New year blessings! Hope you had a joyous Christmas season and are opening your arms to the newness of 2023 unfolding. (For a sweet look back to dancing Christmas, you can scroll to the bottom of the email!)
As we round the corner into February and the Feast of St. Brigid, we are also entering Black History Month. As I pondered how we might dance through this month, I suddenly realized this is the perfect invitation for me to share about my journey with the Black Madonna!
I grew up with the quiet statue of Mary as a pretty big influence in my Catholic household, but it was only after I left behind her white-washed prim piety that I rediscovered Mary as a powerful, courageous, earthy presence in my life. And one of the ways she has become present to me is in the gift of the Black Madonna. Perhaps you have seen images and statues across Europe that depict Mary with dark skin and have attracted pilgrims throughout the ages? She is mysterious, deep, calling us into the presence of the earth-rich sacred feminine as an aspect of God’s wholeness.
In our ongoing work at Abbey of the Arts and through the book – Birthing the Holy: Wisdom from Mary to Nurture Creativity and Renewal, we have been exploring many different names and images of Mary. As I open to Mary’s archetypal presence in the form of the Black Madonna, I have discovered she has so many invitations for me to step out of my comfy corner of a white world and to collaborate with various black artists and friends. Not just step out, but dance out whole-heartedly indeed!
So the first piece I’d like to share is a stirring new video we have come up with to celebrate the Black Madonna … a song and dance written and performed by my beloved sister-friend, Soyinka Rahim. (I actually call Soyinka my own personal Black Madonna!) As she and I collaborated on the project, I was inspired to invite our friends in Uganda at the Friends of Hope Cultural Centre in Tororo to collaborate in the video. With their joyous “yes!” and rehearsals over zoom, the result is such a moving cross-cultural dance calling on the Black Madonna to enliven us all! (See below.)
Also … I must say that in my own inner being, the big deal about February is that soon I will be at Carnegie Hall! My dear friend, Val Jansen invited me … and she is an amazing soul who dedicates much of her life to lifting up the voices of Black folk in spirit, story and song. In particular, the six songs she will offer at Carnegie are dedicated to the six Black Catholics who are currently on the journey to sainthood. (See her story of Thea Bowman below that has also called me to the dance!)
And finally, at Abbey of the Arts, we are launching a new collaboration with the truly gifted singer, Melanie de More, who will be offering a workshop for us on February 13th. See details below!
My friends, may your journey through this newsletter be an inspiration to join me in dancing with Mary into new places of connection. And may the Black Madonna bless and enliven you (and our world) with peace, love, joy, happiness, health, grace and ease!
Carnegie Hall – Feb. 19th!
Woohoo -it’s time! I am so blessed to be friends with talented, grace-filled musicians, who sometimes open doors to unexpected places! As I mentioned earlier, I’m so grateful to my friend, ValLimar Jansen (and the whole team) for inviting me to help animate the stage in one of New York’s most special places.
It would be so fun to share with you! There will be a 250 voice choir, and I will find any empty spots on stage to share my dancing light! Let me know if I will see you in the audience!
Who says 65 is too old to dance? Whee! Click here to purchase tickets
Coming to NYC?
Join the dancing tribe on Feb 18th for some InterPlay fun! 3:30 – 5:30pm Abrons Art Center
The radiant Soyinka Rahim will be leading an InterPlay workshop with Libby Mislan. Get your dancing boots on! Click here to purchase tickets.
Sending You Light with Melanie DeMore
Monday, Feb. 13th | Online – 11 am Pacific
Join us at Abbey of the Arts for a soul-stirring mini-retreat with vocalist Melanie de More. Her Sending You Light song will be on our forthcoming CD … Register Here!
Sr. Thea Bowman with ValLimar Jansen
March 30, 7:00 p.m. | Viterbo University, La Crosse, WI
& Betsey Beckman as guest artist!
Sr. Thea Bowman was an amazing light in our world and is now on her journey to being canonized as a saint in the Catholic Church. ValLimar Jansen carries so much of Sr. Thea’s spirit!
Val just called this week to ask me to help bring this musical on the life of Sr. Thea to life. I’m hoping this works in my schedule, so wanted to give you a heads up!
Seattle University School of Theology & Ministry
Honoring Our History and Legacy Closing Celebration
June 2-3, 2023
We here in the Northwest are heart-broken that our School of Theology and Ministry which has educated and uplifted so many (including me!) in spiritual leadership, is closing its doors. I have been invited to be on the team to create an honoring ritual evening of stories and prayers on Friday, June 2nd.
If you are an alum or interested to partake, please reserve your spot here.
Shrines of Spain Pilgrimage!
June 12 – 23, 2023
As we emerge from our COVID cocoons, do you feel the Black Madonna calling you? I will be co-leading this pilgrimage to Spain with my dear friend, Fr. Michael Sparough, SJ,who got me started in arts ministry 45 years ago! I have been deeply nourished by the Jesuit charisms of praying with the imagination, and we will be following in the footsteps of St. Ignatius Loyola from Burgos to Barcelona, from Madrid to Montserrat, where Loyola surrendured his sword to the Black Madonna. I personally am so excited to visit Montserrat again … such a powerful presence of the Black Madonna there! Only 7 spots left!
To download a flyer, click here. To register, click here.
Before we leave Christmas behind, I wanted to share this joyous video of my first Christmas at St. Joseph parish, reflecting how much fun I had working with 12 kids to proclaim the Nativity Gospel!
May the gift of Mary, Black Madonna, Bearer of Life, Seat of Wisdom bless you abundantly! (And please send a prayer that I can dance gracefully & passionately across the stage of Carnegie Hall!)
Betsey Beckman, MM