Carol Ann Duffy is new Poet Laureate

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned but I struggle with poetry. Lots of clergy love it but I just don’t get it. Well I do get it but you really have to work at it, right?  Son #1 writes poetry and I get his – well, it is kind of ‘in your face’ poetry. I don’t read poetry often because I think I am too impatient. However sometimes poems come your way and occasionally I do get it. I even write some of them down. Carol Ann Duffy’s poems would fall into that category. She does religion and humour too. So I get her poetry.

But best of all she is the first woman poet laureate and a Scot to boot. Yeh!

In search of a Round Table

Thanks to Bishop Alan’s blog for alerting me to this poem. I don’t always ‘get’ poetry but this one worked for me.

In search of a round table

Concerning the why and how and what and who of ministry,
One image keeps surfacing: A table that is round.
It will take some sawing
To be roundtabled.
Some redefining
And redesigning,
Some redoing and rebirthing
Of narrow long Churching
Can painful be
For people and tables.
It would mean no daising
And throning,
For but one king is there
And he is a foot washer,
At table no less.
And what of narrow long ministers
When they confront
A round table people,
After years of working up the table
To finally sit at its head,
Only to discover
That the table has been turned round?
They must be loved into roundness,
For God has called a People
Not “them and us”.
“them and us” are unable
to gather round; for at a round table
there are no sides
and ALL are invited
to wholeness and to food.
At one time
Our narrowing churches
Were built to resemble the Cross
But it does no good
For building to do so,
If lives do not.
Round tabling means
No preferred seating,
No first and last,
No better, and no corners
For the “least of these”.
Roundtabling means
Being with,
A part of,
Together and one.
It means room for the Spirit
And gifts
And disturbing profound peace for all.
We can no longer prepare for the past.
To be Church,
And if He calls for other than a round table
We are bound to follow.
Leaving the sawdust
And chips, designs and redesigns
Behind, in search of and in presence of
The Kingdom
That is His and not ours.

Chuck Lathrop

Last night at church, whilst elbow deep in soap suds washing dishes, a visitor said to me in a startled voice, “But you shouldn’t be doing dishes, Ruth! You’re the priest, you do the other things.”  I tell you, that shocked me. And I won’t reveal what church she goes to, either!

The Beautiful Hands of a Priest

Found this today in my search for something meaningful to preach on Friday. Anyone else think its a little creepy?

The Beautiful Hands of a Priest.

We need them in life’s early morning,
We need them again at its close;
We feel their warm clasp of true friendship,
We seek it while tasting life’s woes.

When we come to this world we are sinful,
The greatest as well as the least.
And the hands that make us pure as angels
Are the beautiful hands of a priest.

At the altar each day we behold them,
And the hands of a king on his throne
Are not equal to them in their greatness
Their dignity stands alone.

For there in the stillness of morning
Ere the sun has emerged from the east,
There God rests between the pure fingers
Of the beautiful hands of a priest.

When we are tempted and wander
To pathways of shame and sin
‘Tis the hand of a priest that absolve us.
Not once but again and again.

And when we are taking life’s partner
Other hands may prepare us a feast
But the hands that will bless and unite us,
Are the beautiful hands of a priest.

God bless them and keep them all holy,
For the Host which their fingers caress,
What can a poor sinner do better
Than to ask Him who chose them to bless

When the death dews on our lids are falling,
May our courage and strength be increased
By seeing raised o’er us in blessing
The beautiful hands of a priest.

A bit of poetry

For the last couple of years I have given up reading fiction in Lent. I try to use any spare time I have doing some suitable reading – usually of a theological nature.

Last night I was reading a little book called ‘Do Not Go Gentle – poems for funerals’ edited by Neil Astley. (ISBN 1 85224 635 9) There are 6 sections: Stop all the Clocks – poems of grief; Lives enriched – poems of celebration; I Am Not There – body and spirit; The Dying of the Light – pain and resolution; The Other Side – comfort and haunting; Nothing Dies – release and letting go.

There are all the old favourites in there and some new ones – to me anyway. But the one which caught my eye last night was called The Minister by Anne Stevenson. It was in the section of post-Christian poetry for those trying to make sense of death. Sadly I know exactly the type of ‘minister’ of whom she writes. And a warning to us all.

We’re going to need the minister
to help this heavy body into the ground.

But he won’t dig the hole;
others who are stronger and weaker will have to do that.
And he won’t wipe his nose and his eyes;
others who are weaker and stronger will have to do that.
And he won’t bake cakes or take care of the kids –
women’s work. Anyway,
what would they do at a time like this
if they didn’t do that?

No, we’ll get the minister to come
and take care of the words.

He doesn’t have to make them up,
he doesn’t have to say them well,
he doesn’t have to like them
so long as they agree to obey him.

We have to have the minister
so the words will know where to go.

Imagine them circling and circling
the confusing cemetary.
Imagine them roving the earth
without anywhere to rest.