Spirit Mourn, Spirit Dance

Published February 1, 1999

ALL BUT FOUR of the 56 contributors are female in this collection of poetry, hymns, liturgies, short essays, and playlets. Most are in English, some in French, written by Canadian women from a range of denominations and theological perspectives.

The book appears at the close of the World Council of Churches’ sponsored Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women 1988-1998, and attempts to continue the thrust of that significant international project. The decade attempted to empower women to challenge oppressive structures and affirm their own contributions in giving visibility to perspectives and actions in the struggle for justice, peace, and the integrity of creation. It sought to free the churches from racism, sexism and classism, and to encourage them to take actions in solidarity with women.

Four key issues emerged from this global focus and are picked up in the book:

  • women’s full and creative participation in the life of the church;
  • violence against women in its various forms and dimensions;
  • the global economic crisis and its effects on women;
  • racism and xenophobia and their impact on women.

Of many excellent contributions, comment on but three must suffice. Alyson Huntly, a diaconal minister from Ottawa, offers To Ruth, a reflection on the Old Testament book of that name. She honours Naomi, Boaz, and Ruth, “and all those who have discovered that family is not built like a wall but grown like a garden.” Karen Scarlett, a Toronto writer, presents Gram, a young woman’s memoir of her grandmother (near the end of her days) whose papers and other memorabilia she had opportunity to sort through with her mother. Eva Jackson appears in many ways like her granddaughter; in some respects, however, she is quite different.

In Joseph’s Story, Kenneth Straight, a Presbyterian minister from Pictou, N.S., assumes the role of Mary’s betrothed but troubled partner. We are exposed to the profound ambiguity of a male, observing disconcerting yet wonderful things in the one he loves – pregnant not by him – accepting to stand with her in solidarity and faith.

This book will provide many creative resources for congregational worship and devotional life, as well as group discussion. It is recommended for all church libraries.

Dr. Wayne A. Holst teaches at the Arctic Institute at the University of Calgary focusing on the comparative spirituality of indigenous peoples and cross-cultural awareness.


  • Wayne Holst

    Wayne A. Holst was a Lutheran pastor (ELCIC) for twenty-five years; he taught religion and culture at the University of Calgary for a quarter century and, for 15 years, he has coordinated adult spiritual development at St. David’s United Church, Calgary.

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