Tag Archives: Prayer

Behind Each Number, One Belovèd Face

I am thinking of my American friends today as the tragic death-toll from the virus there passes 100,000. These are mind numbing numbers and only the exercise of compassionate imagination can give us even a glimpse of the harrowing personal stories behind each one. When I began to hear our statistics mount on our own evening radio news, I found myself again and again in prayer, knowing that even though I only heard the numbers, God knew and loved and died for the people behind those numbers.

All this found its way into the concluding section of my Quarantine Quatrains which I am posting here as a poem on its own

VII

35

At close of day I hear the gentle rain

Whilst experts on the radio explain

Mind-numbing numbers, rising by the day,

Cyphers of unimaginable pain

36

Each evening they announce the deadly toll

And patient voices calmly call the roll

I hear the numbers, cannot know the names

Behind each number, mind and heart and soul

37

Behind each number one belovèd face

A light in life whom no-one can replace,

Leaves on this world a signature, a trace,

A gleaning and a memory of grace

38

All loved and loving, carried to the grave

The ones whom every effort could not save

Amongst them all those carers whose strong love

Bought life for others with the lives they gave.

39

The sun sets and I find myself in prayer

Lifting aloft the sorrow that we share

Feeling for words of hope amidst despair

I voice my vespers through the quiet air:

40

O Christ who suffers with us, hold us close,

Deep in the secret garden of the rose,

Raise over us the banner of your love

And raise us up beyond our last repose.

 

 

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The 11th Poem In My Corona On The Psalms: In Domino Confido

‘I envy birds their wings’ image by Peter Swain

Continuing my series of poems in response to The Psalms we come to Psalm 11 I mentioned in my last post that this is part of a  sequence of four psalms from 9 through to 12, which strongly emphasise God’s promise to defend the poor and needy. Psalm 11 highlights our sense of unfairness when some of the best people, ‘the true of heart’ are specifically targeted by the worst people, and how even if we had wings to fly, someone would want to shoot us down

IN THE Lord put I my trust: how say ye then to my soul, that she should flee as a bird unto the hill? For lo, the ungodly bend their bow, and make ready their arrows within the quiver: that they may privily shoot at them which are true of heart.

But the Psalmist opens and closes the psalm with confidence in God and the final establishment of his justice. It is both challenging and comforting for us to read this: challenging because we may be complicit in the oppression f the poor it describes, but comforting because in trusting God alone we may be liberated to change the way we live. In my poem I confess the constraint and complicity but also try to deepen the trust and the comfort. As always you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the title or the play button. If you put the word ‘psalms’ in the search bar you will find the other poems in this series.

XI In Domino confido

 

Arise my God, and give the poor their day!

For now I see the powers taking aim

And targeting the weakest. See, they slay

 

The true of heart and still they claim

To be our shepherds!  Where then can I fly?

I envy birds their wings, but sorrows maim,

 

And my complicities constrain me. I

Long with all my soul to seek the hill

Where God has set his citadel on high,

 

Yet through these sad constraints I trust him stlll,

I know that he can see the way things go

I know that these dark ways are not his will

 

For he loves justice, and the poor will know

That he is their defender when he comes

To topple tyrants and exalt the low.

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The Seventh Poem In My Corona On The Psalms

Before the Great Lion in his righteousness

Continuing with my ‘corona’ on the psalms, a series of interwoven responses to the psalter, each poem beginning with the last line of the previous poem and offering its last line to the next, we come to psalm VII, a psalm of complete trust in God but also a psalm about his judgement. This psalm contains the crucial insight that in the end evil is self destructive, that it contains the seeds of its own demise:

He hath graven and digged up a pit: and is fallen on himself into the destruction that he made for other.

For his travail shall come upon his own head: and his wickedness shall fall on his own pate.

This is an insight that Milton expressed very powerfully in Comus, where one of the brothers in that masque says ‘Evil will back recoil upon itself and mix no more with good’ the phrase ‘back recoil upon itself’ was probably an allusion to the way cannons recoil back when they are fired – Milton regarded such weapons as essentially a devilish invention, indeed in Paradise Lost there is a scene in Hell where the devils invent fire arms. The psalm also talks about the evil person as ‘a devouring lion’ another image I pick up in my poem, though I balance it with an allusion to the true Lion, Christ mystically shown in revelation as ‘The Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah”, and of course, for modern readers, to Aslan the Great Lion who is Christ in Narnia. You may like to reread the psalm in Coverdales translation, which is my source text before or after you read my poetic reflection on it. If you are new to this series here are links to the other poems:

V  III and IV  II 

As always you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button

VII Domine, Deus meus

Until I recognise his face at last

I’ll trust him in the dark and carry on,

Till these destructive powers fall back to dust

 

Till the devouring lions are fled and gone

Before the Great Lion in his righteousness.

Then every place where some small gleam has shown

 

Will shine within the light of holiness,

And he will prove and make me true of heart,

My lord and God, Dominus deus meus.

 

Evil can only break itself apart

Recoiling back into its own destruction

And digging its own grave. It has no part

 

In the true kingdom. All its desolation

Will fall away to nothing and be gone,

Before the splendour of the resurrection.

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Girton College Chapel May 17th: Our Daily Bread

Welcome back to our weekly Girton chapel evensong page, and a special welcome to those of you from around the world who are joining us from beyond our college community, we’re delighted to have you as our guests.Today we have another treat in store for you: more exquisite Palestrina and Ingegneri from the choir, accompanied by the Conservatoires’ Cornett & Sackbutt Ensemble directed by Jeremy West. We also have Milly Atkinson’s wonderful anthem setting of my little quatrain ‘The Lost Son’, plus The Girton Responses  composed especially for the college by our own Gareth Wilson, plus beautiful photos of the college and grounds, and a new episode of my series of reflections and sonnets on The Lord’s Prayer. (You can find the choir’s CDs Here)

Now, to begin our worship, we hear the opening responses, composed by Gareth Wilson and sung by the choir for whom they were written:

The Girton Responses (Wilson) – Preces

 

V:O Lord, open thou our lips.
R:And our mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
V:O God, make speed to save us.
R:O Lord, make haste to help us.

V: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
R: .As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
V: Praise ye the Lord.
R:The Lord’s Name be praised.

 

delicate blossoms in the college grounds -photo by Jeremy West

Since our theme today is the gift of daily bread, and the deeper and wider meanings of that gift, our psalm speaks of the sowing and reaping that lie behind the provision of bread. Do read this psalm aloud, perhaps alternating verse with other members of your household.

Psalm 126.In convertendo

When the Lord turned again the captivity of Sion, then were

we like unto them that dream.

Then was our mouth filled with laughter : and our tongue

with joy.

Then said they among the heathen : The Lord hath done

great things for them.

Yea, the Lord hath done great things for us already : whereof

we rejoice.

Turn our captivity, O Lord : as the rivers in the south.

They that sow in tears : shall reap in joy.

He that now goeth on his way weeping, and beareth forth

good seed : shall doubtless come again with joy, and bring his

sheaves with him.

Our Old Testament reading is taken from the Book of Exodus and speaks of how God fed his people in the wilderness. It is read for us by our chapel warden Wilhelm Emmrich

Exodus 16:1-16

The whole congregation of the Israelites set out from Elim; and Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt.

The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.

The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not.

On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.’

So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, ‘In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt,

and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaining against the Lord. For what are we, that you complain against us?’

And Moses said, ‘When the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the Lord has heard the complaining that you utter against him—what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the Lord.’

Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, “Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.” ’

And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked towards the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud.

The Lord spoke to Moses and said,

‘I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, “At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.” ’

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp.

When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground.

When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.

This is what the Lord has commanded: “Gather as much of it as each of you needs, an omer to a person according to the number of persons, all providing for those in their own tents.” ’

 

In place of the Magnificat the choir will sing for us Palestrina’s Deus Qui Dedisti

photo by Phil Mynot

Our New Testament reading comes from the Gospel of St. John and is read for us by Tony Hall, the Head Porter:

John 6:1-14

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias.

   A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick.

  Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples.

  Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near.

  When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming towards him, Jesus said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?’

  He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.

  Philip answered him, ‘Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.’

  One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him,

  ‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?’

  Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all.

  Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.

  When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.’

  So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets.

  When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, ‘This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.’

Peace by the Pond photo by Liliana Janik

In place of the Nunc Dimitis we will hear Emendemus In Melius by Ingegneri

Girton Choir, David Johnson Photography

Preces, from The Girton Responses, sung by Girton Choir

V:The Lord be with you.
R:And with thy spirit.
V:Let us pray.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.

OUR Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. Amen.

V:O Lord, shew thy mercy upon us.
R:And grant us thy salvation.
V:O Lord, save the Queen.

R:And mercifully hear us when we call upon thee.
V:Endue thy Ministers with righteousness.
R:And make thy chosen people joyful.
V:O Lord, save thy people.
R:And bless thine inheritance.
V:Give peace in our time, O Lord.
R:Because there is none other that fighteth for us, but only thou, O God.
V:O God, make clean our hearts within us.
R:And take not thy Holy Spirit from us.

Sermon: Give us this day our daily bread: a reflection and sonnet from the chaplain

The text of the poem:

Daily Bread

Give us this day our daily bread we pray,

As though it came straight from the hand of God,

As though we held an empty plate each day,

And found it filled, by miracle, with food,

Although we know the ones who plough and sow,

Who pick and plant and package whilst we sleep

With slow backbreaking labour, row by row,

And send away to others all they reap,

We know that these unseen who meet our needs

Are all themselves the fingers of your hand,

As are the grain, the rain, the air, the land,

And, slighting these, we slight the hand that feeds.

What if we glimpsed you daily in their toil

And found and thanked and served you through them all?

Our Anthem this evening is The Lost Son by Milly Atkinson:

Atkinson – The Lost Son

and below is the text of my poem which she set

The Lost Son

We miss the light, we lose ourselves in lies

We never reach the heart of anything

Unless we turn to meet his searching eyes

Who meets us in the midst of everything

Now here, as always is the blessing which concludes our service:

A Blessing from the Chaplain:

The peace of God, which passeth all understanding keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of his son Jesus Christ our lord, and the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with you and remain with you and those whom you hold in your hearts, this day and always, Amen

New life on the college pond! Photo Jeremy West

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The fifth poem in my ‘corona’ on the psalms

Continuing my new series of poetic reflections and meditations on the psalms, I come to psalm 5, which, rather astonishingly, opens with the words:

  1. PONDER my words, O Lord: consider my meditation

It is one thing for us to ponder on the many layers of meaning in the sacred words of scripture, quite another to be told that the Lord ponders on our words with even greater attention. He takes my own tentative voicing of who and how I am and hears it so deeply that he knows more of my heart than I do myself. And that insight was the starting point for this poem. But there were other phrases of the psalm that spoke to me as I prayed it: that I am called into God’s house, a place of healing, where our blood-thirstiness is met with ‘the multitude of his mercies’. This psalm is also special because it gave words to that beautiful anthem ‘Lead me lord, lead me in thy righteousness, make my way plain before my face.’ I loved too that the last word of this psalm is ‘shield’, and as one who is to some extent in this crisis being shielded, I decided to bring that word in at the beginning of my poem. You may like to read psalm 5 in the Coverdale translation, which I am using,  either before or after you read or listen to the poem. As in all this sequence this poem begins with the last line of the previous poem and lends its last line to the next.

Here are links to the earlier poems in this series:   III and IV  II I

As always you can hear me read it by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button

V Verba mea auribus

Safe in the love of one who’ll never part,

Of one whose kindness is itself a shield

Who understands the deep things of my heart

 

Better than I can ever do, I yield

Myself and my perplexities to him

And in his house of mercy I am healed

 

Healed of this world’s bloodthirstiness, its grim

Deceptions, all its weary wickedness,

The death-speak of its tyrants, as they hymn

 

The idols of their vanity, the emptiness

Of endless purchases, all washed away

Until my sight is cleansed, his righteousness

 

Makes my way plain, and leads me through the play

Of early morning light, to worship him

Whose mercy wakes me at the break of day,

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Girton College Chapel 3rd May: ‘Hallowed be Thy Name’

Girton Choir and Brass in the chapel

Welcome back to Girton College Chapel for the second of our virtual Sunday Evensongs, we have all been greatly encouraged that so many of you attended last week. This week we continue our reflection on The Lord’s Prayer and I share with you a sermon and a sonnet on its first petition: Hallowed be thy Name. The choir continue to assist and lift our worship, and once more the music features the original work of our own community, with ‘The KCL Responses’ composed by our director of chapel music Gareth Wilson. Many of us will enjoy and participate in this service together, through the medium of this page, at our usual time of 5:30pm (BST) so join us then if you can, but equally feel free to use this page as an aid to your devotions at any time of your choosing. I’m grateful to Liliana Janik and Jeremy West for the lovely glimpses of Girton their photographs provide.

Now to usher us into worship we hear the opening responses The KCL Preces (Wilson)

V:O Lord, open thou our lips.
R:And our mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
V:O God, make speed to save us.
R:O Lord, make haste to help us.

V: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
R: .As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
V: Praise ye the Lord.
R:The Lord’s Name be praised.

 

Today’s psalm, 113 sets out the theme, taken up in The Lord’s Prayer, of hallowing God’s Holy Name. Do say the psalm aloud if you can and perhaps share the verses with others in your household:

Psalm 113.Laudate, pueri

Praise the Lord, ye servants : O praise the Name of the Lord.

Blessed be the Name of the Lord : from this time forth for

evermore.

The Lord’s Name is praised : from the rising up of the sun

unto the going down of the same.

The Lord is high above all nations : and his glory above the

heavens.

Who is like unto the Lord our God, that hath his dwelling so

high : and yet humbleth himself to behold the things that are in

heaven and earth?

He taketh up the simple out of the dust : and lifteth the poor

out of the mire;

That he may set him with the princes : even with the princes

of his people.

He maketh the barren woman to keep house : and to be a joyful

mother of children.

a glimpse through Girton windows photo Lila Janik

The Old Testament Reading is taken from the Book of Exodus, and is read for us by our Bursar James Anderson

Exodus 3:1-15

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.

  There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed.

  Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’

  When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’

  Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’

  He said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Then the Lord said, ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings,

  and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

  The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them.

  So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.’

  But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’

  He said, ‘I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.’

But Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you”, and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’

  God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I am has sent me to you.” ’

  God also said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you”:
This is my name for ever,
and this my title for all generations.

Photo by Jeremy West

For the Magnificat we continue to feature the work of Cardoso, this time with his Magnificat Quinti Toni:

Luke 1

MY soul doth magnify the Lord :
and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

For he hath regarded :
the lowliness of his hand-maiden.

For behold, from henceforth :
all generations shall call me blessed.

For he that is mighty hath magnified me :
and holy is his Name.

And his mercy is on them that fear him :
throughout all generations.

He hath shewed strength with his arm :
he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

He hath put down the mighty from their seat :
and hath exalted the humble and meek.

He hath filled the hungry with good things :
and the rich he hath sent empty away.

He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel :
as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed, for ever.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son :
and to the Holy Ghost;

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be :
world without end. Amen.

Our New Testament reading is the great Hymn to Christ’s self-emptying, or Kenosis, read for us by the Vice-Mistress Karen Lee

Philippians 2:5-11

 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
  but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
    he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

  Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
    so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
    and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

In place the Nunc Dimmitis this Sunday we are going to hear Gareth Wilson’s beautiful setting of Ave Maris Stella

Now we turn to God in Prayer with Gareth Wilson’s setting of the responses

V:The Lord be with you.
R:And with thy spirit.
V:Let us pray.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.

OUR Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. Amen.

V:O Lord, shew thy mercy upon us.
R:And grant us thy salvation.
V:O Lord, save the Queen.
R:And mercifully hear us when we call upon thee.
V:Endue thy Ministers with righteousness.
R:And make thy chosen people joyful.
V:O Lord, save thy people.
R:And bless thine inheritance.
V:Give peace in our time, O Lord.
R:Because there is none other that fighteth for us, but only thou, O God.
V:O God, make clean our hearts within us.
R:And take not thy Holy Spirit from us.

Sermon: ‘Hallowed by they Name’ a reflection and a sonnet by the chaplain:

The text of the poem:

Hallowed be thy name

There’s something in the sound of the word hallow;

A haunting sense of everything we’ve lost

Amidst the trite, the trivial, the shallow,

Where nothing lingers, nothing seems to last.

But Hallowed,summons up our fear and wonder,

And summons us to stand on holy ground.

To sense the mystery that stands just under

Familiar things we’ll never understand.

 

Hallowed be thy name: the name unspoken,

The name from which all other names arise,

The name that heals the sick and binds the broken,

Whose living glory calls the dead to rise.

You make this prayer my rising and my rest

That I might bless the name by which I’m blessed.

‘my rising and my rest’, a peaceful seat in the fellows garden Photo by Jeremy West

 

Our Anthem this evening is Laudata Sion by Ingegneri, a rennasance composer re-discovered by Gareth Wilson and featured on the choir’s new CD  (You can find the choir’s CDs Here)

 

Now here, as always is the blessing which concludes our service:

A Blessing from the Chaplain:

The peace of God, which passeth all understanding keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of his son Jesus Christ our lord, and the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with you and remain with you and those whom you hold in your hearts, this day and always, Amen

Blossoms in our beautiful orchard. Photo by Lila Janek

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Hatley St. George; a poem for St. George’s Day

On St. George’s day my thoughts turn again to Hatley St. George. Alas it remains locked for a little while longer, like all the other lovely parish churches, yet still keeping its silent witness. And one part of that witness is to declare that we have been through this before. Our churches have stood and held and deepened the faith for us through other times of pestilence, through change and crisis as deep as this, a witness ‘in all the changes and chances of this fleeting world’ to the deeper things that abide.

If St. George, as our patron saint, inspires English patriotism, then I’d say my own patriotism is not about wrapping one political party or another in the flag. It was certainly not about ‘Brexit, that kerfuffle that seems so irrelevant now. But rather it is about loving the little particularites of my native land. Not the big nationalist rhetoric or the aggrandising imperial history, but the patchwork of little parishes and quiet shires. That’s one of the reasons why I love little mediaeval church dedicated to St. George in the village of Hatley St. George, not far from here.

Though the church goes back to the fourteenth century , in the late sixties it suffered the apparent misfortune of a collapse in its sanctuary which was declared unsafe and taken down. A new east wall was built but the architects had the wisdom to set in the new east window an arch of clear glass. For beyond that window, across the still sacred space of what had been choir and sanctuary, stands the most beautiful beech tree, which church-goers can see now in all its glory , through the changing seasons, simmering above their altar.

It’s a magical place, but like many such, struggling for survival and recognition. I originally wrote this poem both to celebrate the church and to help raise funds for its mantenance. Do visit it if you can, once our lockdown is lifted, and support those who are working for its upkeep. One of the congregation has written this poem out in beautiful calligraphy and it is hanging on the wall there, and each summer I go and read it aloud for them as part of their summer fete. This poem is in my book The Singing Bowl which you can buy on Amazon or order from any good bookshop.

You can listen to me read the poem by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button. As you listen you will also hear the scatter of bright birdsong which lifted the early April morning where I read the poem in my little writing hut ‘The Temple of Peace’

the window of Hatley St. George

View through the window of Hatley St. George

Hatley St. George

Stand here a while and drink the silence in.
Where clear glass lets in living light to touch
And bless your eyes. A beech tree’s tender green
Shimmers beyond the window’s lucid arch.
You look across an absent sanctuary;
No walls or roof, just holy, open space,
Leading your gaze out to the fresh-leaved beech
God planted here before you first drew breath.

Stand here awhile and drink the silence in.
You cannot stand as long and still as these;
This ancient beech and still more ancient church.
So let them stand, as they have stood, for you.
Let them disclose their gifts of time and place,
A secret kept for you through all these years.
Open your eyes. This empty church is full,
Thronging with life and light your eyes have missed.

Stand here awhile and drink the silence in.
Shields of forgotten chivalry, and rolls
Of honour for the young men gunned at Ypres,
And other monuments of our brief lives
Stand for the presence here of saints and souls
Who stood where you stand, to be blessed like you;
Clouds of witness to unclouded light
Shining this moment, in this place for you.

Stand here awhile and drink their silence in.
Annealed in glass, the twelve Apostles stand
And each of them is keeping faith for you.
This roof is held aloft, to give you space,
By graceful angels praying night and day
That you might hear some rumour of their flight
That you might feel the flicker of a wing
And let your heart fly free at last in prayer.

 

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