Monday, 9 July 2012

Women & Bishops - A Poetic Response

On the day General Synod debates whether women can be bishops in the Church of England, I want to offer something a little different: some poetry. Poetry can open up different space than traditional rhetoric or argument. That's one reason many philosophers have often been suspicious of it.
While it is possible that a vote could actually take place for or against, it now seems more likely that an adjournment will be sought - .
The poems I offer today have not been specially written for the Synod debate, as if I were some low-rent, remotely-engaged 'poet in residence' at Synod. At one level they are tangentially related to the debates. On another I hope some of the themes embedded in the poems resonate.

‘From: The Broken Middle’ is taken from a series of liturgical poems published in ‘Presiding Like A Woman’ (SPCK 2010)
‘Silence’ was originally published in Third Way Magazine.
I am somewhat nervous about offering 'Divine Service'. As a poem set in the context of Nazi persecution it is open to misunderstanding when placed in this context. I offer it as a kind of reminder of what lies at the heart of our faith, not by way of crass comparison between the hand-wringing of the C of E and the choices of the likes of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

From: Presiding From the Broken Middle

And we shall speak a song God gave us
And we shall find bread in the stones we found
And we shall receive blessing when rejection is given
And we shall arise when we’ve been beaten down.

And we shall sing a song God gave us
And we shall break bread on holy ground
And we shall proclaim a blessing in a world that is riven
And we shall stand and know we are found

And we shall roar a song God gave us
And we shall share bread among the lost and found
And God will heal from the broken middle
And with grace and hope and love astound.

(For D.S.)

As when Eadfrith crunched onto the holy shore
kicked the sting of the sea from between his toes
quaked beneath the impossible vault of heaven
and understood.

How he traced the shapes of Alpha and Omega
on the palms of his unpromising hands
asked to bear the blessing
prayed the ink would stir the Word uncurl
blink itself awake.

We too have known that startling silence of the heart
the world’s refusal to speak.
We too have come to that wide unyielding desert
the wilderness which steals.

Too late we ask to receive. Too easily we hide.
Too late we understand: no pilgrim may be given more.

Divine Service, Flossenburg, April 9th 1945

One last time
they herd us
our flesh mere meat
connective tissue
waiting for the cut

But we have come for news

And if today
it is too slick
for us to hold
jittery and quick
as a fish

there are words
which can move the bulk
of a man

there is bread
which thunders and roars

there is blood
thick and hot
which falls like rain
on dying land.