Womanist Advent devotional to tackle issues of faith and justice

PC(USA)’s Unbound to release ‘Another Starry Black Night’

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

“Another Starry Black Night: A Womanist Advent Devotional” will be released Monday, Nov. 20. It includes writers from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and other faiths.

LOUISVILLE — The staff of “Unbound: An Interactive Journal of Christian Social Justice” is back with a sequel to its award-winning devotional “Starry Black Night: A Womanist Advent 2020.”

The new and downloadable publication, “Another Starry Black Night: A Womanist Advent Devotional,” will be released Nov. 20 on Unbound’s website and will be featured on the journal’s social media channels throughout the Advent, Christmas and Epiphany seasons. Each segment, written from the perspective of a woman of color, will be posted individually, but readers also will be able to download and print the full devotional if desired.

“I was so humbled by the invitation to write for this devotional,” said contributing writer Shani McIlwain, a ruling elder with Faith Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. “I loved (‘Starry Black Night’) with all the Black women who have formed me by their words over the years. To now be in the same company feels a bit surreal and in many ways a bit miraculous.”

The Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia Thompson, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ.

Unbound, a ministry of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), decided to produce the “Starry” sequel because “Black women are saying what the world needs to hear when it comes to faith, when it comes to justice, when it comes to organizing and current conflicts,” said the Rev. Lee Catoe, Unbound’s editor. “The Advent season has a multitude of different intersections that the womanist perspective can speak to.”

Catoe explained the title this way: “Advent, Christmas and Epiphany are very celestial seasons that feature stars and how that part of Creation interacts with humanity. Blackness is a central identity for the writers and framing Blackness in beauty and in the fact that we see stars in their best light at night — the Blackness of night brings forth the light and that whole relationship is truly beautiful.”

Contributing writer Melva Lowry, a PC(USA) ruling elder, said she chose to join the project because “I am the voice and the hope of women who were never given the respect due their age nor being called by their name. To use my voice in the fullness of who I am, with the wisdom gained through education and life, allows their voices to be heard and their names to be remembered.”

The Rev. Brooke Scott, pastor of Church on Main and Seek Respite.

While the publication includes the voices of many Presbyterian women of color, including the Rev. Shavon Starling-Louis, Co-Moderator of the 225th General Assembly (2022) of the PC(USA), women of other faiths also are represented.

“I think having people from a multitude of different traditions is important for all of us for if we stay in our silos and in our own spaces, we never grow, we never learn, and we never get the fullness and reality of the Christian faith,” Catoe said. “We have writers from different denominations, clergy and non-clergy, but leaders in their fields.”

The Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia Thompson, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ, said she wanted to participate in the “Starry” sequel because “it provides a unique opportunity for women of color to reflect on the Advent season.” Thompson, a contributing writer, added that “womanist perspectives can provide new ways of looking at and interpreting the Scriptures and season of Advent for our lives as people of faith.”

The Rev. Brooke Scott, pastor of two faith spaces in Delaware, Church on Main and the emerging group Seek Respite, is another contributing writer.

“For me, Advent is about what we long for and the not-yet-realized vision God has called us to live into,” Scott said. “I joined the ‘Another Starry Night’ project driven by a passion for amplifying the voices of Black women and addressing the urgency of justice in our communities, locally and globally. In my reflection on Isaiah 40:1–11, I aim to explore how the Scripture resonates with the cries of Black women, emphasizing the necessary role of justice in achieving lasting peace and healing.”

In a different segment, McIlwain, a communications strategist for the Presbyterian Mission Agency, “will unpack the verse in the Gospel of John, when the crowd asks Jesus where he came from and he answers, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.’  The question I want to ask (of) ourselves is ‘Why don’t we see the signs?’”

Follow the Unbound social media channels: facebook.com/JusticeUnbound and instagram.com/justiceunbound

Unbound is one of the Compassion, Peace & Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

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