New Wineskins, Ancient Divine
by Anne Leggett-Walker
During the time of Christmas, or Spring, or Summer there may be what we word artisans, those of us who are really expert, call “a likely likelihood” that not too many are hearing the phrase “new wineskins” reverberate inside their heads.
Nowadays, anyway, we’d be thinking about bottles or vintages or which cru a wine press is, but not about wine skins. However, those are two very popular words which reflect a phrase used most popularly in New Testament Gospels to refer to not putting new wine into old wine skins lest the old skins break, leak and spill the newly pressed wine. Naturally, it’s a metaphor meaning don’t put new teachings or new protocol in the old formats.
However, if you should want to make new wine and decide later on the method for keeping it, you can look online and order wine-making kits from British Columbia.
As for contemporary skins in which you’ll keep the new wine, production sites for those may be less profuse online. You may want to try a bottle, except that may take part of the pleasure from the process.
What will NOT take pleasure from the process is the metaphorical New Wineskins group organized in Dallas County in 1996 by The Rev. Jann Aldredge-Clanton, an ordained Baptist Minister. http://www.jannaldredgeclanton.com/wineskins.php is the website. The group now meets on the Richland College grounds in Yegua Building, Room 102 on the first Sunday of each month at 11 o’clock.
[While Richland is at 12800 Abrams Road, one enters Yegua by bypassing the Abrams entrance, turning east onto Walnut and taking the first turn right. The building is labeled.]
This is an amazing woman for she has also taken almost if not all of the hymns known which Christians sing in church, kept the melody and rewritten new words which honor the Divine Feminine. That is no small undertaking. It’s done in cooperation with composer Larry E. Schultz (Eakin Press, Austin, Texas). It’s not overly imposing when you first see the hymnal or sing a song from it, but when you look at the book you notice that the contents are divided into topics that they support. There are “Justice and Peacemaking”, “Partnership and Vocation”, “Liberation”, “Resurrection and Abundant Life”, “New Creation”, Comfort and Healing”, “Celebration and Praise”, “Ministry and Mission”; some songs listed in more than one category.
In the back, there is an alphabetical index of tunes and before that, an index of composers, authors, and sources. Preceding that is a Topical Index of Hymns divided under certain categories such as Advent, Adversity, Assurance, Beauty, Calls To Worship, Challenge, Christmas, Comfort, etc. Following is also a Metrical Index of Tunes. This is the most finely organized book imaginable.
The Mission Statement reads thusly:
New Wineskins Community explores new ways of seeing divinity so that the spiritual gifts of every one are equally valued and nurtured. New Wineskins Community offers rituals especially focused on the Divine Feminine, to change culture from devaluation to empowerment of the feminine. The rituals also symbolize shared power and responsibility to change culture from one up/one down and win/lose to mutual relationships. The mission of New Wineskins is to expand experience of Divine Mystery and to contribute to healing, peace, and justice in our world.
The significance of the Community’s Name is quoted as “coming from the metaphor in Matthew 9:17, and as describing the search for new language and symbols to proclaim the good news of liberation and shalom. Our rituals name and image the Divine as female and male and more to support the equality and value of all. New Wineskins Community welcomes people of all faiths, races, sexual orientations, age. We celebrate diversity and actively encourage the discovery and exercise of everyone’s gifts.”
One of the main points for the Group is that “Words and Visual Symbols Matter”. And “Because worship in most faith communities has excluded or only marginally included female names and images of Deity, New Wineskins . . . seeks to provide balance by focusing especially on the Divine Feminine in language and visual images we use for the Divine matter.”
It is an effort to create equality by the weight of events which accumulate, since one cannot very well man- or “womanhandle” those believing otherwise. Perhaps what is looked for is something like the 60’s and 70’s during which women became more assertive.
The probability of male or female who are already in power listening to reason or agreeing due to example to relinquish or share that power, is small indeed. Therefore it will only be by weight of events that a major change occurs. There are, however, more instances of women in leadership positions in church and in business now than 50 years ago. Better for change to begin six steps at a time than not to occur at all.
When you search the web for the phrase, “New Wineskins”, the persistence of that word pairing is amazing. There is one “published for members of the Churches of Christ that challenge traditional church assumptions. Overview, reviews, articles and archives.”
Additionally, searches bring up Catholic New Wineskins, Presbyterian New Wineskins, Christian Church New Wineskins and scores of other names that use the same phrase. There is New Wineskins Missionary Network, mobilizing North American Anglicans for world mission.
And reliably enough, there is also “Wine Skins Save 10% at WineStuff.com. WineSkin is a simple, effective solution for transporting wine.” So there may be the actual wineskin to go with the wine-making packet which you can order from British Columbia if you’re so disposed.
Breaking Free: The Story of a Feminist Baptist Minister is Jann Aldredge-Clanton’s work offered on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble.
An interesting description is “Waco’s Give ‘Em Hell Minister” for her outspoken opinions and action on social issues. Revd. Aldredge-Clanton is quoted as having “discovered her mission of freeing people, including herself, from sexism and other injustices”.
The Amazon description begins: “When she was a pre-teen, she almost starved herself to death trying to fit into the culture’s feminine mold. In high school she felt inadequate because she never won a beauty crown, even though she graduated at the top of her class. Slowly, she began waking up to her own voice, and became one of the first women ever to be ordained as a Baptist minister in the South.
“It has not been an easy road. She almost lost her job as a professor at a Baptist university because she refused to sign a fundamentalist statement of beliefs. She was labeled a “heretic” for calling God “She” and “Mother”. Others said she couldn’t be an ordained minister because it would be unbiblical. The controversy over women’s roles in religion is just another example of the glass ceiling women too often face in American society.”
She is not alone. The same Amazon site gives another review, this time of Changing Church: Stories of Liberating Ministers by Jann Aldredge-Clanton.
The description reads thusly: “Through the fascinating stories of pioneering ministers, this book reveals a unique picture of progressive changes occurring in the Christian tradition. Meeting challenges and overcoming obstacles, these twelve diverse ministers are changing the church as they take prophetic stands on gender, race, interfaith cooperation, ecology, sexual orientation, economic opportunity, and other social justice issues. . . . these ministers lead worship with inclusive language and imagery for humanity and divinity. They include multicultural female and male divine images . . . . Their stories affirm the connection between this expansive theology and an ethic of justice and equality in human relationships. . . .
“these ministers have risked censure by denominational authorities, loss of opportunities for promotion to larger congregations or to prestigious denominational positions, and even loss of their jobs. . . .”
I do not find 12 ministers named on the Amazon site but I do find additional books by Jann Aldredge-Clanton: Seeking Wisdom: Inclusive Blessings and Prayers for Public Occasions, In Whom Image? God and Gender, In Search of the Christ-Sophia: An Inclusive Christology for Liberating Christians, Praying with Christ-Sophia: Services for Healing and Renewal, God, A Word for Girls and Boys, and God, A Word for Girls and Boys Coloring Book.