Welcome to our May poetry blog. This month, we consider two poems about the nature of community and the role of rituals in forming and re-forming community. During the ongoing pandemic we have had many of our rituals disrupted, while others we have clung to more tightly, and we no longer take for granted the simple act of singing together – whatever “together” looks like.
nostrils full of melting wax
and burning wick –
of bodies unused to gathering.
the sigh of a collective breath
unifies us more than music.
eyes flutter closed in a near darkness
pricked by twinkling candles –
The Lord is my light.
shoulders – unchoreographed –
sway in and out of sync –
rich harmonies burrow into ears –
beneath one pure voice.
throats rough from lack of practice
routinely bathed with water –
with cough drop – with water.
In God I trust –
we sing again and again
until the words are part of us.
with thanks to the support of Christian Students Uniting
Preparing for Advent in a thousand year old inclusive church, during a plague
The plague is happening. The plague is happening and services cannot happen in churches. The plague is happening and the law says we can only pray, privately.
On Saturdays I walk an hour to church. It is winter now and I bow my head to the rain. There is a leak before the pulpit, and someone changes out the bucket. We open the great door, lean it ajar, to allow people in. I hang signs on the railings with zip ties. “Church open.” “Church open.” Sometimes people come in.
The traffic outside keeps circling. Often there are sirens. The plague is happening, and we wear masks, and there are sirens, and sometimes people come in. I trim the candles on the altar. Dig out the advent hangings. Nobody touches. Nobody moves closer. Ian, parishioner here for an entire lifetime, reminds us how things should be. How they have always been. How they will be again.
There is a break in the rain and I climb up to the roof, searching, again, for the leak. We change out the bucket. Again. Though we’ve swept the leaves from the path, we will soon do it again. Things keep breaking. Things are always mended. I cradle a candle in the crook of my arm, carving slivers of coloured wax from its base. Three purple, a pink, and a white. The stand they will soon fit in is crusted in wax - leave it, the priest says - it’s a reminder.
None of the candles stand straight in the stand we found - but that’s okay. The Christmas tree was crushed a decade ago, and it doesn’t stand straight either. Nothing is straight at St Nicks. Someone comes in to pray, and the rainbow flag flutters in the breeze from outside. Ian plays the organ, simply because he can.
I run my hand over these ancient stones. Lean back in a pew. Watch the sunlight play across the nave. Listen to the rain. The sirens. The organ. Watch as someone raises a duster, built out of garden canes, feathers, and duct tape. See them knock the dust from the tops of the archways. Hear the hoover as it moves through the vestry. Watch the tealights flicker on the stand we found for the grieving. I close my eyes. I close my eyes, and I privately pray.
The plague is happening. The plague is happening and services cannot happen in churches. But this. All of this is worship.
Gabrielle Cadenhead is the mission worker for Christian Students Uniting at the University of Sydney.
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