Thursday, 31 March 2011

Where are the poet priests?

Today we are asked to remember John Donne (1572-1631), poet, priest and Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral. As I was thinking about Donne’s life and work I started to ask ‘where are today’s poet priests?’. I’m aware of a few, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, but I can’t help wondering whether we have lost something in our understanding of priestly calling and ministry. Part of the role of the priest is to help others to see things in a different light, from an alternative perspective, and in the Church of England we have a rich tradition of priests who fulfilled this part of their vocation through poetry. In all the discussions about the future of the ordained ministry, and I have sat through too many hours of debate about that subject, I have not once heard anyone ask:

'Where are the poet priests and how will they be encouraged, nurtured and sustained?'.



Update: Check our this excellent follow up blog post developing the theme from Changing Worship The Church and the Arts.

13 comments:

Ray Barnes said...

Thanks for this post. It seems to me that the art of looking at the world through the eyes of an aesthete is becoming a lost art.
No more among priests than in the rest of the population, but all the more to be regretted in the priesthood beacause they have an almost unique opportunity to make words 'sing' to a captive audience.
Thanks also for the chance to hear the lovely velvet-voiced Burton once more.

changingworship said...

I think that the problem is much wider ranging than just poetry. In fact, you have stirred something within me that is much bigger than tapping away on an iPhone for two minutes can express. I shall find a computer and blog a tretise on this and come back.

Thanks for the inspiration.

Btw, ask @anchormediacity and @metalvicar. They may be able to shed some light.

changingworship said...

Just realised I should leave a link to it shouldn't I.

http://changingworship.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/the-church-and-the-arts/

Doug Chaplin said...

Never mind the poets, Phil, where are the people who have time to stop, to read, to write, to create. Most of us are increasingly buried in administrative trivia, while being asked to do what were at least two jobs a mere decade ago.

Unlike the bishops who demand this of us, we are not given two or more full0time paid staff to assist us.

Free conference calls said...

I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed this post. You make some very informative points . Keep up the great work!

Philip Ritchie said...

Ray, I agree this is an issue for us as a society.

Robb (changingworship), many thanks for developing the theme and broadening it out.

Doug, I wholeheartedly agree with you and the concerns you have were in my mind when writing the post. As I prepare to return to parish ministry that is the big question I have, how to define the space for the reflective/creative.

Dave Faulkner said...

Eugene Peterson is a poet.

changingworship said...

No problemo. Doug was a little more succinct than I =D

Tristan said...

Malcolm Guite (poet, priest, scholar and Cambridge chaplain) would be a possible choice.

http://malcolmguite.wordpress.com

T

Rachel Marszalek said...

Try again
- responded here

Gurdur said...

Doug Chaplin's point seems quite pertinent. That being said, you left out Gerard Manley Hopkins (28 July 1844 – 8 June 1889), with his "The Windhover" and his "Pied Beauty". OK, fine, he was English but a Jesuit priest, but hey.

I vaguely remember one of Australia's leading poets a long while back was also an Anglican priest; I'll see if I can find out more.

Philip Ritchie said...

Thanks for the comment Gurdur, as I said in the blog there is a rich tradition of poets who were priests, my concern is about those who are around today.

malcolmguite said...

Thanks for raising this. As a poet-priest who has been kindly mentioned by one of your earlier respond amts, I might add that the examples of Donne and Herbert continue to nurture and encourage this twin vocation but that I have also been encouraged by the great response we get to poetry when it is woven into liturgy and preaching.