Stirring Waters: Feminist Liturgies for Justice

by Diann L. Neu
Liturgical Press, 2020
364 pages

Reviewed by Deb Vaughn

Stirring Waters cover image
Stirring Waters book cover

Why do we need feminist liturgies? Why do we need to change the way we’ve worshipped for centuries?

These are the complaints of a church-going mind that is OK with the status quo. A male-gendered expression of the Divine suits a traditional mindset. But as our culture shifts and becomes more fluid in its own self-expression, liturgies that are gender-bound feel stilted and excluding. Those who identify as nonbinary and gender-fluid do not identify with a depiction of God that is described only as “Father” and “Lord” and “Master.” And those of us who have struggled to follow their Calling in ordained service because we are not male feel left out of the very work we want to do.

Diann Neu’s book Stirring Waters provides is a bounty of readings, prayers, music, resources, and materials for leading rituals or worship services. The liturgies include everything that is needed, from candles to altar settings. The liturgies can be adapted for use within a regular church service or for a small group gathering. The reader benefits from Diann’s broad career experiences as a psychotherapist and lecturer, and her leadership as codirector of WATER, the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual.

The liturgies are divided into four sections of 12 liturgies each, January through December. Four additional liturgies complete the 52 weeks of the calendar. Each section focuses on a different topic, and they all encompass topics that are not included in traditional service planning. A liturgy for breast cancer survivors offers comfort and reassurance of love and support. A liturgy for feminist ministers empowers and encourages their Calling. A liturgy for Pentecost invokes the power of Sophia Spirit. Additional liturgies span a range of interests and needs, from Pride Week to Womanist Wisdom in Black History Month to the liturgy on Breaking Silence to End Domestic Violence.

I enjoyed reading through the liturgy for Miriam, connected to the Passover story. Quotes from a variety of Jewish feminist scholars add a depth to the short mentions of Miriam that we can read in the Hebrew scriptures. The liturgy invites us to remember her devotion and worship of YHWH and her leadership of the Israelites. Songs by Debbie Friedman (of blessed memory) are included (lyrics only – but they are easily found via YouTube.)

The first set of liturgies, Drink from the Well, is devoted to holy women through the ages who inform our faith. Women such as Sojourner Truth, Brigit, Julian of Norwich, Mary, and others bring their stories, their devotion for the Divine, and a challenge to live boldly. Their words still bring refreshment to a stale perspective of our faith.

These rituals are meant to prod, to push, to force action rather than provide a passive “church lady” response. From issues facing our world (the environment, hunger, sex trafficking) to those borne of the need for personal healing, participants will find new sources of hope and healing. In addition to the indexes included at the back of the volume, there are two sections that extend the usefulness of this volume. Diann includes a description of how to create a feminist liturgy for justice with a suggested format. She also provides a “how-to” on starting one’s own feminist liturgy group or house church.

This volume will hold a special place on my shelf of liturgies and worship planning. I commend it to you!


© 2020 by Christian Feminism Today.
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Rev. Deb Vaughn
Rev. Deborah (Deb) Vaughn is a professional chaplain in the Washington, DC area, where she lives with her husband and young adult daughters. Besides music, her many interests include public speaking, photography, and blogging. She bakes a mean loaf of bread. Deb is an occasional gardener and an avid Ohio State football fan. Occasionally, she even catches up on the laundry. Check out Deb’s blog, An Unfinished Symphony. (photo – Eileen Gannon)