Singing a gendered God?

We had a lovely Corpus Christi Mass.  It was good to clearly help people identify themselves as the body of Christ. Theological research is beginning to show how important this is, particularly among those who are marginalised.

I am also aware of how formative hymnody is upon Christian community, perhaps even more so than the liturgy. In the light of that, I wondered how women in church are seeing themselves as participants in the body of Christ, the life of the divine, reflecting and embodying the vision of God we give in worship.

Last week (Trinity Sunday – which we might expect to be full with Father/Son language) in the hymns/psalms we had:

References to he, him, his                        13

Other male titles                                          13

References to us as exclusively male         1

Bearing in mind that this week we had … Let us build a house, Soul of my saviour, Sweet Sacrament Divine and Praise with joy, all almost entirely without gendered references. You may be surprised at this week’s count in what we sang (not counted during the Mass!)

references to he, him, his                   48 !

other male titles                                   36

references to us as exclusively male   1

Mother God over Leningrad
(Ivan, 9yrs)

so….. being a bringer of solutions rather than problems! I wonder if we might do something – because the evidence from this looks to me like we can’t sit back and think it’s ok if we just ‘balance’ the hymns.

Simple alterations could be made on weeks where there’s a hymn sheet – it wouldn’t take long. In the longer term; we have written our own verses to some hymns to reflect particular festivals that St Chrysostom’s values. What about writing our own verses that promote our inclusive stance? This could be done in workshops so people own and experience a liberating process. Single verses would allow both to maintain the integrity of hymns we cherish and would want to be familiar in the context of our wider Anglican communion and beyond,  and also provide clear alternative images of God and our relationship with God – which might in the longer term also influence the wider church too.

Mtr Kim


About stchrysostoms

St Chrysostom’s is an Anglican (Church of England) parish church in Manchester. We’re an inclusive, diverse and welcoming faith community where people of differing backgrounds make friends. Find our Facebook group at
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2 Responses to Singing a gendered God?

  1. Trish says:

    I agree – if St Chrysostom’s is really inclusive, should we be singing things like this –
    “O praise ye the Lord! Praise him upon earth, in tuneful accord, ye sons of new birth” – I find it very difficult to sing words like this – aren’t the daughters of new birth allowed/encouraged to praise God too?

  2. john grant says:

    Life is a many gendered thing

    Isn’t it interesting what different people do during Mass? If evidence from funerals is anything to go by singing hymns is on the way out so it may not be something to worry about for too long. I don’t know how many people are like me in knowing pop songs and hymns by tune but not the words. Would be good for me to study the ‘theological reseach’ mentioned to put me back on track.

    On Trinity Sunday I could see no escape for Christians from a gendered God with Jesus, his introduction to the Father and hundreds of years of trinitarian theology. The novel ‘The Shack’ takes and interesting approach and I finished my homily with the following prayer:-
    “Great praise and everlasting glory be to God,
    Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
    Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier,
    Lover, Beloved and Mutual Friend,
    Giver of life, Bearer of pain, Maker of Love,
    Alpha and Omega, The Beginning and the End. …..

    I listen every day to people talking about the God they have come to know in their lives and what God is doing for them that they could not do for themselves. For nearly all this is an ungendered God not out of any trinitarian theology.

    Whilst Chrysostoms was celebrating Corpus Christi at st Lukes we had the ever radical Jesus saying “who is my mother? who are my brothers?” I wrestled with all this position, relationship, gendered stuff but an answer came a few days late for the homily but again in a prayer which made me smile.
    “We give paise and thanks to our glorious father the sun,
    and the hosts of ancestor stars, for they afre our energy and mass.
    We give praise and thanks to our mother the holy earth,
    for without her neither life nor breath, nor any home in the cosmic cold.
    We give praise and thanks to our gentle gaurdian the air,
    nourishing us with breath, sheltering us from burning rays.
    We give praise and thanks to our mother the ocean,
    source of earth-life and he sister could , rain and storms.
    We give praise and thanks to our sisters the plants,
    holders of earth, builders with the sun,
    base of the food chain, fountains of living air.
    We give praise and thanks to our brothers the animals,
    insects, reptiles, fish and birds, inheritors with us of the evolving earth.
    We give praise and thanks to the father and mother who gave us birth,
    to children of our flesh and spirit, and all the holy family that surrounds us.
    We give praise and thanks to the ground and being,
    that sustains these kinships, father, mother,
    that we seek and need not seek,
    for our sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers,
    are all around us.
    We praise them.”

    Perhaps life is after all a many gendered thing.

    Both prayers are from ‘Out of the silence …….. by Jim Cotter and Paul Payton.

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