care crafting these sections of the book. The text notes and preaching prompts are thoughtful and provide a number of considerations that will stimulate creative approaches to writing sermons or lessons based on the texts.
In this project, Gafney has intentionally set out to elevate the voices and presence of girls and women within the biblical text. One of the ways in which she does this is by using what she terms “gender-expansive language” to draw attention to the gendered identity of groups within the text. For example, rather than using more “neutral” language, such as Israelites, children, nations, etc., Gafney intentionally draws attention to “gendered subgroups, such as ‘the women, children, and men of Israel’”(xxi). This intentional practice of expanding the gendered language more obviously reminds the reader of the presence of both women and men within many of the groups described in the text. Gafney also presents lineage passages matrilineally, which, again, helps elevate the presence and importance of the women within the text even if they do not speak or are not named.
A likely critique of this lectionary series is that, in Gafney’s efforts to elevate the voices and presence of girls and women, these lectionaries may not read as inclusively as some might hope. Gafney directly addresses this concern in the introduction and notes that “while there is nonbinary language for human and divine subjects, the purpose of this project is to make women and girls more visible . . . all language, is simply inadequate to express the fullness of God in and beyond the world or even in human creation” (xv).
It is a bit of a disappointment that as we near the beginning of Year C that particular resource is not yet available. A brief Google search does not yield any concrete information on when we might expect to see the Year B or Year C resources for purchase, but this review will be updated when more information becomes available. With that said, the Year W multi-Gospel single-year lectionary can be used in the meantime.
Gafney’s lectionary resources are a wonderful addition for worship planning, congregational or personal devotional practices, a bible or book study, or even for use in a theological education setting. This reviewer is looking forward to adding Year B and Year C to their personal library once they are available!
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© 2021 by Christian Feminism Today.
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Thank you for this book review! I’m going to share this with some of my women friends who are not currently connected to CFT.