WATER Recommends: September 2020

Anderson, Joanne W. MOVING WITH THE MAGDALEN: LATE MEDIEVAL ART AND DEVOTION IN THE ALPS. NY: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2019 (248 pages, $120).

Who knew that this deep devotion to Mary Magdalen was central to the faith of many Alpine communities in Switzerland, Austria, and Italy? Stunning artwork and fascinating development of liturgies/rituals make clear that like Latin American Marian worship, Magdalen worship was (perhaps still is) alive and well in small villages and towns. That the ‘official’ church did not dwell on it, much less tout it, indicates its power.

Bird, Jennifer. “Marriage in the Bible: A Discussion Among Friends.” See jennifergracebird.com, 2020 (12 videos, $50 to rent for six months, $120 to buy).

Jennifer Bird is a feminist biblical scholar who offers Ted-talk-like lectures on what the Bible says and doesn’t say about marriage. Her perspective is inclusive, her presentations user friendly. She encourages viewers to think for themselves about the texts, their contexts, and their impact on the social order. Group discussion is key, making these very useful for study groups and classes.

Casselberry, Judith and Elizabeth Pritchard, Editors. SPIRIT ON THE MOVE: BLACK WOMEN AND PENTECOSTALISM IN AFRICA AND THE DIASPORA. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2019 (248 pages, $24.95).

Given that women make up three quarters of the hundreds of millions of people who identify as Pentecostal, it is time for serious study of this growing religious sector. This volume offers a running start with essays that focus on Brasil, Ghana, Haiti, Nigeria, Mozambique, and elsewhere. Experiences vary widely across these enculturated groups, but women are shaping the movement much earlier in its history than in other Christian denominations. These essays alert scholars and interested readers about some trends and groups to watch.

Engh, Susan L. WOMEN’S WORK: THE TRANSFORMATIONAL POWER OF FAITH-BASED COMMUNITY ORGANIZING. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books/Fortress Academic, 2019 (157 pages, $95).

Community organizing as a form of ministry is raised to an art form by many women. Susan Engh makes this abundantly clear and equally inviting. So many organizations from social service to political lobbying benefit from the amazing energies, talents, and commitments of community organizers. May their numbers multiply.

Fredriksen, Paula and Jesper Svartvik. KRISTER AMONG JEWS AND GENTILES: ESSAYS IN APPRECIATION OF THE LIFE AND WORK OF KRISTER STENDAHL. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2018 (201 pages, $29.95).

Krister Stendahl distinguished himself among scholars (mostly men) of his generation by his early and consistent support of social change, especially the full inclusion of women in church and society. These essays, both biographical and thematic, provide insights into the person and his thinking. Readers will resonate with his struggles to find the right time and place for his ministry, and marvel at his incredible capacity to give the Bible a place in modern life without reverting to evangelical platitudes. His memory is a blessing on many levels.

Izzo, Amanda L. LIBERAL CHRISTIANITY AND WOMEN’S GLOBAL ACTIVISM: THE YMCA OF THE USA AND THE MARYKNOLL SISTERS. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2018 (275 pages, $28.95).

Such an interesting book! The parallels and differences between the YMCA movement and the Maryknoll Sisters make for fascinating feminist history. Both organizations have had far wider and deeper impacts than their mere numbers would suggest. Both have shaped and empowered their members and the broader society. These groups incarnate justice and equality for women and BIPOC. This study captures their essences and displays their achievements in relief against formidable patriarchal odds.

Lanzetta, Beverly. THE MONK WITHIN: EMBRACING A SACRED WAY OF LIFE. Sebastopol, CA: Blue Sapphire Books, 2018 (400 pages, $19).

Beverly Lanzetta is a trusted voice on spirituality. Her approach to feminine wisdom (would that it were explicitly feminist) is wise and well grounded. She offers practical insights: “From the moment of birth, until death stills our breath, each human heart, each soul, recites a ceaseless prayer…Prayer is the language of the spirit. It is our first language.” Yes.

Miles, Margaret R. RECOLLECTION AND RECONSIDERATIONS. Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, 2018 (159 pages, $23).

Few scholars are as humble or as self-aware to publish this kind of retrospective of their own work. Margaret R. Miles is both and more as she reprises her life’s work with critical assessments and appreciations. She concludes that abstractions will get us nowhere but concrete, body-based insights are hopeful paths for future Christians.

Peterfeso, Jill. WOMANPRIEST: TRADITION AND TRANSGRESSION IN THE CONTEMPORARY ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH. New York: Fordham University Press, 2020 (276 pages, $30).

This is a cultural history of the Roman Catholic Womenpriests (RCWP) organization and the larger movement of feminist ministry of which it is a part. The author lays out the contours of intra-feminist Catholic perspectives as well as the predictable opposition from the institutional Roman Catholic Church. It is a valuable contribution to a complicated set of issues, a welcome narrative about one segment of the movement that is in the process of transforming one of patriarchy’s last bulwarks.

Porter, Elisabeth. WOMEN-OF-FAITH PEACEBUILDERS. Independently published, 2018 (179 pages, $5).

A good intro to how women’s efforts are different and the difference they make. It is hard to imagine international peace work without the leadership and solidarity of so many women from a variety of religious traditions. It needs to be taken more seriously.

Thistlethwaite, Susan B. WHEN DEMONS FLOAT. Resource Publications, 2019 (262 pages, $23).

Susan Thistlethwaite’s third of a murder mystery trilogy is the best yet. Characters come into full bloom, the story is compelling, all too timely, full of twists and turns that make it a page turner. Stark resemblance to contemporary life sends an extra chill up the reader’s spine. No escapist fiction here. White racism, police corruption, and other fascist elements in a culture riven with hatred and marbled with the blood of innocents emerge in demonic relief.

Woolley, Alison. WOMEN CHOOSING SILENCE: RELATIONALITY AND TRANSFORMATION IN SPIRITUAL PRACTICE. Abingdon, Oxon, UK: Routledge, 2019 (283 pages, $ 140).

Silence plays a pivotal role in many forms of feminist spirituality. This study introduces some of them with a nod to Nelle Morton who understood the difference between being silenced and choosing silence for health and insight. More needs to be said, but this is a good start.