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Women In Ancient Christianity: The New Discoveries

Thank you Paul Wildman for passing on this article from:

FRONTLINE investigative journalism

Women In Ancient Christianity: The New Discoveries
Scholar Karen King examines the evidence concerning women’s important place in early Christianity. She draws a surprising new portrait of Mary Magdalene and outlines the stories of previously unknown early Christian women.
by Karen L. King
Karen L. King is Professor of New Testament Studies and the History of Ancient Christianity at Harvard University in the Divinity School. She has published widely in the areas of Gnosticism, ancient Christianity, and Women’s Studies.
In the last twenty years, the history of women in ancient Christianity has been almost completely revised. As women historians entered the field in record numbers, they brought with them new questions, developed new methods, and sought for evidence of women’s presence in neglected texts and exciting new findings. For example, only a few names of women were widely known: Mary, the mother of Jesus; Mary Magdalene, his disciple and the first witness to the resurrection; Mary and Martha, the sisters who offered him hospitality in Bethany. Now we are learning more of the many women who contributed to the formation of Christianity in its earliest years.

Perhaps most surprising, however, is that the stories of women we thought we knew well are changing in dramatic ways. Chief among these is Mary Magdalene, a woman infamous in Western Christianity as an adulteress and repentant whore. Discoveries of new texts from the dry sands of Egypt, along with sharpened critical insight, have now proven that this portrait of Mary is entirely inaccurate. She was indeed an influential figure, but as a prominent disciple and leader of one wing of the early Christian movement that promoted women’s leadership.

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Certainly, the New Testament Gospels, written toward the last quarter of the first century CE, acknowledge that women were among Jesus’ earliest followers. From the beginning, Jewish women disciples, including Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna, had accompanied Jesus during his ministry and supported him out of their private means (Luke 8:1-3). He spoke to women both in public and private, and indeed he learned from them. According to one story, an unnamed Gentile woman taught Jesus that the ministry of God is not limited to particular groups and persons, but belongs to all who have faith (Mark 7:24-30; Matthew 15:21-28). A Jewish woman honored him with the extraordinary hospitality of washing his feet with perfume. Jesus was a frequent visitor at the home of Mary and Martha, and was in the habit of teaching and eating meals with women as well as men. When Jesus was arrested, women remained firm, even when his male disciples are said to have fled, and they accompanied him to the foot of the cross. It was women who were reported as the first witnesses to the resurrection, chief among them again Mary Magdalene. Although the details of these gospel stories may be questioned, in general they reflect the prominent historical roles women played in Jesus’ ministry as disciples.

WOMEN IN THE FIRST CENTURY OF CHRISTIANITY

After the death of Jesus, women continued to play prominent roles in the early movement. Some scholars have even suggested that the majority of Christians in the first century may have been women.

The letters of Paul – dated to the middle of the first century CE – and his casual greetings to acquaintances offer fascinating and solid information about many Jewish and Gentile women who were prominent in the movement. His letters provide vivid clues about the kind of activities in which women engaged more generally. He greets Prisca, Junia, Julia, and Nereus’ sister, who worked and traveled as missionaries in pairs with their husbands or brothers (Romans 16:3, 7, 15). He tells us that Prisca and her husband risked their lives to save his. He praises Junia as a prominent apostle, who had been imprisoned for her labor. Mary and Persis are commended for their hard work (Romans 16:6, 12). Euodia and Syntyche are called his fellow-workers in the gospel (Philippians 4:2-3). Here is clear evidence of women apostles active in the earliest work of spreading the Christian message.

Paul’s letters also offer some important glimpses into the inner workings of ancient Christian churches. These groups did not own church buildings but met in homes, no doubt due in part to the fact that Christianity was not legal in the Roman world of its day and in part because of the enormous expense to such fledgling societies. Such homes were a domain in which women played key roles. It is not surprising then to see women taking leadership roles in house churches. Paul tells of women who were the leaders of such house churches (Apphia in Philemon 2; Prisca in I Corinthians 16:19). This practice is confirmed by other texts that also mention women who headed churches in their homes, such as Lydia of Thyatira (Acts 16:15) and Nympha of Laodicea (Colossians 4:15). Women held offices and played significant roles in group worship. Paul, for example, greets a deacon named Phoebe (Romans 16:1) and assumes that women are praying and prophesying during worship (I Corinthians 11). As prophets, women’s roles would have included not only ecstatic public speech, but preaching, teaching, leading prayer, and perhaps even performing the eucharist meal. (A later first century work, called the Didache, assumes that this duty fell regularly to Christian prophets.)

MARY MAGDALENE: A TRUER PORTRAIT

Later texts support these early portraits of women, both in exemplifying their prominence and confirming their leadership roles (Acts 17:4, 12). Certainly the most prominent among these in the ancient church was Mary Magdalene. A series of spectacular 19th and 20th century discoveries of Christian texts in Egypt dating to the second and third century have yielded a treasury of new information. It was already known from the New Testament gospels that Mary was a Jewish woman who followed Jesus of Nazareth. Apparently of independent means, she accompanied Jesus during his ministry and supported him out of her own resources (Mark 15:40-41; Matthew 27:55-56; Luke 8:1-3; John 19:25).

Although other information about her is more fantastic, she is repeatedly portrayed as a visionary and leader of the early movement.( Mark 16:1-9; Matthew 28:1-10; Luke24:1-10; John 20:1, 11-18; Gospel of Peter ). In the Gospel of John, the risen Jesus gives her special teaching and commissions her as an apostle to the apostles to bring them the good news. She obeys and is thus the first to announce the resurrection and to play the role of an apostle, although the term is not specifically used of her. Later tradition, however, will herald her as “the apostle to the apostles.” The strength of this literary tradition makes it possible to suggest that historically Mary was a prophetic visionary and leader within one sector of the early Christian movement after the death of Jesus.

The newly discovered Egyptian writings elaborate this portrait of Mary as a favored disciple. Her role as “apostle to the apostles” is frequently explored, especially in considering her faith in contrast to that of the male disciples who refuse to believe her testimony. She is most often portrayed in texts that claim to record dialogues of Jesus with his disciples, both before and after the resurrection. In the Dialogue of the Savior, for example, Mary is named along with Judas (Thomas) and Matthew in the course of an extended dialogue with Jesus. During the discussion, Mary addresses several questions to the Savior as a representative of the disciples as a group. She thus appears as a prominent member of the disciple group and is the only woman named. Moreover, in response to a particularly insightful question, the Lord says of her, “´You make clear the abundance of the revealer!'” (140.17-19). At another point, after Mary has spoken, the narrator states, “She uttered this as a woman who had understood completely”(139.11-13). These affirmations make it clear that Mary is to be counted among the disciples who fully comprehended the Lord’s teaching (142.11-13).

In another text, the Sophia of Jesus Christ, Mary also plays a clear role among those whom Jesus teaches. She is one of the seven women and twelve men gathered to hear the Savior after the resurrection, but before his ascension. Of these only five are named and speak, including Mary. At the end of his discourse, he tells them, “I have given you authority over all things as children of light,” and they go forth in joy to preach the gospel. Here again Mary is included among those special disciples to whom Jesus entrusted his most elevated teaching, and she takes a role in the preaching of the gospel.

In the Gospel of Philip, Mary Magdalene is mentioned as one of three Marys “who always walked with the Lord” and as his companion (59.6-11). The work also says that Lord loved her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often (63.34-36). The importance of this portrayal is that yet again the work affirms the special relationship of Mary Magdalene to Jesus based on her spiritual perfection.

In the Pistis Sophia, Mary again is preeminent among the disciples, especially in the first three of the four books. She asks more questions than all the rest of the disciples together, and the Savior acknowledges that: “Your heart is directed to the Kingdom of Heaven more than all your brothers” (26:17-20). Indeed, Mary steps in when the other disciples are despairing in order to intercede for them to the Savior (218:10-219:2). Her complete spiritual comprehension is repeatedly stressed.

She is, however, most prominent in the early second century Gospel of Mary, which is ascribed pseudonymously to her. More than any other early Christian text, the Gospel of Mary presents an unflinchingly favorable portrait of Mary Magdalene as a woman leader among the disciples. The Lord himself says she is blessed for not wavering when he appears to her in a vision. When all the other disciples are weeping and frightened, she alone remains steadfast in her faith because she has grasped and appropriated the salvation offered in Jesus’ teachings. Mary models the ideal disciple: she steps into the role of the Savior at his departure, comforts, and instructs the other disciples. Peter asks her to tell any words of the Savior which she might know but that the other disciples have not heard. His request acknowledges that Mary was preeminent among women in Jesus’ esteem, and the question itself suggests that Jesus gave her private instruction. Mary agrees and gives an account of “secret” teaching she received from the Lord in a vision. The vision is given in the form of a dialogue between the Lord and Mary; it is an extensive account that takes up seven out of the eighteen pages of the work. At the conclusion of the work, Levi confirms that indeed the Saviour loved her more than the rest of the disciples (18.14-15). While her teachings do not go unchallenged, in the end the Gospel of Mary affirms both the truth of her teachings and her authority to teach the male disciples. She is portrayed as a prophetic visionary and as a leader among the disciples.

OTHER CHRISTIAN WOMEN

Other women appear in later literature as well. One of the most famous woman apostles was Thecla, a virgin-martyr converted by Paul. She cut her hair, donned men’s clothing, and took up the duties of a missionary apostle. Threatened with rape, prostitution, and twice put in the ring as a martyr, she persevered in her faith and her chastity. Her lively and somewhat fabulous story is recorded in the second century Acts of Thecla. From very early, an order of women who were widows served formal roles of ministry in some churches (I Timothy 5:9-10). The most numerous clear cases of women’s leadership, however, are offered by prophets: Mary Magdalene, the Corinthian women, Philip’s daughters, Ammia of Philadelphia, Philumene, the visionary martyr Perpetua, Maximilla, Priscilla (Prisca), and Quintilla. There were many others whose names are lost to us. The African church father Tertullian, for example, describes an unnamed woman prophet in his congregation who not only had ecstatic visions during church services, but who also served as a counselor and healer (On the Soul 9.4). A remarkable collection of oracles from another unnamed woman prophet was discovered in Egypt in 1945. She speaks in the first person as the feminine voice of God: Thunder, Perfect Mind. The prophets Prisca and Quintilla inspired a Christian movement in second century Asia Minor (called the New Prophecy or Montanism) that spread around the Mediterranean and lasted for at least four centuries. Their oracles were collected and published, including the account of a vision in which Christ appeared to the prophet in the form of a woman and “put wisdom” in her (Epiphanius, Panarion 49.1). Montanist Christians ordained women as presbyters and bishops, and women held the title of prophet. The third century African bishop Cyprian also tells of an ecstatic woman prophet from Asia Minor who celebrated the eucharist and performed baptisms (Epistle 74.10). In the early second century, the Roman governor Pliny tells of two slave women he tortured who were deacons (Letter to Trajan 10.96). Other women were ordained as priests in fifth century Italy and Sicily (Gelasius, Epistle 14.26).

Women were also prominent as martyrs and suffered violently from torture and painful execution by wild animals and paid gladiators. In fact, the earliest writing definitely by a woman is the prison diary of Perpetua, a relatively wealthy matron and nursing mother who was put to death in Carthage at the beginning of the third century on the charge of being a Christian. In it, she records her testimony before the local Roman ruler and her defiance of her father’s pleas that she recant. She tells of the support and fellowship among the confessors in prison, including other women. But above all, she records her prophetic visions. Through them, she was not merely reconciled passively to her fate, but claimed the power to define the meaning of her own death. In a situation where Romans sought to use their violence against her body as a witness to their power and justice, and where the Christian editor of her story sought to turn her death into a witness to the truth of Christianity, her own writing lets us see the human being caught up in these political struggles. She actively relinquishes her female roles as mother, daughter, and sister in favor of defining her identity solely in spiritual terms. However horrifying or heroic her behavior may seem, her brief diary offers an intimate look at one early Christian woman’s spiritual journey.

EARLY CHRISTIAN WOMEN’S THEOLOGY

Study of works by and about women is making it possible to begin to reconstruct some of the theological views of early Christian women. Although they are a diverse group, certain reoccurring elements appear to be common to women’s theology-making. By placing the teaching of the Gospel of Mary side-by-side with the theology of the Corinthian women prophets, the Montanist women’s oracles, Thunder Perfect Mind, and Perpetua’s prison diary, it is possible to discern shared views about teaching and practice that may exemplify some of the contents of women’s theology:

• Jesus was understood primarily as a teacher and mediator of wisdom rather than as ruler and judge.
• Theological reflection centered on the experience of the person of the risen Christ more than the crucified savior. Interestingly enough, this is true even in the case of the martyr Perpetua. One might expect her to identify with the suffering Christ, but it is the risen Christ she encounters in her vision.
• Direct access to God is possible for all through receiving the Spirit.
• In Christian community, the unity, power, and perfection of the Spirit are present now, not just in some future time.
• Those who are more spiritually advanced give what they have freely to all without claim to a fixed, hierarchical ordering of power.
• An ethics of freedom and spiritual development is emphasized over an ethics of order and control.
• A woman’s identity and spirituality could be developed apart from her roles as wife and mother (or slave), whether she actually withdrew from those roles or not. Gender is itself contested as a “natural” category in the face of the power of God’s Spirit at work in the community and the world. This meant that potentially women (and men) could exercise leadership on the basis of spiritual achievement apart from gender status and without conformity to established social gender roles.
• Overcoming social injustice and human suffering are seen to be integral to spiritual life.

Women were also actively engaged in reinterpreting the texts of their tradition. For example, another new text, the Hypostasis of the Archons, contains a retelling of the Genesis story ascribed to Eve’s daughter Norea, in which her mother Eve appears as the instructor of Adam and his healer.

The new texts also contain an unexpected wealth of Christian imagination of the divine as feminine. The long version of the Apocryphon of John, for example, concludes with a hymn about the descent of divine Wisdom, a feminine figure here called the Pronoia of God. She enters into the lower world and the body in order to awaken the innermost spiritual being of the soul to the truth of its power and freedom, to awaken the spiritual power it needs to escape the counterfeit powers that enslave the soul in ignorance, poverty, and the drunken sleep of spiritual deadness, and to overcome illegitimate political and sexual domination. The oracle collection Thunder Perfect Mind also adds crucial evidence to women’s prophetic theology-making. This prophet speaks powerfully to women, emphasizing the presence of women in her audience and insisting upon their identity with the feminine voice of the Divine. Her speech lets the hearers transverse the distance between political exploitation and empowerment, between the experience of degradation and the knowledge of infinite self-worth, between despair and peace. It overcomes the fragmentation of the self by naming it, cherishing it, insisting upon the multiplicity of self-hood and experience.

These elements may not be unique to women’s religious thought or always result in women’s leadership, but as a constellation they point toward one type of theologizing that was meaningful to some early Christian women, that had a place for women’s legitimate exercise of leadership, and to whose construction women contributed. If we look to these elements, we are able to discern important contributions of women to early Christian theology and praxis. These elements also provide an important location for discussing some aspects of early Christian women’s spiritual lives: their exercise of leadership, their ideals, their attraction to Christianity, and what gave meaning to their self-identity as Christians.

UNDERMINING WOMEN’S PROMINENCE

Women’s prominence did not, however, go unchallenged. Every variety of ancient Christianity that advocated the legitimacy of women’s leadership was eventually declared heretical, and evidence of women’s early leadership roles was erased or suppressed.

This erasure has taken many forms. Collections of prophetic oracles were destroyed. Texts were changed. For example, at least one woman’s place in history was obscured by turning her into a man! In Romans 16:7, the apostle Paul sends greetings to a woman named Junia. He says of her and her male partner Andronicus that they are “my kin and my fellow prisoners, prominent among the apostles and they were in Christ before me.” Concluding that women could not be apostles, textual editors and translators transformed Junia into Junias, a man.

Or women’s stories could be rewritten and alternative traditions could be invented. In the case of Mary Magdalene, starting in the fourth century, Christian theologians in the Latin West associated Mary Magdalene with the unnamed sinner who anointed Jesus’ feet in Luke 7:36-50. The confusion began by conflating the account in John 12:1-8, in which Mary (of Bethany) anoints Jesus, with the anointing by the unnamed woman sinner in the accounts of Luke. Once this initial, erroneous identification was secured, Mary Magdalene could be associated with every unnamed sinful woman in the gospels, including the adulteress in John 8:1-11 and the Syro-phoenician woman with her five and more “husbands” in John 4:7-30. Mary the apostle, prophet, and teacher had become Mary the repentant whore. This fiction was invented at least in part to undermine her influence and with it the appeal to her apostolic authority to support women in roles of leadership.

Until recently the texts that survived have shown only the side that won. The new texts are therefore crucial in constructing a fuller and more accurate portrait. The Gospel of Mary, for example, argued that leadership should be based on spiritual maturity, regardless of whether one is male or female. This Gospel lets us hear an alternative voice to the one dominant in canonized works like I Timothy, which tried to silence women and insist that their salvation lies in bearing children. We can now hear the other side of the controversy over women’s leadership and see what arguments were given in favor of it.

It needs to be emphasized that the formal elimination of women from official roles of institutional leadership did not eliminate women’s actual presence and importance to the Christian tradition, although it certainly seriously damaged their capacity to contribute fully. What is remarkable is how much evidence has survived systematic attempts to erase women from history, and with them the warrants and models for women’s leadership. The evidence presented here is but the tip of an iceberg.

Friendship in the Presence of Difference – Study Guide

 

 

 

A new Study Guide is now available for people to think about forging friendships with people of other faiths.

The Study Guide has been prepared by the UCA Assembly Relations with Other Faiths Working Group which includes UCFORUM member Rev Heather Griffin.

The study guide can be obtained online for free from Heather or by downloading from The Assembly site.

The intention of this Study Guide is to open a conversation about the increasing religious diversity in Australia and how we understand our Christian identity in this context. It is also an opportunity to explore how we might respond to the use of violence or fear based on religious difference. As people of God, called to share in Christ’s love, the best way to overcome such messages of fear and hate is by building friendships with people of other faiths. The Study is based on the paper, Friendship in the Presence of Difference: Christian Witness in Multi-faith Australia , received at the 13th Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia in July 2012. The word “friendship” was chosen purposely. It underlines the Gospel call to love our neighbours regardless of our differences and to live with the people around us as “friends”. Genuine interfaith friendship embraces difference rather than allowing difference to create division and distrust. Through this Study, we learn that to live peacefully in the presence of difference is to also be renewed and transformed in our own Christian faith. Friendship in the Presence of Difference is an update to the document Living with the Neighbour who is Different adopted by the Assembly in 2000. These two documents offer guiding principles for the Uniting Church’s relationship with people of other faiths. The Study Guide examines the changed landscape of religion in Australia and the ongoing development in our Christian understanding of how we relate to different faiths.

oOo

Socially responsible contemplation

Richard Rohr’s daily reflections offer the critical thinker ways to bring meditation into practical human responses. Today’sFr-Richard-FH-porch-300x205 meditation is no exception…..

Fr. Richard Rohr is a globally recognized ecumenical teacher bearing witness to the universal awakening within Christian mysticism and the Perennial Tradition. He is a Franciscan priest of the New Mexico Province and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Fr. Richard’s teaching is grounded in the Franciscan alternative orthodoxy—practices of contemplation and self-emptying, expressing itself in radical compassion, particularly for the socially marginalized.

Action and Contemplation
Monday, June 26, 2017
The words action and contemplation have become classic Christian terminology for the two dancing polarities of our lives. Thomas Aquinas and many others stated that the highest form of spiritual maturity is not action or contemplation, but the ability to integrate the two into one life stance—to be service-oriented contemplatives or contemplative activists.  By temperament we all tend to come at it from one side or the other.

This full integration doesn’t happen without a lot of mistakes and practice and prayer. And invariably, as you go through life, you swing on a pendulum back and forth between the two. During one period you may be more active or more contemplative than at another time.

I have commonly noticed a tendency to call any kind of inner work contemplation, and this concerns me. Inner work might lead you to a contemplative stance, but not necessarily. We shouldn’t confuse various kinds of inner work, insight-gathering, or introspection with contemplative spirituality. Contemplation is about letting go of the false much more than just collecting the new, the therapeutic, or the helpful. In other words, if you and your personal growth are still the focus, I do not think you are yet a contemplative—which demands that you shed yourself as the central reference point. Jesus said, “Unless the single grain of wheat dies, it remains just a single grain,” and it will not bear much fruit (John 12:24).

We must guard against our “innerness” becoming disguised narcissism, navel-gazing, and overly self-serving. I am afraid this is not uncommon in the religious world. An exalted self-image of “I am a spiritual person” is far too appealing to the ego. Thomas Merton warned against confusing an introverted personality with being a contemplative. They are two different things.

Having said that, I’ll point out the other side of the problem. Too much activism without enough inner work, insight, or examination of conscience inevitably leads to violence—to the self, to the project at hand, and invariably to others. If too much inner focus risks narcissism and individualism, I guess too much outer focus risks superficiality, negativity passing for love of justice, and various Messiah complexes. You can lack love on the Right and you can lack love on the Left—they just wear two different disguises.

We need both inner communion and outer service to be “Jesus” in the world! The job of religion is to help people act effectively and compassionately from an inner centeredness and connection with God.

Gateway to Silence:
Be still and still moving.

Reference:

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Near Occasions of Grace (Orbis Books: 1993), 105-107.

More hymns, poems and a lament – for the innocents

Following the interest in the recent post from Rev Rex Hunt, Rex has provided us with more useful resources for worship or events that call for a focus on the critical nature of a world of political, religiousRex Hunt and military conflict. These are the result of his initiative in responding to a friend’s request which went like this:

“I think if we are at war with various parties in the Middle East we can sadly expect to have incidents on our own soil that remind us that innocent by-standers sometimes share the costs of what we do elsewhere for whatever noble reasons.

They are extremists when they hurt us and we hate them for what they do: and rightly so.

But I guess those who hurt us or our kith and kin empowered by what we call a warped understanding of their own faith, possibly think the same way about us – or those who represent us back there in the conflict zones of the ME…

I sometimes wish that someone would write a hymn or two that reflects the agony of the innocent on both sides – the confusions of our faiths and the way of the Jesus of history that directly addresses the issues of now, but I guess  that may be not possible.”

The resources were kindly provided by Rex’s colleagues and follow:

Continue reading

A timely new hymn

compassionFrom the creative mind of Andrew Pratt with title and tune suggested by Rex Hunt comes this timely song for worship or group gathering.

Stir Up Compassion”  (Tune: ‘Was Lebet’, 12 10 12 10)

Hopeless to help in the face of catastrophe,

helpless while watching this picture unfold,

history repeating with such regularity,

innocents injured while violence takes hold.

 

Where is the love when our cities are targeted,

common humanity shattered or lost?

How can we love when such hatred is harvested,

offering grace while not counting the cost?

 

God bring compassion to heal our communities,

love reaching deep to the centre of loss,

meeting us deep in our horror and fearfulness,

vulnerable saviour of comfort and cross.  (© Andrew Pratt 4/6/2017)

 

Alternate Last Verse:

Stir up compassion to heal our communities,

love reaching deep to the centre of loss,

meeting each neighbour in horror and fearfulness,

draw us together through comfort and cross.

oOo

New Lenten Studies from Greg Jenks

Travel the Slow Path – Lent 2017

Rex Hunt has kindly forwarded details of Greg Jenk’s Lenten Studies. This may be of interest to our subscribers because of its contemporary and practical focus. We already have a link under “LGreg Jenks2eading Practitioners” to Greg and that site has items of interest about his work in the Holy Land and other places. Greg is currently a scholar and Dean of St George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem and Residentiary Canon at St George’s College.

These studies are available online from: Travel the Slow Path: Lent 2017

oOo

A Progressive Christian Voice

Just a reminder to regularly go to our friends at A Progressive Christian Voice (Australia) who are encouraging contributions to public debate by promoting a generous and future-focused understanding of the Christian faith.

A Progressive Christian Voice (Australia):

  • Understands Christian opinion to be more diverse and broader than that portrayed by the media.
  • Is dedicated to contributing insights from progressive streams of the Christian faith and community.
  • Seeks to minimise the effect that powerful lobby groups have on public discourse.

oOo

A Hymn in response to the NZ Earthquake

earthquake-nzFrom Bill Wallace via Rex Hunt

I am sending this hymn to you as a response to the massive earthquake in N.Z. earlier this week. It was written after the Christchurch quake but is equally appropriate now. It has been published in the USA by World Library Publications as part of a collections of some of my hymns Singing the Sacred Vol 2.

I would be most appreciative if you could send it out to all those who are on your Progressive Christianity list. It can be sung to Lucerna Laudoniae 77 in With One Voice.

Many thanks in anticipation, Bill Wallace.

“When Earth Wakes from Out of Sleep”

When Earth wakes from out of sleep

With a terrifying shake,

Does our faith lie torn apart

Like the dwellings we forsake?

Cosmic God, each process shows

Parts of wisdom Earth well knows.

 

Once we thought that earthquakes came

From a god to punish wrong;

Now we know they place Earth’s plates

Where for now they should belong.

Cosmic God, each process shows

Parts of wisdom Earth well knows.

 

If we think that all that comes

Is made solely for our good,

We have placed ourselves above

Cosmic ways and livelihood.

Cosmic God, each process shows

Parts of wisdom Earth well knows.

 

If Earth’s plates now need to move,

Its great need exceeds our own,

And it does not take account

Where we choose to make our home.

Cosmic God, each process shows

Parts of wisdom Earth well knows.

 

For the answers we return

To the Cosmos and its ways,

Ways that humble all our pride,

Ways that fill our hearts with praise.

Cosmic God of everything,

Your great mystery now we sing.

oOo

Advent/Christmas Carol adaptation for Refugee Children

Rex Hunt has passed this on to us:

Our New Zealand friend, Shirley Erina Murray, harefugee-childrens sent me this song which reflects on Refugee children during the Advent/Christmas season. You may care to consider using it sometime soon. Thank you Shirley.

“Carol of the Refugee Children” (Tune: ‘Cradle Song’)

Away and in danger,

no hope of a bed,

the refugee children,

no tears left to shed

                look up at the night sky

                for someone to know

                that refugee children

                have no place to go.       

The babies are crying,

their hunger awakes,

the boat is too loaded,

it shudders and breaks;

                humanity’s wreckage

                is thrown out to die,

                the refugee children

                will never know why.

Come close, little children,

we hold out our hand

in rescue and welcome

to shores of our land –

                in *aroha, touching

       your fear and your pain,

                with dreams for your future            

                when peace comes again.

(© Shirley Erena Murray 2016)

*Maori for ‘warm embracing love’, alternative line “in touching, in healing’

 

John Churcher’s 2015 Lenten Studies now available

Progressive Christianity Lent Course 2015

On the Edge

One again John Churcher has provided us with a set of excellent studies for Progressive Christians. These are available in PDF format.  To request a free copy, contact me at click here.

Contents

Week One:   Mark 1: 9 – 11 The baptism of Jesus: contradictory Gospel stories

Week Two:   Mark 8: 31 – 38 Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

Week Three: John 2: 13 – 22 Jesus Cleanses the Temple: once or twice?

Week Four:   John 3:14 – 21 For God so loved the world: one of the most out of   context and misquoted verses in the whole of the Christian Testament

Week Five:   John 12:20 – 35 Passiontide and John’s Gospel

 

Permission to Speak is the ministry of retired Christian minister, John Churcher. It is an exploration of an emerging understanding of spirituality and of the sacred freed from the old ideas of an exclusive supernatural ‘god Being’somewhere ‘out there’.

Permission to Speak is pushing the boundaries of belief in an attempt to make the Jesus message more relevant in today’s fast changing and increasingly secular world.

Although the starting point is that Jesus of Nazareth is a gateway into the sacred, Permission to Speak respects and honours those who have found other gateways. The past in different faith traditions is important in understanding how we have arrived at the present, but Permission to Speak is more concerned with living in today’s world than with tradition.