Women In Sacred Music -- By: Julie Ann Flora

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 04:3 (Summer 1990)
Article: Women In Sacred Music
Author: Julie Ann Flora


Women In Sacred Music

Julie Ann Flora

Julia Ann Flora is a student of hymnology, doing research at Ashland Theological Seminary and specializing in women hymn writers.

In the struggle to serve God, women have used their musical talent and influence in various ways. From Bible times to the present day, music has played an important part in worship of our great God. Students continue to explore, search out, and discover the part women played in this area through the years.

Women have always loved to sing. In the Old Testament, we hear about Moses’ sister, Miriam, who broke into song to celebrate God’s deliverance of the Israelites from their slave-drivers, the Egyptians. When they were on the other side of the Red Sea, she and other women sang, played tambourines, and danced. Deborah, the great leader of God’s people reproted in Judges 5, sang a long song after God gave the Israelites victory over the Canaanites. Her music expressed confidence, courage and joy.

In the New Testament period, music played a large part in the coming of Jesus, the Messiah. Mary sang at the time the angel spoke to her of Christ’s approaching birth. This song, called the Magnificat, is found in Luke 1:46-55. It begins, “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

Cecilia was a Christian woman who received high honors for her church music. (The date of her death according to some scholars was 176 A.D and others 230 A.D.) There is a church in Rome named for her, built over the Roman bath where it is thought she was slain as a martyr. She was named patroness of the

Academy of Music at Rome when it was founded in 1584. Having become the patron saint of church music, she was painted by artists and praised in literature down through the ages.

As happened in earlier centuries the Christian needs of new denominations emerging in the fifteenth century allowed women non-traditional roles. Some began by helping their pastor husbands. Such a one was Regina Filipowska in Poland, who with her husband led their congregations and wrote hymns for them to sing.

When Martin Luther, a Catholic monk, sparked the Reformation he also broke the rule of celibacy and married Katherine von Bora, a nun. Katherine Zell, another sixteenth century Lutheran minister’s wife compiled hymn books for lay people. She described her motivation: “When I read those hymns I felt that the writers had the whole Bible in their heart. This is not just a hymn book but a lesson book of prayer and praise. When so many filthy songs are on the lips of men and women and even children, I think it well that folk should with lusty ...

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