The Light Shines in the Darkness – Merry Christmas!


Tonight we had a beautiful 9 lessons and carols service. One of our readers, Ros, read this poem by Lisa Debney and it was so beautiful I wanted to share it with you along with my good wishes for Christmas and 2017.

Remember that we carry the light of Christ with us into this dark world – the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it!

Find this poem in this book.

Mary by Lisa Debney

Your eyes are open now.

Those eyes which will open the eyes of others.

You study my face and, just for the moment,

though you came for the world,

you are mine and mine alone.

I made you and you made me

and we gaze at each other in equal wonderment.


Your eyes are open now,

so dark-bright –

sent from a night full of light and stars –

that I could watch you for ever,

watch your chest rise and fall

as you breathe the cattle-soaked air.

I would like this moment to last for ever,

you are so wonderful to me,

so truly wonderful as you are.


But not my will, Lord, but yours be done.

I must hand you over for the world cries out for you,

though I cry out to let you go.

Just for tonight let the future leave us in peace.

Close your eyes, baby.

Close your bright eyes on the dusty darkness of the world.

There is majesty in you but for now let it hide,

let it hide like a gem while you sleep.




“sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness” – a poem about St Francis by Galway Kinnell


This Lent I am running a mini course introducing the life of St Francis of Assisi. I have deliberately decided to run the course on a Tuesday night after our said Eucharist so that the homily at the Eucharist can also be on an aspect of St Francis’ life.

DSC_0784-01Many of us have images of St Francis as being a kind of saintly Doctor Dolittle – my abiding image of him is from my Ladybird Book of the Saints (pictured). Although St Francis did have a great love of creation and creatures (not a love of ‘nature’ as we might say) he was not particularly wet in character as many of the images we  see of him now seem to convey.

I recently found this beautiful poem by Galway Kinnell  (in the book Soul Food) which for me encapsulates Francis’ love for all living things in a way that is not sentimental or wet but powerful and moving. I will read this poem at the service tonight.

Saint Francis and the Sow


The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.




12 animators, 6 months – a beautiful film called YHWH (set to a poem by Sh’maya)


I was alerted to this project by designer Jim LePage’s Facebook Page. I’ve always been a fan of animation and this is quite a stunning short film with words by poet Sh’maya and the animation talents of 12 different people. You can read more about the project on the website which includes the full text of the poem YHWH.

YHWH is the tetragrammaton – the shortened name of the most holy name of God (because it is too holy to spell out in full).

A poem on which to meditate – who is God?


I’m currently reading  Stitches by Anne Lamott who I heard at Greenbelt this year and then got semi-star-struck as she signed my copy. Anne is a superb writer and she quotes in this book from a poem by Jane Kenyon. Here is the poem, it’s been haunting me since I googled it. Really beautiful. Enjoy.

Briefly It Enters, Briefly Speaks


I am the blossom pressed in a book,
found again after two hundred years. . . .


I am the maker, the lover, and the keeper….


When the young girl who starves
sits down to a table
she will sit beside me. . . .


I am food on the prisoner’s plate. . . .


I am water rushing to the wellhead,
filling the pitcher until it spills. . . .


I am the patient gardener
of the dry and weedy garden. . . .


I am the stone step,
the latch, and the working hinge. . . .


I am the heart contracted by joy. . . .


the longest hair, white
before the rest. . . .


I am there in the basket of fruit
presented to the widow. . . .


I am the musk rose opening
unattended, the fern on the boggy summit. . . .


I am the one whose love
overcomes you, already with you
when you think to call my name. . . .


“Briefly It Enters, and Briefly Speaks” by Jane Kenyon from Collected Poems. Copyright © 2005 by the Estate of Jane Kenyon. Reprinted with permission of Graywolf Press,

Source: Collected Poems (Graywolf Press, 2005)

The mystery of Ascension Day – some doubted


ascension dayAscension Day is probably the most theologically rich day on its own in the church calendar. I was asked about how I would preach a sermon on Ascension Day at my selection conference for ordination training!

I’d encourage you to go to a service today, think on it, it will make your brain hurt – in a good way. It’s good for us to encounter things our little brains can’t completely understand.

I find Matthew’s account of the ascension really encouraging:

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ – Matthew 28:16-20


These are the 11 remaining disciples. They worshipped Jesus, but SOME DOUBTED. Some, of the 11 doubted. That’s not 1 or 2, that’s some. To these doubtful people, Jesus then gives the great commission.

I doubt that I understand what the Ascension is truly about, but it’s ok, I’m in good company!

I read an extract from this poem in the church times which I will share with you here:

Ascension – Denise Levertov 

Stretching Himself as if again,
through downpress of dust
upward, soul giving way
to thread of white, that reaches
for daylight, to open as green
leaf that it is…
Can Ascension
not have been
arduous, almost,
as the return
from Sheol, and
back through the tomb
into breath?
Matter reanimate
now must reliquish
itself, its
human cells,
molecules, five
senses, linear
vision endured
as Man –
the sole
all-encompassing gaze
resumed now,
Eye of Eternity.
Reliquished, earth’s
broken Eden.
self-enjoined task
of Incarnation.
He again
Fathering Himself.
Seed-case splitting.
He again
Mothering His birth:
torture and bliss.

You might like to read this poem alongside this art installation from Anish Kapoor:

Morning Prayer Lent Wednesday, 27 February 2013 George Herbert, Priest, Poet, 1633 [Lesser Festival]


Chapel of St Mary the Less, St John's College DurhamI led morning prayer for the first time this morning at St John’s College Chapel of St Mary the Less.
Today the church remembers the priest and poet George Herbert who died on this day in 1633. He wrote many hymns, some of which we still sing today such as Let all the world in every corner sing. So in tribute today I began and ended this morning’s prayer with two verses from his poem Mattens:

I Cannot ope mine eyes,
But thou art ready there to catch
My morning-soul and sacrifice:
Then we must needs for that day make a match.

My God, what is a heart?
Silver, or gold, or precious stone,
Or starre, or rainbow, or a part
Of all these things, or all of them in one?

My God, what is a heart?
That thou shouldst it so eye, and wooe,
Powring upon it all thy art,
As if that thou hadst nothing els to do?

Indeed mans whole estate
Amounts (and richly) to serve thee:
He did not heav’n and earth create,
Yet studies them, not him by whom they be.

Teach me thy love to know;
That this new light, which now I see,
May both the work and workman show:
Then by a sunne-beam I will climbe to thee.