Where can I find music and hymns that use inclusive language?

Extreme close-up of guitar

A Facebook follower asked:
I’m looking for hymns and other worship music that use inclusive language to refer to God as well as to Christians.   What can you recommend?

Anne Linstatter responds: 

Hymns, anthems, and other songs that don’t jolt women out of their seats are available and becoming more widely used. “I will make you fishers of men” is so last-century.

Some improvements involve changing just a word or two in classic hymns.  For example, many churches now sing “Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!  Heaven and earth together say Alleluia!” or “Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!” instead of Charles Wesley’s “Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia! Sons of men and angels say Alleluia!”

The larger denominations have taken steps in this direction with varying success.  One of the best is The New Century Hymnal by the United Church of Christ. In the introduction, it explains that that the editors “sought to broaden the traditional divine references so that they included the feminine” and “every text underwent careful scrutiny of its metaphors and pronouns that refer to God, Christ, and the Spirit.”  To use “My Eyes Have Seen the Glory” as an example, all the He and His words are removed, leaving only the word “Lord” used once.  Check your denomination’s newest hymnal or refer to the UCC hymnal.

In Earth Transformed with Music: Inclusive Songs for Worship, Jann Aldredge-Clanton offers both all-new songs and new words to widely-known tunes.  See also Elizabeth A. Moore’s God Is Still Speaking, We Are Still Singing, which is subtitled “new hymns to familiar tunes.”

Completely new songs with feminine imagery and pronouns for God, along with new tunes, are being composed every year by women such as Miriam Therese Winter, Colleen Fulmer, Carolyn McDade, and others, as well as by men.   See their songbooks and websites below.  A number of these singer/songwriters have performed at CFT’s biennial conferences and are starred in the list below.

Anthems sung by choirs may be the slowest to change. Could they have eluded the scrutiny of committees that have revised hymnals? That is no doubt true in some cases.  But in others, copyrighted choral arrangements can make changing lyrics difficult, and it may take great effort to persuade some publishers to grant permission to change “Father” to “Mother” or “he” to “she”  in certain anthems.  Jann Aldredge-Clanton points out in her book Changing Church, “When copyright issues are involved, it takes even more commitment for ministers to change words in worship.” She cites the untiring efforts of Rev. Larry Schultz in dealing with music publishers in that regard.

Praise music sung at the beginning of many worship services (with words shown on a screen) is another unplowed field for feminist work.  Has anyone gathered the most popular praise music, changed the pronouns and images for God, and made these alternatives available?

For anthems, praise songs, and additional music with inclusive God language, search the websites of WATER, Re-Imagining, and other feminist groups.  If you don’t find a website or directory for anthems—or a volume of inclusive praise music—maybe Jesus is calling you to do this work.  Let us know what you find or create so we can add it to the resources below.

Many of the artists cited below reflect our 40-year-plus history as an organization.  We would appreciate tips from our younger members on feminist and inclusive music they are listening to for addition to this list.  A few of the groups, performers, and songs we include here are not distinctively within the Christian faith tradition, but their music nourishes us in our spiritual journeys.

Music with Inclusive/Feminine Language and Imagery and Feminist Message

(Note: An asterisk indicates that person has performed or presented at an EEWC-Christian Feminism Today Conference. Special thanks to Letha Dawson Scanzoni for her help in compiling this list.)

*Miriam Therese (M.T.) Winter 

M.T. provided both music and biblical exegesis at our 1994 EEWC Conference in Chicago. She has produced fourteen CDs with songbooks, including Joy Is Like the Rain and WomanSong, many recorded by the Medical Mission Sisters. Order from her website. Listen to many of her songs on YouTube.  M.T. is a Medical Mission Sister living in Hartford, CT.  On our website, you can read Reta Halteman Finger’s account of her friendship with M.T., why her music is so meaningful, and a review of M.T.’s book, The Singer and the Song.

  • Woman Prayer, Woman Song: Resources for Ritual (Oak Park, IL: Meyer-Stone Books, 1987). This book includes lyrics and music to 24 songs such as “Blessing Song”:

May the blessing of God go before you.
May Her grace and peace abound.
May Her Spirit live within you.
May Her love wrap you ‘round.
May Her blessing remain with you always.
May you walk on holy ground.

  • The first of a five-volume set of her songs is Loving You (Albuquerque, NM: Saint Bernadette Institute of Sacred Art, 2011) with 21 songs performed by various artists. This series is being produced by The Sacred Folk Song. 

*Jann Aldredge-Clanton

Jann has written three songbooks for adults, a children’s songbook, and a children’s musical.  Order from her website .  Listen to many of her songs on YouTube. Jann is a minister, chaplain, writer, and teacher in Dallas, TX, where she established the New Wineskins Community.

  • Earth Transformed with Music: Inclusive Songs for Worship with composer Larry E. Schultz (Eakin Press, 2015).
  • Inclusive Hymns for Liberation, Peace, and Justice with composer Larry E. Schultz (Eakin Press, 2011).
  • Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians with composer Larry E. Schultz (Eakin Press, 2006). Also available in CD.
  • Imagine God! A Children’s Musical Exploring and Expressing Images of God with composer Larry E. Schultz (Choristers Guild, 2004).
  • Sing and Dance and Play with Joy! Inclusive Songs for Young Children with composer Larry E. Schultz (Lulu Press, 2009).
  • For practical illustrations of ways inclusive music can be used in churches, see a report on a workshop given by Jann Aldredge-Clanton and Larry Schultz at the Alliance of Baptists Gathering held in Raleigh, NC, in April, 2017. Their workshop, titled “Transformational Music for All Ages,” included short videos to illustrate their points. One featured song was a selection from the children’s musical mentioned above (Imagine God!). Titled “God is a Mother and a Father, too,” it is sung to the familiar Shaker tune “Tis a Gift to be Simple.” Watch and listen to it here on YouTube.

*Colleen Fulmer

It’s not easy to buy Colleen’s CDs these days, but you can listen to all of her music using her page on YouTube.  Colleen lives in coastal Oregon, where she served as a pastor and hospital chaplain before retiring.  See “Finding Colleen Fulmer” by Letha Dawson Scanzoni, EEWC Update (April-June 2004).

*Carolyn McDade

Carolyn grew up in a Southern Baptist family in rural Louisiana, later moving to Boston and circling with women around the Divine Feminine.  She now names herself simply “a woman of faith” and has published ten CDs/cassettes, some of which are still available.  Order from her website (above).  Listen to many of her songs on youtube.com

*Troubadours of Divine Bliss

In 2014 this duo helped CFT celebrate the 40th anniversary of our founding.  Renee Ananda and Aim Me Smiley have released six albums including some songs that address the Divine Feminine.  Order from their website.  Listen to many of their songs on youtube.com.

Available for purchase on iTunes:

  • As You Wish (2015)
  • Awakening to Love (2012) including “Deep Song” for the Divine Feminine, Mother God.
  • Sacred Letters of Surrender (2009)
  • Off the Cuff: Live at the Winchester (2004)

Other albums available by special order only (contact them through their website)

  • Dying, Laughing—Firecrackers on a Funeral Pyre” (2002)
  • No Place Like OM” (1998)
  • Dressing Room for Eternity (2001)

*Linda Allen

Linda has released ten albums and three songbooks.  She was ordained as an interfaith minister in 2006, shortly after earning her D. Min. from Matthew Fox’s Institute for Culture and Creation Spirituality in Oakland CA.  Order her CDs from the website above.  Listen to many of her songs on YouTube.

  • Lay It Down: Images of the Sacred (October Rose Productions, 1996) including “God, I Cannot Call You Father” to the tune of “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”
  • The Long Way Home (October Rose Productions, 1999). 

*Carrie Newcomer

A singer-songwriter in Indiana, Carrie has been called a “prairie mystic.”  She has 16 albums and two books of essays and poetry. Order her CDs from the website above.  Listen to many of her songs on youtube.com. You can also read reviews of many of her albums on our CFT website. Below are some off her recent CDs.

*Kathryn Christian

Kathryn composes sacred meditational music and kids’ music.  In her three albums of sacred meditational music, some songs use the words of medieval women such as Hildegard of Bingen, Teresa of Avila, and Mechthild of Magdeburg.   Order her CDs from her website above, where you can also listen to audio samples.  One of Kathryn’s songs, “Gather Me under Thy Wings,” can be heard on the EEWC-Christian Feminism Today website. You can access it by scrolling through our audio section.

  • Ascension (1998)
  • Come, Holy Mother (2002). Read a review from the CFT website.
  • Growing into God (2000) using the poetry of Edwina Gately, who has spoken at one of CFT’s conferences. See also this review.

*Mary Louise (“Mel”) Bringle

Mel Bringle presented a workshop at the 1990 EEWC Conference in Chicago and was a plenary speaker at our 2006 conference in Charlotte, NC. Mel is professor of religious studies and philosophy at Brevard College in Brevard, NC, and is one of today’s most prolific hymnwriters. She is active in the Hymn Society of the US and Canada and has served as its president. She also served as chair of the committee that produced the new hymnal for the Presbyterian Church USA in 2013.

  • In her article on our CFT website, “Songs as yet Unsung,” she explains why we need new hymns to speak to the needs and diversity of an ever-changing world and the many different concerns of God’s people in that world.
  • Mel lists additional resources on gender inclusiveness in the article.
  • She also highlights the need for songs that take into account new political situations and personal and pastoral concerns.  At the CFT Charlotte conference, she interspersed her talk with her own songs and those of others that speak to such concerns. Her hymn “The Love that Goes Unspoken” was first place co-winner in a competition to write hymns that “call the church to affirm gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons to celebrate their gifts and ministries.”  Another song, “When Memory Fades,” was written for a friend whose mother was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease; it speaks to family situations where the comfort of God’s love is needed as caregivers and other loved ones deal with dementia.
  • Here is a YouTube interview with Mel Bringle about why hymns, old and new, are so important.
  • Two collections of her hymns, Joy and Wonder, Love and Longing (2002) and In Wind and Wonder (2007) are published by Gia Publications.

*Kristin Lems

Kristin Lems is a singer/songwriter in Chicago and long-term friend of CFT.  She presented a concert at our 1996 conference in Norfolk, VA, and also performed several songs at a previous conference in Chicago.  Kristin’s strongly feminist music centers on peace, justice, and care for the earth. Her seven albums include most recently You Me and All of the Above (Carolsdatter Productions, 2015) and Oh Mama—Plus! (Carolsdatter Productions, 2000).

Sue Young

Sue is a bilingual poet, songwriter, and storyteller with six albums, which can be ordered from CDBaby or MyTexasMusic.com.

  • From the Mother: Songs of the Sacred Feminine (1997) including “Like a Mother Eagle” and “Ruach” (brief samples of which are accessible on her website).
  • River of Life (2002) including lyrics taken from Rumi, Thich Nhat Hanh, the Song of Solomon, Islamic prayer, and Navajo chant. 

Ya Elah

Sacred world music is the genre of this women’s vocal group based in the Jewish tradition.  The group’s one album, Each of Us, is sung in Hebrew, Arabic, Latin, and other languages.  It includes sacred prayers from “many different cultural traditions of the Balkans and Middle East.” The six members of Ya Elah live in northern California.

  • Each of Us (2005) is available through Magnatune.
  • Jeannette Ferber of Ya Elah serves as a cantorial soloist and service leader at Chochmat HaLev (Wisdom of the Heart), a center for Jewish spirituality and meditation in Berkeley, CA.

Covita Moroney

Covita Maroney is the founder and manager of the San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble. Covita’s album Scriptures showcases women’s voices singing sacred scriptures such as the Shema, Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (sung in Hebrew), the prayer Jesus taught (sung in Aramaic), and the opening words of each surah of the Qur’an “In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful” (sung in Arabic).   The problem of God being addressed as “our father” is not solved, but at least it’s in the authentic language Jesus spoke, not English.  Listen to it and download at CDBaby or look at other music by SAVAE ( San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble ) on YouTube.

  • Guadalupe: Virgen de los Indios (San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble, 1998).
  • Ancient Echoes (San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble, 2002). Listen on iTunes.
  • Scriptures (San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble, 2005). Listen on iTunes.

Carole A. Etzler

Carole Etzler’s music is not easy to find, but for many women, it played an important role during the 1970s women’s movement. Her five albums include Sometimes I Wish (Sisters Unlimited, 1976), Womanriver Flowing On (Sisters Unlimited, 1978), and She Calls To Us (Sisters Unlimited, 2002), available through Discogs. She now goes by the name Carole Eztler Eagleheart and is active in the women’s movement of the Unitarian Universalist Church.  Here are two of her most popular songs:

  • “We Are Dancing Sarah’s Circle” sung to the tune of “Jacob’s Ladder” adapted for In Every Corner Sing: The Hymns of Shirley Erena Murray (Carol Stream, IL: Hope Publishing, 1992). It also appears in some other hymnals as well. You can read the lyrics on the Hymnary website. “Woman Child” is beautiful for the baptism or dedication of an infant.  Two friends (Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary) performed this song at my youngest daughter’s dedication in 1987. On the liner notes to her vinyl album, “Womanriver Flowing On” (1977), Carole explains, “I wrote this song for a newborn child. But I also wrote it for myself, and for all women who are giving birth to themselves.”  To hear the tune and read the lyrics, go to this YouTube video, a few friends singing in honor of some young women who were graduating. 

Elizabeth A. Moore

Elizabeth is a retired pastor who is active in the Women-Church community in Claremont CA.  Her hymnal God Is Still Speaking, We Are Still Singing: New Hymns with Familiar Tunes (2016) can be ordered from her by mail: The Reverend Elizabeth A. Moore, Pilgrim Place, Claremont CA 91711.

*Marg Herder

Marg doesn’t release albums anymore, instead she places her songs on her website, where listeners can listen to and download any or all of her songs, meditation backgrounds, sound design projects, or field recordings.  Three of her songs (below) are available on iTunes and other online music sites.  Marg lives in Indianapolis and serves as the web designer and director of public information for Christian Feminism Today, as well as writing the Where She Is blog on this website.  Read Virginia Ramey Mollenkott’s review of her 1997 collection alone…, which she released as 3rd margaret.

  • “At Her Table” (2008).
  • “A Name” featuring Dr. Alena Amato Ruggerio (2011)
  • “We Can Know Her” (1997).

Sweet Honey in the Rock

  • This well-known a cappella performance ensemble rooted in African-American history and culture has released many albums since 1973. Order from the website (above).  Listen to many of their songs on YouTube.
  • Sacred Ground (1996).
  • Go in Grace (2008).
  • “Wade in the Water” is a good sample of their unique style. 

Mark Miller

Mark composes sheet music/choral music, some of it downloadable.  Order from his website.  Listen to many of Mark’s songs on YouTube.  He serves as Minister of Music at Christ Church in Summit, NJ, and teaches church music at Drew Theological School.

  • Imagine the People of God (2013) with the New Haven Collective.
  • “Child of God” (2013) written in response to United Methodist Church trials. See this article for an example. “I Choose Love” was written as a prayer reflecting on the tragic deaths of nine members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, on June 17, 2015.

*Margaret S. Meier 

Margaret writes extended symphonic compositions, chamber music, and choral anthems as well as short songs for one person.  She has set poems by Emily Dickinson to music.  Order from the website (above).  Listen to her songs on chandos.net.

*Ann Ownbey

An artist, photographer, and musician, Ann performed at several of our conferences, including the 1996 gathering in Norfolk, VA..  One of her funniest songs is “I-Lean and Flo,” which celebrates anonymous women of the Bible by giving them names. The title refers to the bent-over woman (Luke 13) and the woman with an issue of blood (Luke 8).  Ann lives in Irvine, CA, and provides flute accompaniment for music at University United Methodist Church on Sunday mornings.  Three of her songs will soon be available on YouTube.

Web resources to find additional music with inclusive or Divine Feminine words/images:

  • Resources from WATER (“Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual.) You can either do a LibraryThing.com search through the WATER library or visit the library in person in Silver Spring, MD.
  • Re-Imagining Community (This site provides a list of worship, liturgy, and music resources and links.
  • Divine Feminine blog at Patheos.com
  • womenwordspirit.org – the Catholic Women’s Network in England.
  • Music reviews on the Christian Feminism Today website. Also search the CFT site using various search terms. 

Books:

Bring the Feast: Songs from the Re-Imagining Community (Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 1998).

Dissident Daughters: Feminist Liturgies in Global Context ed. Teresa Berger (Louisville KY: Westminster/John Knox, 2001).  This directory includes music.

 

Something to add?  Please contact us!

 

 

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