Throughout history women are redacted from the story. The narrative of our grief is still unripe. The green acorn still waits to fruit. The new song still hammers in the dark in search of the music for our time. It takes prophets living on the edge to listen for the song, to call us forth, to proclaim the will of God and hold us to account. Forbidden Grace is a compelling story of just such a prophet. Rev. Shanon Sterringer writes honestly of her story with its struggles, its messiness, its crests and troughs, with the mystic and prophet Hildegard of Bingen as the wind that carries her. The juxtaposition of the two words in the title is a paradox of our time and it takes a brave woman to carry that. I was captivated by her journey.
Learning to consciously live in the light which is sometimes bewilderingly dark (how else can one see the stars?) Shanon reminds us of the lone falcon ‘turning and turning in the widening gyre.’ As the poet, WB Yeats continues, ‘Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold’
What Shanon knows – it is in the ‘fall apart’ comes the song of a new way, as it is the invisible sap running in the veins that ripens the fruit . . . what Hildegard called veriditas, that brings humanity to its fullness. Even as the hammer pounds, the prophet in Shanon sings us forth. For what is this song if not hope?
Reincarnation? We cannot know these things. However, for those who are open we do know Spirit abides us. And for us Hildegardians we know Hildegard is speaking today.
– COLLEEN KEATING, Poet and author of Hildegard of Bingen: A Poetic Journey
Forbidden Grace is an extraordinary account of the lives of two women separated by 900 years, yet touched by the same divine grace. Sterringer offers readers a front row seat as she examines the synchronicities that connect her faith story to that of Hildegard of Bingen. The thematic treatment of their journeys allows a forward and backward movement like the waves of an incoming tide that allows ideas and events to seep into one’s consciousness. The reader comes away with a deep recognition of the spiritual bond between two women who have both wrestled with God.
This memoir is a stunning tapestry woven of two parallel lives. Throughout, the author assures us that God’s grace is forbidden to no one despite over 2,000 years of history that has often maintained otherwise. As an ordained woman priest, Rev. Sterringer has joined the ranks of women who refuse to participate in erecting barriers against divine energy. — JOYCE RAY, award-winning author of Feathers & Trumpets, A Story of Hildegard of Bingen
This beautifully written book recounts the compelling spiritual journey of a young woman whose love for God moves her to seek ordination to the priesthood. Autobiography and biography meet as the Rev. Shanon structures the account of her life’s itinerary with parallel episodes from the Life of Hildegard of Bingen. With humility and good humor, Shanon draws us into her candid memoir of call, courage, and commitment, with its blessings, disappointments, and upheavals. Retreat from her goal never surfaces as an option for this strong, courageous woman. Her energy, like her faith, radiates from the pages of this book. Readers will wonder how she keeps going, and they will not want to put the book down until reaching the end. Buoyed by the ever-renewing vitality of the Holy Spirit, Rev. Shanon learns, in Hildegard’s words, “to be carried like a feather on the Breath of God.”
–-BEVERLY KIENZLE, professor emeritus, Harvard Divinity School, author of The Gospel Homilies of Hildegard of Bingen.
This is a fascinating and innovative book weaving a number of different themes into a many-layered tapestry. The story of the medieval mystic Hildegard von Bingen is interwoven with the author’s own journey into the priesthood. The significance of role models who are like you is clearly charted, along with the search for a theology to challenge the dominant culture. Both women’s stories are told in a lively way that will draw readers in and enable them to find their own story in both contemporary culture and in history – or should it be her story? The author likens both stories to chipping away at a tunnel into a seemingly forbidden cave. This book is a significant addition to the clearing of the rubble that has blocked women’s entry into positions of authority within the Christian church.
—THE REV. DR JUNE BOYCE-TILLMAN MBE PhD, MA, LRAM, FRSA, FHEA, FISM, Professor Emerita of Applied Music University of Winchester, UK; Extraordinary Professor at North-West University, South Africa
Two photos of Rev. Shanon Sterringer a presence of Hildegard in our world today. Doing what Hildegard would struggle to do in the 21st century.
Two Hildegardians today
BEVERLY KIENZLE, professor emeritus, Harvard Divinity School, author of The Gospel Homilies of Hildegard of Bingen. and
Shanon Sterringer, Rev. and Dr. Pastor and Professor, Pastor of Hildegard Haus, Owner of The Green Shepherdess