alone… by 3rd margaret

CD from Softsound Recording.
$12 plus $2 shipping per CD.

[Ed. note: The ellipsis is part of the title and not an indication of omitted words.] 

Reviewed by Virginia Ramey Mollenkott
alone 3rd margaretI hope all EEWC members who met at Butler University had an opportunity to meet Marg Herder, our superb sound technician.  But I think that even those who talked with her will be surprised, as I was, by the tremendous musical talent and spiritual passion that are central to Marg’s life. The best way to learn all of that, and to be moved and inspired in the process, is to buy and immerse ourselves in her mystical compact disk, “alone. . . .

I predict that when you have heard the cosmic sweep of this music, you will be as astonished as I was to learn that “this music was created by 3rd Margaret alone in her studio.” (Marg calls her professional self “3rd margaret” to give honor to her grandmother and her mother, “the two Margarets before me,” both of them church musicians. ) The music can be experienced on as many levels as there are moments and listeners, but ultimately the album captures Marg’s anguish when she learned that although she was trained to be a church musician, in fact the church was not a safe or welcoming place for lesbian women like herself. She entered into music to rediscover and recreate meaning and eventually was able to “feel the joining” so that “alone” could “fall away.”

Through the marvels of the electronic keyboard, she creates the sense of constantly moving sea, swirling in a cycle that ultimately curls around the still point of eternity. She challenges us to find ways to call our children home again; she sings love songs to the Holy Lady who lives in eternity and in the human heart (hallelujah, hallelu!); she celebrates the cycle of life and death in which “Darkness makes way for Light,” embers die, and instantly “Another seed begins to grow.” She sings of discovering that it is the silence within herself that is “the fire burning. . . the light I was supposed to see. . .the new day dawning. . . the teacher come [to] illumine me.” And she throws down a loving challenge to the church people who drove her away: “How your children must fear, to see your love disappear.” The music collapses into a minor key that evokes the pain of that rejection (I remember, too, Marg, I remember!). She tells the church that marginalized people “don’t see what you’re gonna lose by thinking everyone could walk in Her light” (indeed!), and that if we think anybody is unworthy to share in true fellowship with us, we “don’t know Her.” But there is hope for even the stodgiest Christian: “We can know you/You can know us/ We can know Her.”

EEWC members can rejoice that Marg told many of her lesbian friends who fear Christians’ cruelty that they need not fear EEWC, because “this group is different” and is giving her cause “to rethink everything.”

As she says on her website, through her music Marg is “building a new church” and “learning to be warmed by the fire of love.” And indeed, not just in her dreams but in reality, it is obvious that Marg is still walking with the Divine Lady Shepherd for whom she has never ceased to yearn. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be filled.

Learn more about Marg’s creative work on her website.

© 2002 by Evangelical & Ecumenical Women’s Caucus. Originally published in the Summer (July-September) 2002 issue of EEWC Update, Volume 26, number 2.

Virginia Ramey Mollenkott
Virginia Ramey Mollenkott (1932-2020) is the author or co-author of 13 books, including several on women and religion. She is a winner of the Lambda Literary Award (in 2002) and has published numerous essays on literary topics in various scholarly journals. In 1975, she spoke at the first national gathering of the Evangelical Women’s Caucus in Washington, D.C., and delivered plenary speeches at almost every gathering of the organization over the next 40 years. She has lectured widely on lesbian, gay, and bisexual rights and has also been active in the transgender cause. Mollenkott was married to Judith Suzannah Tilton until her death in 2018, and has one son and three granddaughters. She earned her B.A. from Bob Jones University, her M.A. from Temple University, and her Ph.D. from New York University. She received a Lifetime Achievement award from SAGE, Senior Action in a Gay Environment, a direct-service and advocacy group for seniors in New York City in 1999. In 2017 she was awarded the inaugural Mother Eagle Award. Even in her late 80s, Virginia Ramey Mollenkott continued to use her doctorate in English to share insights with folks who visit the EEWC and Mollenkott websites, and with elderly people in the Cedar Creek Community educational programs. She deeply regretted that her severe arthritis forbade her presence at the social justice protests during the Trump presidency.