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Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Inclusive and Emergent
The theme of my second semester at Princeton Theological Seminary is shaping up to be "inclusion of the other." This idea has come up in almost all of my classes repeatedly, especially Cultural Hermeneutics and The OT, Women, and Cultural and Ecclesial Diversity (long, boring title for an AWESOME class).

Such a theme seems easily co-opted under "emergent" thought, since my experience with things emergent has been watching folks attempt to include more people in the family of God and include more diverse ideas about who God is in our theology.

Anyway, I was reading for my Women class (it's easier than saying the whole thing...) and came across the following poem in a book called What Language Shall I Borrow: A Male Response to Feminist Theology, by Brian Wren. The book is out of print, but I managed to find one on Amazon.com.

Bring Many Names

Bring many names, beautiful and good;
celebrate, in parable and story,
holiness in glory,
living, loving God.
Hail and Hosanna,
bring many names:

Strong mother God, working night and day,
planning all the wonders of creation,
setting each equation,
genius at play:
Hail and Hosanna,
strong mother God!

Warm, father God, hugging every child,
feeling all the strains of human living,
caring and forgiving
till we're reconciled:
Hail and Hosanna,
warm father God!

Old, aching God, grey with endless care,
calmly piercing evil's new disguises,
glad of good surprises,
wiser than despair:
Hail and Hosanna,
old, aching God!

Young, growing God, eager still to know,
willing to be changed by what you've started,
quick to be delighted,
singing as you go:
Hail and Hosanna,
young, growing God!

Great, living God, never fully known,
joyful darkness far beyond our seeing,
closer yet than breathing,
everlasting home:
Hail and Hosanna,
great, living God.

What I appreciate most about this poem/song, is that it steers away from the triumphal power imagery that serves to protect the idea of male dominance. I also love how he attributes strength to mother and warmth to father, reversing what we would expect to read/hear. Words are powerful, especially in song, since we learn words set to music much more quickly and permanently than words written or simply spoken.

I am challenged to think of God in new ways, in ways that may seem wrong according to the stereotypes I live under, in ways that include more people in the family of God.
posted by Kate Elliott at 9:49 AM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 4/03/2007 10:48:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    This is beautiful, Kate! Hey I didn't know you were in Jersey!

  • At 4/03/2007 12:18:00 PM, Blogger Janice

    Thank you so much for sharing this Kate! It really moved me and I'm printing it now for later (and frequent) consumption. :)

  • At 4/03/2007 02:59:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    I love that poem - and have used it as a prayer in church and at the EW gatherings. It really captures what it means to claim all the aspects of God.

    btw - I'm seriously jealous of the fun seminary classes you get to take, maybe someday...

  • At 4/03/2007 04:21:00 PM, Blogger Kate

    Yes, definitely in Jersey. I'll be here for a couple more years, hopefully more if I can convince them that I am what they want in a Ph.D. candidate.

    Apparently, Brian Wren has written a lot of worship music in this vein. The fun seminary classes are nice...but there are some not fun ones, too (e.g. Systematic Theology).

  • At 4/03/2007 06:00:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Kate, I live one town over from Cherry Hill. Perhaps we can connect in person sometime!

  • At 4/03/2007 06:54:00 PM, Blogger lynnette

    thanks for posting this poem/song. good stuff.

  • At 4/06/2007 07:38:00 AM, Anonymous agma

    For someone born in the 1930's, Brian Wren wrote some rather emergent and/or feminist hymns. If he doesn't show up in your hymnal, you know how to Google! You'd probably especially like "Woman in the Night" which has 8 verses about different women who follow Jesus throughout his life. The refrain invites:
    Come and join the song,
    women, children, men;
    Jesus makes us free to live again!

  • At 4/07/2007 10:55:00 PM, Blogger Amy

    Kate, thank you for sharing this. It's very beautiful!

    I'm jealous of this great opportunity for you as well. Have fun in the midst of the stress and keep sharing these gems with us. :)

  • At 4/10/2007 04:00:00 PM, Blogger Kate

    Thanks for all the encouragement. Fortunately, my church does have a hymnal that includes Brian Wren's stuff. In fact, we sang some of his words on Easter Sunday. Awesome!

  • At 2/16/2010 09:36:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

    About the hymn "Woman in the night" - Could you tell me what the bibical reference is for the "Woman on the road"in the sixth verse?


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