Bethany questioned if He was really that special, was He really our savior. Her pose of touching His hem suggests a moment of truth and awe she is seeking. The robe is within her grasp but it is in motion, she must continue to seek and believe.
Claudia is queen and has everything one might think a woman could want but her status and treasures show none of her personal value. Claudia stands regally but her face is looking away from those who haven’t cared to know her real worth.
Delilah has power that is rare amongst women of her time. What gives her power is also what compromises her reputation. She uses her position of being able to lure men and collect their secrets to be the woman who triumphs over men. Delilah has various of levels of translucency in her features and dress. She stands with arm extended inviting her visitors into a complicated space with sharp corners and angles.
Sarah has suffered, alone and cast out, for twelve years. Her bodily ailments define her as unclean and unworthy, yet she prays. Sarah is shown on her knees desperately praying for the One who would save her.
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Saturday, March 21st @ 5pm
Sunday, March 22nd @ 9am and 10:30am
Mary’s story includes “young Mary,” and “present Mary.” Both Marys struggle with the tremendous role they are given in loving the child that will live to die for our world. Both comfort each other in saying, “don’t be afraid, I am here for you.” Mary is shown cradling her arms in a lush garden. She kneels and waits in a place that is peaceful and full of life.
by Anne Groton
When Monica asked me to collaborate with her for the Daughters of Abraham song series, she offered a few key pieces of information and generously left the rest to me.
• She wanted 5 images, one representing each of the 5 women whose stories her songs tell.
• She envisioned them as silhouettes.
• She said they would be used for bulletin covers and social media.
• She said her hope for the song series and images is to “bring women’s voices out of the darkness.” (this is the bit of information that turned this from project to mission!)
Silhouette was a good starting point for a few reasons. One, the majority of our depictions of bible figures were created in the Western hemisphere and show people who appear to be of European descent…which is not accurate. The silhouettes allow us to not impose race or culture on the images. Two, because the women of the bible are few in number, often not named, we are unable to get a complete, detailed picture of them. Silhouette too offers few details. Three, silhouette enables us to see in gesture rather than detail and introduces body language to support the vocal language.
To the above list of criteria, I added working in layers using a multiple exposure technique where you can actually take photographs and layer them in the camera to produce a single photograph with all of the layers blended. It is a challenging technique but produces very unique and rich images…sometimes! Everyone’s story is made of layers and I wanted to create layers of color, texture, and varying degrees of translucency to both veil and unveil the women’s stories.
Additionally, I wanted to produce images with striking color and impact so the women had to be seen. The pages of the bible are black and white, some of the women’s mention is a mere sentence, how easily they could be missed! For Monica’s series, they would not be overlooked, they will be heard and seen in full color!
Looking to Monica’s lyrics, I read the words and thoughts each woman was expressing, then highlighted key words and made notes as to how the women might physically express what their words were saying. With a list of poses for each woman in hand, it was time to get out the camera.
Photographing in silhouette requires the subject to be above any distracting elements with strong backlighting. It was December in Minnesota, light hard to come by and trees EVERYWHERE you look. I decided freshly fallen snow might provide us with a white backdrop and an open field in which to photograph the poses. Monica and I went out to photograph expressive poses…late in the afternoon…December 11, just ten days shy of the shortest day of the year…in the snow…with the temperature at 2 degrees. Water-tight plan turning to ice! She was freezing. We would take a few pictures, run to the car to warm up, go out for more pictures and continue until we got every pose.
Uploading the images, I could see we didn’t get the light I hoped for, we had some strong poses but we also had poses where poor Monica was shivering, footprints in the snow created a bit of a mess, and generally the images lacked the contrast needed between figure and background. What I had intended to do in camera, I would now do in Photoshop.
For each woman, I selected the strongest pose we achieved. Because of the footprints and mediocre contrast with the snow, I created a cut-out shape for each figure in Photoshop. Then the exciting part, adding layers. All of the layers I added are photographs of landscapes, leaves, glass, water, pattern, and color from a trip to Scotland in November.
In Photoshop, several images can be layered on top of each other and blended together using a variety of blending modes. Each blending mode brings out different elements depending on their color or value. A lot of magic, and a bit of frustration, enters through this part of the process! It takes a long time to “get it right,” – trial and error, growls and cheers.
Emerging through the layers, the women began to come to me by name. As their gestures and layering effects of color and light and shadow formed in the images, I saw Claudia, Delilah, Mary, and Sarah appear. Yes, that makes only four women. Bethany was elusive.
In Bethany’s story, she feels anger, frustration, hope, and despair. Hers is a story of both yearning and denial. She sings to Peter and questions why he doubts Jesus three times if Jesus really was that special. It was tricky to find her in the poses and in the shadows. Eventually, I let go of one pose and borrowed a pose we’d taken for Claudia. Bethany came to be on her knees touching Jesus’ hem. In touching His hem, she receives a “He is real,” moment she yearned for.
I am very grateful to Monica for bringing these women, these stories, these voices out of the darkness and for inviting me to create visual images to support the song cycle, Daughters of Abraham. Witnessing them form into being through a process of collaboration, creativity, and faith and now seeing the women’s stories told through our amazing vocalists each week is a blessing that radiates from the pages of the bible to reach the hearts of God’s people.
A Musical Journey of Five Brazen Bible Babes
by Monica Livorsi
“And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” (Luke 13: 16).
In declaring this woman a “Daughter of Abraham”, Jesus proclaimed her an equal to all. While “Sons of Abraham” was a common phrase at the time, a phrase of prestige, women did not have the same privilege. The gravity of the compliment Jesus bestows on this woman is easily overlooked – she is strong, she is important, she is a person equal to all men and women, and Jesus confirmed this through one simple line: “daughter of Abraham”.
I am proud to present a brand new song cycle called Daughters of Abraham (or if you’re Pastor Dave, “Monica’s Brazen Bible Babes”), featuring the voices of different women from the Bible! After spending a year working on this project, I have grown close to these women and enjoy bringing new perspective to their stories, just as Jesus encouraged new perspective with the line “daughter of Abraham”. Allow me to officially introduce to you: Bethany, Claudia, Delilah, Sarah and Mary!
Kicking off Lent will be Bethany (Cassandra Morgan), a combination of the women who recognize Peter as a follower of Jesus, leading him to deny Jesus 3 times. A character easily bypassed, Bethany definitely suffered her own challenges despite not being a follower of Jesus. A woman yearning for equality and to be heard, Bethany’s song to Peter displays anger, frustration, hope and despair – feelings all connected with the season of Lent.
In weekend 2 we move along to Claudia (Sarah Ploof), Pontius Pilate’s wife, mentioned in one line in the book of Matthew. During Jesus’ trial a messenger delivers a note to Pilate from his wife, asking Pilate not to condemn Jesus. Claudia had a dream that told her Jesus is innocent. Instead of condemning Jesus outright, Pilate gives him to the wolves, retaining his high position and rank. But how does Claudia feel? Does she have a happy marriage with Pilate? What are some insecurities she faces as a woman with “power”?
Most of us grew up with the story of Delilah (Monica Livorsi) and Samson. Samson is the strongest man in the world, until the evil Delilah seduces him, learns the secret of his strength and uses that knowledge to throw him to the enemy, her people, the Philistines. I’ve always had issue with this story, mainly with how the character of Samson is portrayed. But what if Delilah isn’t actually the villain of this story?
Let’s consider her circumstances:
The strongest man in the world is in love with her (is she in love with him? Does she get a say in this relationship?)
As a result, her people bribe her to find out the secret to Samson’s strength so they can defeat him (could she say no? was that an option?)
In the aftermath, will her people accept her? Or shun her as an “easy” woman?
I find Delilah to be a strong, badass woman. In fact, every time I came across her story in Judges 16 during the writing process, I heard a screaming in my ears and knew her story needed a retelling.
Sarah (Tracy Stefan), the woman with the Hemorrhage brings a new vibe in weekend four with a fiery gospel tune about HOPE. If anyone understands hope, it’s a woman who has been cast out by society for 12 years due to an uncurable illness and is miraculously healed when she touches Jesus’ robe. Sarah knows Jesus’ story isn’t over yet, even though it’s hard to see when he isn’t physically there.
The song cycle concludes with a duet by Mary, as a girl, pregnant with Jesus (Kyra Martin) and Mary, as a woman, grieving the loss of her son (Jill Cowan). The angel told Mary “Do not be afraid” when delivering news of her pregnancy, and Mary remembers these words as she tumbles into the most agonizing grief.
There are so many other women with stories just as important and poignant as these, and I apologize to them for not uplifting their voices in this project too. The next time you read a story in the bible, watch a favorite childhood film, see a headline in the news, listen to your favorite song, I encourage you to consider it from a new perspective. When you come across a seemingly insignificant character, remember that they have a backstory too. And for the main characters, maybe they’re trying to say something new? We ALL are more than a label.