Four Sermons and a Goodbye

If by some mistake you’ve visited this blog before, you may notice the lack of posts from the last year. But although I haven’t shared much here, I have been writing – in rather a different form! Although poetry continues to be an important part of my life, my writing this year has principally reflected my role as a member of the Holywell Community, a new monastic community based in Abergavenny. In this role I’ve written and delivered sermons, intercessions, and children’s talks; ghost-written for the church guide book; written blogs, flyers, project ideas and advertising material for the community; edited blogs, sermons and other documents for friends and colleagues; and even started a few projects of my own! At the moment, my main focus isn’t writing, but reading: I’m enjoying the freedom of self-motivated studying, and have enjoyed dipping my toes into the Welsh language, science-fiction, and Christian theology over the year. I’m currently reading Thomas Merton’s No Man Is An Island, and enjoying getting to know the Bible a little better.

The greatest writing challenge of the year has, without a doubt, been the experience of being asked to preach. It’s nerve-wracking, stressful, and wonderful. I speak with my hands: the teacher who ran my secondary-school debating society once told me that I looked as if I was ‘pitchforking my opponent’. Every time I’m wracked with anxiety about my lack of formal qualifications in theology, and whether I have any right to speak or knowledge to share. But the Holy Spirit is good, and so far, it’s been a really uplifting experience – at least for me!

Although this may seem a little naive to those who write sermons every week, I’ve decided to share my four wee ones here. Any feedback from regular sermon writers would be welcome.

My first sermon! 17th December 2017. Readings: Malachi 3 1-4; 4 and Philippians 4 4-7. On the theme of ‘The Fuller’s Fire’.

Jesus as High Priest: What’s in a name? 14th January 2018. Readings: Isaiah 60 9-22 and Hebrews 6 17- 7 10.

Children of the Living God – my last sermon in Abergavenny. 17th June 2018. Readings: Jeremiah 7 1-16 and Romans 9 14-26.

Being broken, being whole: a sermon for the patronal festival of St Mary Magdalene, preached at Piddington with Horton Church on the 22nd of July 2018. Readings: John 20 verses 1 and 11-18.

Finally, I’d like to share my farewell message on the Holywell Community blog. It’s been a wonderful year, and I wish every blessing on the new community as their year begins later this month. To new adventures!

Ink, Sweat and Tears: two poems and an interview // prayer and poetry in Monastic life

Earlier this month, I was interviewed by Ink, Sweat and Tears. It was wonderful to hear from them, and share news of our respective years – it’s been a strange, busy, and wonderful year post-masters, and I’m only just starting to accept that I am no longer a student. My studies are more informally focused on theology at present, and I’m still fascinated by devotional and spiritual poetry.

If this doesn’t scare you off, you can read two of the devotional poems from my master’s dissertation, as well as the interview, here – these are two of my favourite poems and I am very proud to share them with the world.

As I write this, I’m brainstorming potential workshop ideas, and thinking about the practical applications of poetry (and yes, I’m aware of the heavy burden of critical theory surrounding those words…) Ten days ago I was commissioned as a member of the Holywell Community, a new monastic community in Abergavenny, South Wales. Over the next year, I will live an adapted version of the Rule of St Benedict, praying, living in community, and working with the churches here. Abergavenny is surrounded by the Brecon Beacons, and every morning I walk to prayers in an ancient monastic church, through an old glacier-carved landscape rich in language and culture and faith.

The reality of monastic living is that as poetic as it sounds on paper, day-to-day life is often more prosaic. Dinner has to be cooked, bins taken out, hymns chosen, chairs stacked. If you look for poetry, you may be disappointed in its absence. It must be grown and lived and breathed. Made an office of the day. If I learnt one thing from long nights before deadlines, it was that blessed few can hear poetry on angelic tongues in the air like Rilke; most of us have to work at it. And all this, being true of poetry, is also true of faith. These days, I find to talk of one is to talk of the other. Prayer and poetry are the same motion. I only hope that the pattern of daily prayer here will also inspire me to write.

I’m still interested in freelance editing and developing my critical practice, but for the moment these aspects of my work will be focused on the Holywell Community; our blog can be found here if you are interested in following our work in Abergavenny. I also occasionally edit pieces for the excellent Cam Writes blog, run by writer, podcaster, filmmaker and critic Cameron McCulloch-Keeble; Cam reviews and writes about film, gaming and other media, and his blog is well worth your time.

Until next time, may words serve you well, and you serve the Word…

(shhh. I’m trying)