Blurring the Line

Words and Faith #4


Two pieces to share, from that big space in my personal Venn diagram where poetry and preaching intersect.

Firstly, I read a blog about the sacrament of place – those physical spaces where we particularly experience God’s grace. This struck a chord with me, because I’d preached the previous Sunday on Jacob’s dream about heaven and earth. When Jacob wakes up from his stairway to heaven moment, he says “I didn’t expect to find God here”. Well, you probably didn’t expect to find God anywhere, you lying, cheating rascal 😉 My sermon included some thoughts on this – I love the idea of finding God at the bus stop or in the bath, or doing the washing up; the extraordinary finding spaces amongst the ordinary. At the same time, I accepted a challenge to do Tanka Tuesdays. My writing discipline is terrible, and the election haiku forced me to work through some ideas until they were reasonable, so I thought this would be a good way to get back into a routine again.

Put the two things together and you have the tanka in the picture at the top. My “God Space”. The time when my head clears and I can find enough space to think. I do find tanka much harder than haiku, bizarrely. You can sort of dash a haiku off, and you can ramble on for ages in a free form poem but tanka…. You have to actually say something, and it’s too long to string a single thought out with a few padded adjectives.

Secondly, just a little poem I wrote last year. I sent a version of this to the Manchester Cathedral poetry competition but I think it was probably a long way off the darker end of the spectrum for them. I’ve watched relationships between clergy and congregation unfold and sometimes unravel over my twenty five years in Leeds, and I’m always struck by the concept of ownership that sometimes creeps in. My minister. My vicar. My congregation. My church. It’s not just a turn of phrase. Some people really do feel like this, and it takes real pastoral skill to deal with it. On several occasions, I’ve seen this sense of ownership or entitlement bubble away until the day comes when the church has to decide whether a minister should stay on, and then it erupts into all sorts of nonsense.

Surely, we are sharing this part of the journey. Neither of us has the other on hire or bound to us in a contract of service. Sometimes it isn’t perfect, and our shared time is a learning experience of patience and tolerance. But sometimes this shared time is truly a gift from God.




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