January 2020 WATERritual

Step into the Pool with Sojourner Truth

By Diann L. Neu and WATER Staff

“…I want women to have their rights, and while the water is stirring, I’ll step in the pool.”
—Sojourner Truth

Preparation

Set the table with a bowl filled with water; also include on the table pictures, quotes, and books of Sojourner Truth.

Call to Gather

Today, in keeping with the “I have a dream” theme of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we raise up a wise African American woman who inspires us to live the dream. We gather to celebrate Sojourner Truth, preacher, abolitionist, and activist. She was born a slave near Kingston, New York, in approximately 1797. After laboring for four masters until 1826, she finally took her freedom and never looked back. She is honored in American history for her speeches against slavery and for women’s rights, and for her work on behalf of freed women and men after the Civil War.

Sojourner was renowned in her time for her speaking and singing abilities. As someone who could neither read nor write, she had people read to her, especially the Bible. She was a down-to-earth preacher and a Spirit-led activist. Sojourner stirred the waters of her day and inspires us to do the same in ours.

Our table is set with quotes and pictures of Sojourner and a bowl of water for “stirring the water.” Let us come together to reflect on her wise words and powerful impact on the world.

Naming the Circle

Let us begin by introducing ourselves to one another to create our community. Share your name and speak a word that comes to mind when you hear the phrase “step into the pool.”

Song: “Come and Go with Me to That Land,” African American spiritual.

*Come and go with me to that land, (3x) Where I’m bound, where I’m bound.
*Come and go with me to that land, (3x) Where I’m bound.

*There’ll be peace in that land… *No more hatred in that land…

Reading:“A Name Is Sometimes an Ancestor Saying Hi, I’m with You” by Alice Walker from Living by the Word (San Diego: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1988).

“There are always people in history (or herstory) who help us, and whose ‘job’ it is, in fact, to do this… Now these people—our ‘spirit helpers,’ as indigenous peoples time after time in all cultures have referred to them—always create opportunities that make a meeting with and recognition of them unavoidable.

“Sojourner Truth is one such figure for me. Even laying aside such obvious resemblances as the fact that we are both as concerned about the rights of women as the rights of men, and that we share a certain ‘mystical’ bent, Sojourner (‘Walker’—in the sense of traveler, journeyer, wanderer) Truth (which ‘Alice’ means in Old Greek) is also my name. How happy I was when I realized this. . .

“I get power from this name that Sojourner Truth and I share. And when I walk into a room of strangers who are hostile to the words of women, I do so with her/our cloak of authority—as black women and beloved expressions of the Universe (i.e., children of God)—warm about me.

“She smiles within my smile. That irrepressible great heart rises in my chest. Every experience that roused her passion against injustice in her lifetime shines from my eyes.

“This feeling of being loved and supported by the Universe in general and by certain recognizable spirits in particular is bliss. No other state is remotely like it. And perhaps that is what Jesus tried so hard to teach: that the transformation required of us is not simply to be ‘like’ Christ, but to be Christ.

“The spirit of our helpers incarnates in us, making us more ourselves by extending us far beyond.”

The words of Alice Walker.

Song: “Come and Go with Me to That Land”

*Come and go with me to that land, (3x) Where I’m bound, where I’m bound.
*Come and go with me to that land, (3x) Where I’m bound.

The Words of Sojourner Truth

Let the words of Sojourner Truth flow through us. After each quote, as the person who reads stirs the water, we will sing the words written to the tune of “Come and Go with Me.”

1851 Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio

“…while the water is stirring, I’ll step into the pool.” Stir the water.

Song: “Come and Go with Me to That Land”

*We’ll be free in that land . . .


1867 First Annual Meeting of the American Equal Rights Association in New York

“There is a great stir about colored men getting their rights, but not a word about the colored women; and if colored men get their rights, and not colored women theirs, you see the colored men will be masters over the women, and it will be just as bad as it was before. So I am for keeping the thing going while things are stirring; because if we wait till it is still, it will take a great while to get going again.” Stir the water.

Song: “Come and Go with Me to That Land”

*We’ll be together in that land…

1851 Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio

 “Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?

“That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man—when I could get it—and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

“Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [Member of audience whispers, ‘intellect.’] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or Negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

“Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

“If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.” Stir the water.

Song: “Come and Go with Me to That Land”

 *They’ll be singing in that land . . .

Reflection | Sharing

Let us pause to reflect on what we have heard. Let us take a few moments of quiet to reflect on these questions:
What has been stirred up in you? What has Sojourner Truth said to you about women’s rights, antiracism, and nonviolence? How and when will you step into the pool?
After a quiet time, I will invite us to share some of our reflections with our community.

Song: “Wade in the Water,” African American spiritual, sung by Sweet Honey in the Rock.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRpzEnq14Hs

Wade in the water, wade in the water, children.
Wade in the water, God’s gonna trouble the water.

Blessing with Water

Come to the water. Stir the water. Bless yourself with this water. Touch your whole body saying,

Bless my body, mind, and spirit, that I may sense when the water is stirring, and step into the pool.

Song: “Wade in the Water”

Wade in the water, wade in the water, children.
Wade in the water, God’s gonna trouble the water.

Sending Forth

Like Sojourner Truth, we are called to stir the waters and step into the pool.

Let us go forth committed to paying attention to every experience that rouses our passion against injustice.

Let us go forth remembering we are loved and supported by recognizable ancestors like Sojourner Truth to act justly.

Let us go forth knowing that we are not alone; we are part of a compassionate community.

Song: “Come and Go with Me to That Land,” African American spiritual.

*Come and go with me to that land, (3x) Where I’m bound, where I’m bound.
* Come and go with me to that land, (3x) Where I’m bound.

Take Action

Let us put our prayers into action. Here are some possible ways.
. Read more about the life of Sojourner Truth. Google her!
. Meditate with the quotes from Sojourner Truth used in this liturgy.
. Take a stand on antiracism, women’s rights, immigration, the death penalty, gun control, climate change, and nonviolence in your community. Stir the waters!

Greeting of Peace

Let us greet one another with peace and send one another forth with the words of Sojourner Truth, “Step into the pool.”

Learn More from These Resources

Cannon, Katie Geneva. Remembering What We Never Knew: The Epistemology of Womanist Theology. Richmond, VA: Center for Womanist Leadership Publishing, 2018.

Harris, Melanie. Ecowomanism: African American Women and Earth-Honoring Faiths. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2017.

Hinga, Teresia Mbari. African, Christian, Feminist: The Enduring Search for What Matters. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2017.

Morris, Catherine, and Rujeko Hockley, et al. We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women 1965–85; New Perspectives. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2018.

Vesely-Flad, Rima. Racial Purity and Dangerous Bodies: Moral Pollution, Black Lives, and the Struggle for Justice. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2017.

West, Traci C. Disruptive Christian Ethics: When Racism and Women’s Lives Matter. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006.

© 2020 Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER). Planned by Diann L. Neu dneu@hers.com.