Feminine God Month by Peter Armstrong
“Glory to the Mother, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.”
These are the words we use to respond to the opening words of our daily morning prayer at Deaconess Anne house. And while it may be shocking to some to hear the first person of the Holy Trinity referred to as “Mother,” I have become quite used to it ever since we began at the start of June, which we deemed our “Feminine God Month.”
Throughout this month, we decided we would change he to she, his to her, and so on whenever referring to the Person that Jesus so lovingly called “Abba.” Though at the beginning we often slipped into saying “Father” instead of “Mother,” “Kingdom” instead of “Queendom,” etc., by the end of the first month we had all grown rather accustomed to it, and our liturgy again flowed. Indeed, we all were so content using this feminine language that we decided to continue on after the end of June through July and the rest of our time living together here at Deaconess Anne House.
Why was this change necessary, you might ask? To many white straight men like myself, it is easy to feel like the language we use in our liturgy and elsewhere is not terribly important, because we are the constant benefactors of having it always be about us. It is easy for us to say that male-dominated language is really just a leftover artifact from a patriarchal past, kept only for the sake of convenience (because inclusive language can be clunky at times), but switching to exclusively feminine language makes us men confront the reality of what it’s like to feel “othered” in relation to God.
It’s not about “getting even”; to do so would necessitate thousands of years of an entirely female-dominated liturgy and hierarchy within the church, which I’m fairly certain I can confidently say will never happen. Rather, exploring the Feminine Divine through female-gendered language is about breaking God out of the box we’ve put Her into and exploring new facets to the Divine Mystery.
For truly, I believe that saying God is an exclusively male figure puts limits on God. And a limited God is not transcendent, infinite or, I would say, worthy of praise. A limited God is simply a bigger version of myself. Only an infinite God can be there with us at all times and in all situations. Only an infinite God can know and love us more intimately than we ourselves do. Only an infinite God is capable of living up to all that we say about her, and so that is why I find great value in exploring new facets within the mystery of the Godhead.
And while allowing God to fluctuate between the binary poles of male and female still fails to fully encapsulate the breadth and depth of God (and still leaves out many people who feel these binary gendered pronouns do not accurately represent their gender), it is a step in the right direction. Ultimately, I would hope that our language about God becomes as open and varied as the world we live in, expressing the diversity of God in the diversity of her transgender, non-binary, and genderfluid creation. So even though I doubt many worshipers will be as ready as myself to use the singular “they” in reference to God (even though God refers to themself as “us” in the Garden of Eden; you’d think we Christians would have caught on by now!), I am grateful to have taken one step in the right direction together with my housemates by exploring the Feminine Divine during our community’s worship times.
Peter Armstrong is a 2015-2016 DAH Corps Member working as Christ Church Cathedral's Digital Missioner. In a couple weeks, he will begin a new yearlong internship working at Sojourners Magazine in Washington, DC. Peter is currently going through the discernment process for priesthood in the Diocese of Missouri.