What clergy do — a found poem

Following the storm, the electricity was out
and we gathered as a house church
by fire-place and generator.
There was wood smoke in my hair.
I leaned over to squint at the hymn.
It said, “eagle’s wings,”
so I asked them, “What is your image of God?”
and these were their answers …

Breath of life, Love, a shepherd,
a tree, puffy clouds, a beautiful sunset,
the listener,
a burning bush, a rock of ages,
an invisible spirit, a loving father,
the light in a child’s eyes,
a nor’easter,
the one who gives a son,
the Voice in the darkness calling us home,
air — “for God is all around us.”

So this is my found poem.
I have put their images in order —
an order for today,
for these images, this community.

That is, really, all that clergy do.
Expect the found-god inside each one,
teach or invite or rattle them
into saying it,
collect it, put it in order,
remind them not to worship the order,
invite them to breathe the air.

This is a found poem in two senses – 1) yep, this happened and these are the exact answers of the group who weathered the storm for a house church morning, because I still have the little slips of paper I gave them to write on, 2) it’s been a couple years ago but I “found” it today as I am reflecting on my retirement after thirty-seven years from the parish half of my ministry. (Oh, my goodness, Madbury and Maranatha, what an amazing party last Sunday!) It is probably not everything that clergy do, but it certainly has been central to my life. (On Monday I will share what I think my ministry will be, based more in writing and in teaching and mentoring writers.)

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10 Responses to What clergy do — a found poem

  1. Jim Tschudy says:

    Maren I read your work your writing always hungry for more. I’m about to retire – May 2017 marks 50 yrs since leaving UTS in NYC.

    Transition awaits

    • Maren says:

      It’s a wonderful challenge! I started UTS in 1976, a few years after college, a little after your time, but not that much! Thank you for the good words.

  2. Jane Fisler Hoffman says:

    Welcome to a new season of life and ministry, Maren. Unsolicited advice: leave time for reading for fun ( for me, mysteries) or other useless gift of this new season.

  3. Maren says:

    Thanks, Jane, I will take your advice, though I must continue work to live. I have purposely been half-time in the parish since ’93 so … but one of the things I do is mentor folks trying to put books together and one I am working with right now is a great cozy mystery! (Spec fiction is actually my fandom of choice, but mysteries are amazing) I get to read and comment and help people live up to their schedules … did I mention I get to read!

  4. localpastor says:

    Oh Maren, how right you are. Being a pastor is a second (9th?) career for me. In one of those previous careers I was a writer for theater and theatrically related projects. When I say “theatrically related projects” a large income source for me was writing club acts for singers/actors. How do you do that? You listen to what they say, you organize it and what happens is you help them find their own poetic voice. The surprise to me, having graduated from seminary, was they I found myself doing the same thing I had done before in the parish— help organize a little and that way people find their own poetic voice.

    • Maren says:

      That’s absolutely the case! And I have empathy having worked in the commercial theatre as a manager eons ago but also my partner Donald has worked in it all his life. All theatre has a little “Chorus Line” in it.

  5. Mark Rideout says:

    With thanks to you, Maren, for helping me to “listen” more closely to myself and the church nearby and far away through your writing, your sharing of others who write, and encouragement to take in hand the thread (and pen) and write it down.

  6. Maren says:

    Thank you Mark and for the amazing retirement card I received yesterday! I won’t be far away and electronically …. and you know I am always looking for new hymn lyrics!

  7. Thank you! An inspirational and creative way to worship. I can’t imagine you retiring yet I can envision you always writing, sharing, inspiring giving, traveling, experiencing, dancing, feeding, journaling, sharing and living a full life.

  8. Maren says:

    Indeed, I hope to do that!!

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