Tilling Sacred Grounds examines Black women’s interiority and negotiation of race, gender, and sexuality in religious spaces and religious practices. Phillis Isabella Sheppard argues for the importance of the exchange between interiority and public spaces, and examines religion in cyberspace, art, ritual, and street ministry. She refigures the location of religious experience by retrieving Black women’s interiority as religious space. Often excluded from Black religious studies, interiority is necessary for understanding Black women’s complex and even unconscious relationship with religion. The book weaves a thread by stressing that interiority has subjective, intersubjective, conscious, unconscious, and relational dimensions formed in historical, and social contexts.
Phillis Isabella Sheppard is the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Associate Professor of Religion, Psychology, and Culture at Vanderbilt University Divinity School and Graduate Department of Religion and the director of the James Lawson Institute for the Research and Study of Nonviolent Movements.
Introduction: Interiority and Public Religion
Chapter 1: Audre Lorde: “from the Gut of Blackness” A Black Lesbian Spirituality
Chapter 2: Visions of Self and Transformation in Black Outsider Art
Chapter 3: Black Women Living Religion in Cyberspace
Chapter 4: “Because I am a Woman” Vocation and Trauma in Alecia Brown Life
Chapter 5: Tilling Sacred Ground: Meditation on Ritual and Resistance
Drawing on the work of Audre Lorde, womanist scholar Phillis Sheppard offers a compelling theological analysis of Black women's interior lives and their contributions to public discourse.
Tilling Sacred Grounds: Interiority, Black Women, and Religious Experience courageously explores and articulates the complexities of Black religion, Black women’s spirituality, and sexuality, in private, communal, and public spaces. Phillis Sheppard beautifully engages a practical theology that draws with integrity on different disciplines and experience in crafting a scholarly work that is accessible and highly informative to any thoughtful reader.
Tilling Sacred Grounds demonstrates Sheppard’s ability to push beyond Christian boundaries and engage in a necessary dialogue with other faith traditions in her research. As such, she embodies what it means to move toward Alice Walker’s ideal of ‘wholeness of all the people.’ These interdisciplinary dialogues demonstrate her appreciation for the ‘fullness’ of God, and hence new perspectives on the meaning of freedom and salvation as liberation. Sheppard brings the sensibilities and methodology of a pastoral theologian yet again. She has clarified the relationship between pastoral theology and womanist thinking throughout her work at large. This newest work further represents a voice and perspective that enriches womanist theology for the future in ways that would not have been possible before Sheppard’s scholarship. I heartily recommend this volume.
Sheppard’s work just gets better and better with every new book. In this volume, she continues bringing together her long experience and expertise in psychoanalytic self-psychology with the womanist project of centering Black women’s experience and a postcolonial commitment to liberation from monolithic western religious norms and constraints. She raises up the importance of Black women’s ‘interiority’ as space for religious and cultural complexity and rich source of Black women’s creativity. Tilling Sacred Grounds is a mature, interdisciplinary masterwork, and an exemplar of pastoral and practical theology that crosses academy, church, and society!