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Freedom Song: Faith, Abuse, Music and Spirituality

A Lived Experience of Celebration


June Boyce-Tillman

This book is an autobiographical account of the development of an authentic interiority. It charts the way in which the Christian faith in which the author was enculturated was refined by her lived experience of music, abuse, forgiveness, interfaith dialogue, gender and vocation (into teaching and priesthood). The author describes how music and spirituality can create a route into forgiveness by creatively transforming («mulching») childhood abuse into celebration. Her work challenges established therapeutic models and suggests a variety of alternative tools, including created ritual.

The volume is set out as a series of meditations on the themes contained in the Lord’s Prayer; it can be read in separate sections, as well as in its totality. The author’s life is perceived as a crystal that can be viewed through various lenses, illustrated by different styles of writing. These include narrative accounts written in a personal style; hymns, songs and poems that condense her thinking around a theme; and more academic reflection, using other people’s writing and experiences to understand her own.

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Interlude: On Not Becoming a Woman


Halfway through this commentary on my life it is time to look at where I have come to from my beginnings in rural Hampshire. In 2014, in the process of de-cluttering, I was called upon to reflect on the gender stereotyping I had been given. This was prompted by the difficulty of giving away the Singer sewing machine that had lain in the bottom of the airing cupboard for many years. Below is a script I subsequently wrote for a one-woman performance, with a recurring refrain for the audience. This uses words often repeated by my mother when talking about my aunt who had been trained as a tailoress and therefore could make the revere collars that characterised the business suits of the day. It is a rediscovery of a how my humanity and that of my ancestors was expressed – the differences and commonalities.

The sewing machine is beautiful, shining black with gold lettering painted on. It has a finely crafted rounded wooden case. It is a hand operated model and it was the one on which I had learned to sew. I brought it from my mother’s house after she died and took it to our house in Penwortham Road. What did I hope? That I would sew dresses again? Who for? Two sons? Or myself? Would I make fairy costumes for the parish pantomime? Or maybe I would sew curtains?

“Your aunt can sew reveres, dear” said my mother.


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