The Prophetess Huldah & The Call to Let Idolatry Go! 💕

Shalom Everyone! For my congregation’s Sukkot celebration we started with a day where everyone dressed as a Bible character and so with Esther, Ruth and Deborah taken I decided to dress as the little known Hebrew Prophetess Huldah whose prophetic words to King Josiah helped the entire Kingdom of Judah turn from Idolatry. She was also a scribe and some scholars say she scribed the words of the Shema: “Hear of Israel, The Lord Our God is One.” 


I have recently been reading about Huldah and have found her to be one of the least known but critical heroines of the Hebrew people. Earlier this week my Pastor asked me to deliver a short message and I decided to speak about Huldah and the Call to Let Idolatry Go as we go into a season of many pagan celebrations but also as we all struggle with idols of the heart. 

🌬Check out my message here: The Prophetess Huldah & The Call to Let Idolatry Go! 💕

🙌🏿Invitation: At the end of my message I invited everyone into a time of prayer to repent of any Idolatry in our lives and for the strength to Let Idolatry Go! I invite you to pause and do the same. 🙏🏾

For more information on the Prophetess Huldah check out: Huldah the Prophet Who Wrote Hebrew Scripture


Note I doubt Huldah looked like this but the book is still pretty cool! 😉

Here is a more accurate depiction of the Prophetess Huldah. 👆🏿 

Be Blessed! 💕 

🌬Proverbs 31 & The Eschet Chayil: A Message to the Black Woman🙌🏿👑 

                      Slide by Minister Stella Payton

For Pentecost 2016 aka Shavout I was invited to speak for Women’s Day at Christ Temple Church in Harlem under the leadership of Apostle Bishop Clark. I always appreciate being able to share the Hebraic roots of our faith with Black Christian women and in this sermon I shared about what Proverbs 31 means in the original Hebrew cultural it was written in. 
In Hebrew Virtuous Woman is Eschet Chayil which means Woman of Valor or Woman of War. Dr. Frank Seekins whose work centers around Hebrew word pictures and Minister Stella Payton whose work centers around how women of faith can take the knowledge of being Eschet Chayils to build strong homes and businesses have deeply informed my message. 

To listen to my sermon check out these videos below, the main portion of the sermon is in part 2. Be Blessed! 💕

Eschet Chayil: A Message to the Black Woman Part 1

Eschet Chayil: A Message to the Black Woman Part 2

Eschet Chayil: A Message to the Black Woman Part 3 

At the end of my message I invited my friends from the FPA Foundation forward to share about their work as women who are former foster children that now advocate for foster children and families connected to the system. As some of you may know I spent most of my childhood in foster care and in the future I will be working with the FPA Foundation to form a United Nations Committee on Foster Care. Please check out The FPA Foundation and support their cause! 

#Sukkot Message: Eternal Jubileee 🙌🏿🌬🙏🏿 🎺

My congregation Beth-El House of Yahweh observes all the Biblical Feast and it has been a blessing for me to observe these moedim or appointed times where we can take time out of our busy schedules and commune with each other and the King of the universe. This week is the Biblical feast of Sukkot aka Feast of Tabernacles, where the Hebrews remember how Yah kept them during their wilderness time after leaving bondage in Egypt.
My congregation usually goes away to a camp ground with other congregations from across the nation for Sukkot but this year we stayed in the South Bronx and each day we have activities and each evening we worshipped under our Sukkot and waved the fruit and branches as we are commanded to do in scripture.

From Hebrew for Christians: 

“In Biblical times, Sukkot was considered the most important of all the holidays, referred to simply as “the Feast” (1 Kings 12:32). It was a time of many sacrifices (Num. 29:12-40) and a time when (on Sabbatical years) the Torah would be read aloud to the people (Deut. 31:10-13). It is one of the three required festivals of the Yahweh (Exod. 23:14; Deut. 16:16).

The Torah explicitly commands three things regarding the festival of Sukkot:
To gather the “four species” (Lev. 23:40)
To rejoice before Yahweh (Deut. 16:13-14; Lev. 23:40)

To live in a sukkah (Lev. 23:42)”.

Our Theme for this Sukkot is: The Marriage Supper of the Lamb from Revelation 19: 6-9 and each night different groups from my congregation worked together as neighborhood based groups to lead the service based on various themes. My group was the Brooklyn/Harlem group and our theme was Jubilee. As a faith-based organizer working on economic justice or what some of my colleagues call the Moral Economy I LOVE Jubilee. Across the country clergy are using the Biblical Jubilee model to end economic injustices such as payday lending. For more information on this work check out: Pay Day Lending is a Biblical Issue.


For my group’s service I shared a reflection on Jubilee and how this Biblical practice can assist us not only financially but spiritually and emotionally as well.

I invite you to read my reflection below and offer your feedback.

Since this week’s theme is The Marriage Supper of the Lamb I wanted to share briefly on the connection between the traditional Hebrew engagement and marriage ceremony, the West African traditional engagement and marriage ceremony and how both point to our Messiah. When we look at the traditional Hebrew Marriage ceremony we see many practices that point to our Messiah’s return and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. For instance, in The Book of Revelation 3:20 Yahshua says:

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

Well did you know that when a Hebrew man wanted to marry a Hebrew woman he would go to her home and do a “knocking Ceremony” and if the sister wanted to accept his proposal she would open the door and the groom to be would be invited into a festive meal but if she didn’t want to accept it her dad would open the door to break the news to brother proposing, bringing a new meaning to the phrase “what’s behind door number 2.”


        West African Knocking Ceremony 

In West African countries such as Nigeria where many Hebrews migrated after the temple was destroyed traditional engagements to this day include a knocking ceremony where the groom to be knocks on the Bride to be’s door. When we read in Revelation 3:20 that Yahshua is knocking this is an invite for us as his Bride to accept him into our hearts. In knocking ceremonies if the knocking groom is let in the Bride, her family and the groom have a meal together to celebrate, like Yahshua mentions in Revelation 3:20. For more information on the Yoruba of Nigeria’s migration from Israel read Origin of the Yoruba and The Lost Tribes of Israel.



Photos of my friend Nina’s Yoruba    Traditional Engagement Ceremony (Can you spot where I am 😀?)

A wedding is a time of celebration, but in Hebrew culture our traditional engagement and marriage ceremonies point to more than just romance but they point to a divine love story between Israel and Yah. No matter how many times Yah knocked on Israel’s door and got no answer in return he keeps loving us and pursuing us as his bride.

Aren’t you grateful that Yah keeps pursuing us?

Though Jubilee was an awesome way to honor Yah, our Hebrew ancestors didn’t fulfill it and yet STILL Yah has a final Jubilee, a divine Marriage Supper for his wayward Bride and all who join her.

According to minister and author Jack Wellman, the word Jubilee in the Old Testament comes from the Hebrew word “Yobel” or “Yovel” meaning Ram’s horn, trumpet or Coronet. To announce the Jubilee year, the Shofar would be blown and this would happen on the Day of Atonement, which shows an important connection between Atonement, having our sins forgiven and being able to celebrate the Jubilee. When you heard the Shofar blown on the Day of ATONEMENT on the 50th year you knew that not only were your sins forgiven but that your debts were forgiven and if you were a slave you would be set free.

The Septuagint translation of the Bible renders the word Jubilee in Hebrew as a blast of liberty! Jubilee meant that those who had to sell themselves into slavery due to poverty would be freed and indeed don’t we sell ourselves into bondage when we sin?

But the Good News, the Great News, the Gospel News is Yahshua came to give us Jubilee Freedom and we know this because he began his earthly ministry by reading Isaiah 61: 1-4 in the Temple:

The Spirit of YAH is on me,

because Yah has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim freedom for the captives

and release from darkness for the prisoners,

to proclaim the year of Yah’s favor

and the day of vengeance of our Yah,

to comfort all who mourn,

and provide for those who grieve in Zion—

to bestow on them a crown of beauty

instead of ashes,

the oil of joy

instead of mourning,

and a garment of praise

instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,

a planting of Yah

for the display of his splendor.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins

and restore the places long devastated;

they will renew the ruined cities

that have been devastated for generations.

The Year of Yah’s favor that we read about in Isaiah 61: 2 is the Jubilee year so by reading this scripture to start his earthly ministry Yahshua is letting us know that he is beginning a Jubilee!


Blowing the Shofar for the Feast Days in Nigeria at the Community of Hashem Congregation 

Jubilee was more than a year of celebration but it was a year of liberation. Jubilee was the 50th year in the Hebrew calendar after the 7th Shabbat year or what some call the shmita year where the land laid fallow and was allowed to rest. Sadly, though Jubilee was an awesome gift to Yah’s people like my sister Shanay reminded me the Hebrews never fully kept the Jubilee which is one of the reasons we went into captivity. Instead of fully keeping the Jubilee the Hebrews would try to play Yah by doing things like not giving out loans in the 49th year. Have you ever tried to play Yah, by finding a loop hole not to completely follow his commandments? For instance, some Hebrews would try to get out of taking care of their parents by saying “I need to pay my offerings.” See one aspect of a religious spirit is trying to play Yah aka having a form of being Yah like while denying Yah’s power.

           Yah can’t be played or mocked. 


We will reap what we sow, unless we come under the banner of Yahshua’s love and grace by answering when he knocks on the door of our hearts.

Who would agree that most of our people are in economic bondage?

How many articles and documentaries do we see on Black economics and yet Yah created a plan for our economic liberation and it’s called Jubilee.


Jubilee was instituted for our people coming out of Egyptian slavery so no one would ever have to live in slavery again. Who knows that economic debt can feel like slavery?

Jubilee means slaves are set free and debts are forgiven and land was returned to those who lost their land to debt.

How many people need to be set free?

Well the Apostle Paul lets us know in Galatians 5:1:

It is for freedom that Yahshua has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

This scripture is also alluding to the Jubilee and making a connection between Yahshua and Jubilee like Isaiah 61.

Jubilee in the Natural

Do you know why items are removed from your credit reports after 7 years? This is because the credit industry on a small level is following Torah Jubilee. If you have items that are older than 7-years on your credit report seek credit clean up services because it’s illegal for those items to remain on your report.

Yes, even the banks prosper by taking from our culture.

Bankruptcy only last 7-years because even our sinful financial system has enough sense to at least half way follow Jubilee. Remember every 7 years is a Shabbat year where the land was to allowed to rest and after 7 Sabbath Years which is 49 years the next year, the 50th year is the Jubilee year.

Did you know that different Christian denominations had a campaign called Jubilee 2000 to ask world governments to forgive African countries of their debt (which is weird to me because the sin was committed against Africa not the other way around).


2015-2016 was a Jubilee Year and during this time the United Nations urged America to pay reparations due to slavery. This is why it’s important to keep up with current events in light of the Bible because Yah is moving and we don’t want to be left behind.

I participated in the United Nations fact finding mission as a testifier on the impact of Mass Incarceration on Black Women and Girls, you can read my testimony here. After these fact finding missions the UN decided ancestors of the slave trade deserve reparations.

I mention these natural examples of Jubilee because we as Yah’s people left this practice on the floor and now others are attempting to use it but with Yah we his people still have a chance to practice Jubilee and get it right even though we have been dead wrong.

I also share these natural examples of Jubilee because first the natural and then the spiritual so let’s talk about the Spiritual Jubilee which is that time when we will be with Yahshua united as all 12 Tribes of Israel and those who join Israel.

Revelation 19:6-9 tell us that:

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah!

For Yah the Almighty reigns.

Let us rejoice and exult

and give him the glory,

for the marriage of the Lamb has come,

and his Bride has made herself ready;

it was granted her to clothe herself

with fine linen, bright and pure”—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said[a] to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of Yah.”

On that Great Day all of our debts natural and spiritual will be no more. Who is looking forward to that eternal jubilee of Joy?

So as my Pastor Jonathan reminds us these Feast Days or  moedim are dress rehearsals for that wonderful time when we are with Yah and living in that millennial period, BUT how can we practice Jubilee now?

Well maybe you aren’t a big multi-national bank but almost everyone in this sanctuary has someone in their life that owes you a debt, the debt that is owed to some of us is money and for others the debt is emotional but guess what right now we have a divine choice-we can be like our Hebrew ancestors and not fully keep Jubilee or we can answer the call to set those who have hurt and offended us free.

Or maybe you don’t need to set someone free but due to sin that has you bound you need Yah to set you free. Are there sins that have you in slavery? Well guess what Yahshua came to set you free and give you an eternal Jubilee!

Invitation

So I want to invite you to a time of personal prayer where you ask Yah to help you forgive someone who wronged you that you need to set free or if a sin has you in bondage take the time to pray and ask Yah to set you free from the sin that has you in bondage.

So take a few minutes to silently pray. 

Remember we can practice Jubilee everyday by walking in liberation and extending liberation to our brothers and sisters through the power of forgiveness. In this way we can begin the Joy of our Eternal Jubilee today! 💕


Black Women & The Death Penalty

Earlier this year I was apart of a dialogue on the death penalty for Religion & Politics  The Table Dialogue where various faith leaders write responses on a pressing social issue from the perspective of their faith tradition.

Death-Penalty-GettyImages-984627-001-584-x-380-445x290

Never Murder.  –Exodus 20:13 (God’s Word Translation)

As an African American woman who identifies with the Hebraic roots of the Christian faith and who has found a theological home in womanist theology, my religious tradition informs my views of the death penalty in general and as it affects Black women in particular. As a follower of Yahshua (Jesus), the Ten Commandments are still very relevant to my life and shape my ethics. I do not separate the message of the Gospel from the cultural context that Yahshua was born into. In light of this I still observe the Sabbath and when I read in Exodus 20:13 that “we should not murder,” that applies to my brothers and sisters who are incarcerated as well. As a practical womanist theologian who works against mass incarceration’s impact on Black women and girls through the PICO National Network’s Live Free Campaign, which works to end mass incarceration and police brutality, I am grieved by how the intersections of racism, sexism and classism collide to send my sisters to death row. Do we see these women?

As a woman I am inspired by the account of the Egyptian enslaved woman Hagar, who after being unjustly cast out of the home of Abraham and Sarah with her son, encounters the “God who sees her” (Genesis 16:13). Like Hagar, African American women in the criminal justice system are usually unseen and unheard, especially those who are on death row. According to academics Harry and Sheila P. Greenlee, “The percentage of women of every race receiving death sentences is less than their percentage in the female population, except for African American and Native American women. The percentage of African American and Native American females receiving death sentences is more than double their percentage of the U.S. female population. Interestingly, this finding is not true for the other women of color.” It should also be noted that Native American women face disparities in the criminal justice system as well, and this reflects the ongoing injustice faced by the general Native American population since the inception of the United States, which prospered due to the stolen land of Native Americans and stolen bodies of Africa. Theologically I believe that sin is not only individual but also social and is embedded into the very fabric of American society. The United States’ original sin is racism, and the death penalty is just another reflection of this sin. Theologically we mustsee the millions of Black women and girls who are abused by the criminal justice system, whose lives end not only in murder on death row but also while in police custody. In July 2015 five Black women died in police custody and their names are:

Sandra Bland

Kindra Chapman

Joyce Curnell

Ralkina Jones

Raynette Turner

I would challenge advocates against the death penalty to expand their work to include advocacy concerning those who die in police custody, because in my opinion this goes hand-in-hand with the death penalty: One is formal, another is informal, but both are murder by our criminal justice system.

As a faith-based organizer I know that what must be done about the death penalty in general, and its impact on Black women in particular, is that we need to get organized. But this organization should be led by African Americans because we are the ones most affected by the injustice of mass incarceration. Ending the death penalty has to be a part of a holistic campaign to reform our broken, profit-driven mass incarceration system. African American women must organize against the death penalty in all its forms—whether it’s a sister sitting on death row for ten years or Sandra Bland who died in police custody. We have to organize with prophetic public actions, standing not for but withwomen on death row, because the most powerful movements are led by those closest to the pain.

We also must organize by withholding our money and our votes. According to the Nielsen Company study entitled “African American Consumers: Still Vital, Still Growing in 2015,” African American buying power is 1.1 trillion. According to the “Buying Power of Black America” report by Target Market News, “the purchases made by Black women are the single biggest influence on the growth of African American spending.” With this buying power we can begin to boycott those companies that utilize prison labor and those companies that invest in private prisons. According to my colleague Margarida Jorge, national director of the Women’s Equality Center, African American women are the most consistent voters for the Democratic Party. With this voting power, we should demand of all political parties, but especially the Democratic Party, that our support be tied to candidates willing to stand against the death penalty. According to research from Wesley Granberg-Michaelson in his book From Times Square to Timbuktu: The Post-Christian West Meets the Non-Western Church, the average Christian in the world today is a woman of African ancestry. Black women not only have buck and ballot power; we have the power to influence the Christian church to take on the issue of ending the death penalty. For non-Black women allies the death penalty affects all of us and your voice as an ally is extremely important in supporting a movement to end this sinful practice in our criminal justice system. We all must get organized to build a groundswell that says the death penalty is unacceptable in our society. We all must see those who are on death row because they are our brothers, sisters, daughters, sons, friends, and neighbors. It is only when we see the tragedy of a criminal justice system that murders rather than reforms that we will create a society that honors the lives of all.

Onleilove Alston, M.Div., MSW, is a native New Yorker and Executive Director of Faith in NY, an affiliate of the PICO National Network, where she leads A Women’s Theology of Liberation, training women of faith to organize through a gender lens rooted in their faith. She tweets@Wholeness4ALL

Also In
The Discussion

Capital Crime Calls for Capital Punishment

By J. Daryl Charles

The United States Should Abolish the Death Penalty, as Pope Francis Implores

By Joseph A. Fiorenza

For Mormons, a Contested Legacy on Capital Punishment

By Patrick Q. Mason

– See more at: http://religionandpolitics.org/2016/01/19/lets-reform-our-broken-criminal-justice-system/#sthash.tjxLcEFr.dpuf

UN Working Group for People of African Descent Testimony on Mass Incarceration’s Impact on Black Women & Girls

On Tuesday January 26th, 2016 I  testified before the U.N. Working Group for People of African Descent at their NY Factfinding Mission. Her testimony was about how Mass Incarceration impacts Black Women and Girls. This Factfinding mission is apart of the decade for people of African Descent whose ancestors were taken into the transatlantic slave trade. Find my testimony below:

My name is Onleilove Alston and I am the Executive Director of PICO-Faith in New York, which is the New York affiliate of the PICO Network, the largest faith based organizing network in the world, additionally, I led A Women’s Theology of Liberation for the network. Faith in New York is a federation of over 70 multi-faith and multi-race congregations representing over 80,000 New Yorkers. Our vision is to build a New York where ALL not some of New Yorkers live in dignity through ending mass incarceration, fostering economic dignity and gaining comprehensive immigration reform. I want to welcome the delegation and thank you for traveling to the US to assess to state of People of African descent.

Personally, I was born and raised in East New York, Brooklyn one of the seven neighborhoods in New York that sends the highest numbers of people to New York State prisons. As a young woman who experienced homelessness and foster care (which is a pipeline to prison), the intersections of race, class and gender caused me to be targeted by police. While most of us are aware of the New Jim Crow against Black men and boys Black women and girls are silently facing police brutality and sexual assault and raising incarceration rates. In July 2015 alone five Black women died in police custody and their names are:

Sandra Bland

Kindra Chapman

Joyce Curnell

Ralkina Jones

Raynette Turner

 

What many do not know is that Black women of child bearing age are entering prison for the first time at extremely high rates. Mass incarceration is an issue with many tentacles, and in New York, one tentacle is school suspension rates that are through the roof for black children. What many  don’t understand is that according to data from the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education, as presented in a recent New York Times article: “black girls in public elementary and secondary schools nationwide are suspended at a rate of 12 percent compared with a rate of just 2 percent for white girls and more than girls of any race or ethnicity. … An analysis by Villanova [University] researchers of data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth and the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health indicated that black girls with the darkest skin tones were three times more likely to be suspended than black girls with the lightest skin.”

The implicit bias of colorism also affects prison sentences. Villanova researchers studied more than 12,000 cases of African-American women imprisoned in North Carolina and found that women with lighter skin tones were sentenced to 12 percent less time behind bars than women with darker skin tones. Mass incarceration is showing that we can no longer ignore colorism in our communities.

Furthermore, since 2013 there have been multiple incidents of visibly pregnant Black women being beaten by police. One such woman was Brenda Hardaway a Rochester, New York resident who was slammed to the ground by cops while crying “you’re going to kill my baby” this is one of five incidents of pregnant women of color being beaten by the cops that I have encountered in my work this year. While the New Jim Crow was coming through the front door and removing black men from our communities, it was also going through the back door and quietly removing black women. We are unaware of the impending crisis that the incarceration of Black mothers, daughters, and sisters is going to cause in our community, quantitative data is needed to further study the impact of mass incarceration on African-American women and girls.

Suggested Questions

A. Culturally-Competent, Gender & Race Informed Criminal Justice Services-What efforts have federal, state and local governments made to ensure the availability of: a) trainings for law enforcement professionals focused on cultural and gender competencies and b) resources to attract Black women into criminal justice and legal professions?
B. Legislation-what federal, state or local legislation has been passed to a) ensure that gender-based police violence is prosecuted to the full extent of the law and b) ensure that African-American girls that are sex trafficked are given support services and not incarcerated as sex workers?
C. Disaggregate Data-Does the federal, state and local governments collect data categorized by race or ethnic origin that is disaggregated by gender-identity related to police misconduct?

 

Suggested Recommendations

A. That the Department of Justice, as well as state and local governments be required to collect data concerning police brutality categorized by race and ethnic origin that is disaggregated by age and gender-identity.
B. That the U.S. Department of Justice partner with Domestic Violence and Women’s Organizations to host local Truth Commissions on gender based police violence against Black Women with a commitment to enacting policy changes that are generated from these commissions.
C. That U.S. Department of Justice, state and local police departments should:
• Provide culturally-competent, age appropriate and gender informed criminal justice services.
• Collect data concerning the role that theimplicit bias of colorism plays on arrest and sentencing and provide recommendations for law enforcement and legal staff at the local, state and federal levels to counteract this bias in sentencing and arrest.

Ending #Hannukkah: He Will Provide Oil for Our Liberation

  

This Sunday was the last night of Hanukkah and though I know I am super late I wanted to share how blessed I was to end it at one of the @faithinnewyork Congregations I am blessed to work with, their Leader had the vision in 2009 to teach a class on how to mix oils the way in which The Most High instructed Moses to in Exodus 30:22-33, this then became a service and they held it this year on the last day of The Feastofdedication  aka Hanukkah and the miracle of the oil lasting longer than expected is central to this day. Being in an atmosphere where my people made and blessed oils as instructed in Exodus was beautiful and reminded me that though we are going through a great deal of injustice Yahweh will ensure that we have enough of his oil and anointing to fight for our liberation like the Maccabees. 

#StandwithBlackWomen&Girls Reflection

Stand with Black Women and Girls

Devotional: The First Baby Shower Unites Women on the Margins

by Onleilove Alston

This piece was originally published in the NPR’s OnBeing Blog

(http://www.onbeing.org/blog/first-baby-shower-unites-women-margins/2738)

This season I am reminded of the meeting Mary had with Elizabeth to announce she was with child. Though this could have been a time of anxiety for Mary, with Elizabeth it became a time of celebration. I playfully call the following account of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth the first baby shower and in this account we an example of the deep sisterhood that maintains women on the margins especially Black woman during times of uncertainty.

“Mary didn’t waste a minute. She got up and traveled to a town in Judah in the hill country, straight to Zachariah’s house, and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb leaped. She was filled with the Holy Spirit, and sang out exuberantly, you’re so blessed among women, and the babe in your womb, also blessed, And why am I so blessed that the mother of my Lord visits me? The moment the sound of your greeting entered my ears, The babe in my womb skipped like a lamb for sheer joy. Blessed woman, who believed what God said, believed every word would come true!

And Mary said, I’m bursting with Good news; I’m dancing the song of my Savior Yahweh. God took one good look at me, and look what happened — I’m the most fortunate woman on earth! What Yah has done for me will never be forgotten, the Yah whose very name is holy, set apart from all others. His mercy flows in wave after wave on those who are in awe before him. He bared his arm and showed his strength, scattered the bluffing braggarts. He knocked tyrants off their high horses, pulled victims out of the mud. The starving poor sat down to a banquet; the callous rich were left out in the cold. He embraced his chosen child, Israel; he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high. It’s exactly what he promised, beginning with Abraham and right up to now.

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months and then went back to her own home.”

In America, baby showers are times for women to come together and celebrate new life; presents are exchanged, advice given, and games played. Mary and Elizabeth celebrated the new life within them by exchanging presents of joy, encouragement, song, and prophecy. Both women were carrying children of promise: one would pave the way and the other would be the way.

John the Baptist, a prophet even from the womb, jumped for joy because he knew the baby Mary carried was the Messiah. Mary and Elizabeth were both silenced and marginalized in their society, yet in the company of each other they declared prophetic words of what God was doing in their midst. Neither woman had a convenient pregnancy — Mary being a teenager and Elizabeth being an elderly woman, but each allowed herself to be inconvenienced for Yah’s purposes. Mary and Elizabeth’s celebration shows the importance of women coming together for prayer, praise, and prophecy.

When Mary sings, “He knocked tyrants off their high horses, pulled victims out of the mud. The starving poor sat down to a banquet; the callous rich were left out in the cold,” we see that in the presence of Elizabeth she could freely declare words that may have been dangerous if spoken in public. Mary’s song was more than words of celebration, it was a declaration of the inevitable breakthrough of justice.

In my tradition as a womanist Sabbath Keeping follower of Yahshua (Jesus) I am in a season of waiting for the messianic age, but this season I am not waiting for Yahshua. There is no need to wait because his grace breaks into my reality each day. As a young African-American woman, I am waiting for the justice Mary sang about to break through into my community, into the U.S. prison system, into the shacks of South Africa, into the relations we have with each other. As I think about Mary being pregnant as a Hebrew woman living under Roman domination I am reminded of the thousands of pregnant incarcerated women that give birth while chained to beds every day. They too are waiting for God’s justice to break through, will we be like Elizabeth and stand by them?

 

This passage is an encouragement to me as I wait because it reminds me that when women gather in Jesus’ name He is in our midst. I believe that if we want justice to break through into our society we cannot passively wait, but like Mary and Elizabeth we have to actively wait singing prophetic songs and taking actions of justice. Let us not grow anxious by the circumstances we see: the holiday parties, gifts to buy and return, or seasonal loneliness. But, during this season of Advent, let us remember that the Gospels included everyday people who God used in extraordinary ways.

Women can continue to come together to rejoice, celebrate, and prophesy about liberation through collective action and prayer. This season I will actively wait by organizing for justice in my community, because when we come together the course of history will be interrupted, life birthed, and justice given.

   

Prayer: God of Sarah, Hagar and Mary please be with women who are incarcerated this season, especially be with our pregnant incarcerated sisters and the children they will bring forth. Give us the courage to be like Elizabeth and standby our sisters to sing and act in ways that will cause the powerful forces of injustice to fall. Amen

In light of the #AssaultatSpringValleyHigh my colleagues and I came together to call faith communities to Stand with Black Women and Girls and we created a toolkit congregations can use. The toolkit is subdivided into four sections: 1) Liturgical Resources; 2) Policy Options & Public Actions; 3) Social Media Campaign; and 4) Video Resources. Starting Friday, December 11th, the #StandwithBWG campaign will continue until Sunday, January 17th, 2016. To join the campaign or request further information, please email standwithbwg@gmail.com

The Stand with Black Women and Girls Planning Team:

Rev. Andrew Wilkes, Convener and Policy Options/Public Actions Director, #StandwithBWG

Rev. Jennifer Bailey, Liturgical Resources Director, #StandwithBWG

Kercena Dozier, Digital Campaign Director, #StandwithBWG

Rev. Dr. Traci Blackmon, Executive Minister of Justice& Witness, United Church of Christ; Senior Pastor & Teacher, Christ the King, United Church of Christ

Rev. Dr. Frederick Haynes, Chairman, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference; Senior Pastor,Friendship West Baptist Church

Rev. Shivonne McKay, Pastor, Galilee United Methodist Church

Rev. Willie Francois III, Pastor, Mount Zion Baptist Church

Ifeoma Ike, Esq., Co-Creator, BlackandBrownPeopleVote.

Onleilove Alston, Executive Director, Faith in New York

Carmen Dixon, Organizer, Black Lives Matter Chapter – New York City; Faith and Policy Organizer, Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies