Jo Shapcott reads I go inside the tree

WOW! I SAID, at Saturday’s breakfast table. And I was reading the Church Times! Rachel Mann, Manchester Cathedral‘s poet in residence and Priest in Charge of St Nicholas’ Burnage,  just down the road from here, writes: Why the Church should be more like poetry. Convincingly.

POETS are in a curious business. We are, as the poet David Constantine once put it, engaged in “a widening of consciousness, an extension of humanity”. At their best, our words create suggestive effects — effects that may draw attention, among other things, to the transcendent in our midst. Poets are often caught in a creative paradox in which words are both utterly useless and yet intensely powerful.

– says the sometime heavy metal musician (not a genre I’m especially familiar with!). And

Even well-educated people, conversant in literature, generally stumble when it comes to knowing modern poets such as Jo Shapcott, Michael Symmons Roberts, or Daljit Nagra, who are stars in the field.

St Nicholas’ Burnage looks and sounds like a great place to be. It’s website notes that St Nicholas Church rocked  in celebration of Rachel’s 40th birthday. I bet it did. And I want to visit. Preferably when Rachel’s preaching. Back though to the Church Times:

Through their attention to language and its uses, they coin fresh ways for the imagination to be fed. To use the Scottish term for poet: as “Makar”, the poet reveals possibilities that help people dream dreams and have visions. In many ways, poets are little different from people of faith — they want their views to matter — but I suspect that poetry, free from the temptation to moralise, has borne its fall from significance with greater grace.

I WONDER what it might be like for us religious types to let go of our need to matter, and to embrace our irrelevance. I suspect that we might be more relaxed and a little more attractive. Sometimes I sense that the Church of England is like a morally constipated child jumping up and down at the back of the class with its hand in the air, sure that it has the correct answer. At one level, I want to say that we do have the answer; but that answer is more about drawing people into the creative mystery of living than about seeking to legislate for their private or public lives …

All this on page 12. Probably not too late to pick up a copy if you hurry. The paper deserves to sell every copy this week. Giles Fraser on the next page comes across as inspired as Rachel Mann:

A [Week of Prayer for Christian unity] sermon began to form. Forget church politics. The wilderness – even an ecumenical one – is an opportunity to discover what is most important: to search out the source of life, and to share that life with others. This is what all baptised Christians are called to do.

But if you can’t buy the paper I guess a visit to St Nick’s in Burnage, or St Paul’s Cathedral, or St Michael & All Angels Bramhall might do the trick for you. Might help you find the poet that’s lurking in your soul. Might take you “Inside the tree” until the “O, my God, at the heart …”

Way to go Church Times!

One thought on “O MY GOD AT THE HEART …

  1. Great write. It was the understanding of ‘irrelevance’ that drove me onto and beyond Graduate school. Hell (excuse me!) it pulled me from suicide.

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