Church isn’t easy. There’s a lot to disagree about within Christianity, and within American (or Canadian, or your own country’s) politics. But still, some of you–pastors, leaders, lay leaders, and church members–will find that’s it’s worth it to take some risks to bring feminine language for God into church services.
You are the ones who know that to be completely supportive of women, we need to acknowledge the image of women within the Godhead. This starts with the words we use to describe God. To fully affirm that God made women in Her image, we must begin to change from worshiping an exclusively masculine god to an Invisible God who welcomes both male and female metaphors and pronouns to describe God.
If you are ready to begin the task of introducing your church to feminine language for God, here’s where to start:
One) Begin using it in your own prayer life.
This didn’t happen for me until I made up my mind to do my one-person experiment. I only used devotional books and Bibles that used feminine language for God until it started to get more comfortable to call God “Mother.”
I continue to use these helpful resources during my time with God:
Swallow’s Nest: a Feminine Reading of the Psalms by Marchienne Vroon Rienstra
The Divine Feminine Version of the New Testament by The Christian Godde Project
The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation by Priests for Equality
Two) Do a teaching or sermon series on the Biblical basis for feminine language for God.
There are many obvious references to God as mother in the Old Testament and some in the New. I used to stumble over the argument that God is a father but only like a mother. Recently I re-read the mother verses and discovered that most of the time the Old Testament writers use mother as a metaphor. In fact, often God is speaking in the first person as a mother (See my post here). Jesus himself uses mothering as an implied metaphor when he says, “Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:6).
It’s amazing what you and your congregation will discover as you unpack these verses that affirm the feminine within God.
Three) Discuss and introduce hymns that have inclusive language and feminine language for God.
It is often the lyrics to our hymns and worship songs that create sexist barriers and block full participation by egalitarians. Getting past the first few songs in a service can be a challenge with so many references to God as male, or to the “brotherhood of believers” or to being “sons of God.” Yet, great resources exist for bringing healing to women and men through music:
–Jann Aldredge Clanton’s hymn and worship song compilations.
–“5 Tips and Tricks for Being Gender-Inclusive in Worship” by Rev. Wesley Spears Newsome
–This great article for general guidelines for selecting inclusive hymns: https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/making-hymns-inclusive.
Four) Occasionally, use “She” as a pronoun for God, and refer to God as Mother in prayer.
Expect push-back. And keep going. Rev. Paul R. Smith, author of Is It Okay to Call God Mother? Considering the Feminine Face of God, says when he refers to God as “She” members of his congregation tend to laugh or giggle. Eventually, your congregants will understand that it’s not a joke, and will start to get comfortable with the fact that the God who is a non-physical person will sometimes be “He” and sometimes be “She.” Check out Paul Smith’s amazing book as a possible resource as you respond to complaints and questions. A scholarly work to refer to is Dr. Timothy Bulkeley’s book, Not Only a Father: Talk of God as Mother in the Bible and Christian Tradition.
Five) If you are in a liturgical setting, alternate the use of “Father” and “Mother” in liturgies sometimes.
One of my first breakthroughs in being able to call God Mother was during my husband’s home church services, where we alternated Father and Mother in the liturgy. Saying “Mother” out loud, and even better, “Mother Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth” helped affirm to me that it really is okay to call God Mother.
Someone I knew balked at the term “Mother Almighty,” because in his mind “mother” could never be “almighty.” But that’s exactly the problem that we are trying to solve with changes in the language we use for God in church and society.
With the help of these new words for God, someday the church may see what God sees: the strength of women, who are made in the image of the Almighty God (Gen. 1:27).