Thambos Books

10th February 2016


Out of Ashes


Not forehead signed with ash, 
but wholly coated body would be total depravity, 
always aware of utter futility, 
stuck with a hopeless ancestry
and never stretching upwards.


For while Creation wakes 
and speaks the word freshly taught to say,
alive to promise, green out of grey, 
Adameve stuck in Eden day 
is never stretching upwards.


Thank God for God and the wonder, 
mist of salvation
embodied in he who reformed the nation.
Israel new through Incarnation
is ever stretching upwards.


11th March 2016


I’d Rather Be


I’d rather be dyed in the water, adding to the stream,

than dyed in the wool, marooned.


I’d rather take the risk of being carried along

to I cannot know where than stay in the certainty

of Here I Stand.


I’d rather make a gift of my questions and doubts

than whistle an old tune in the dark.


Get me in the water,

float me down the stream.

Let me hope that all my fears

are never what they seem.


Castle Eden Good Friday


So cold,

in the chancel of a church shortly to close,

whose altar, as bare as the stripped Christ,

gives no hint of flowering again,

in the shivery shelter from March sunshine

akin to Jerusalem on the day,

in the reading of the Passion that cannot be well spun,

in the shame of respectable familiarity that prevents tears.


Yet the grace of one final observance,

of trying to see sense in the senseless,

allows inside a slant of disclosure

that there is nothing more that can be done to a killed body

save what can be done on a third day,

when all bets are off.



12th April 2016

Flowing Free

Oil of gladness be upon me,
oil that heals and anoints.
Your new Moses has led me into liberty,
and pierced through the thick darkness.

I bless you, eternal love, who have come to us
and thrown back the hold of evil,
pinning Satan and failure onto the tree,
stopping all usurpers in their tracks.

May the oil continue its work,
flowing like a river onto all heads,
healing the cosmos, freeing the earth,
setting all the prisoners loose to praise your name.




15th April 2016


Come, Holy Spirit


We can call but not command, invite, but not demand.

Come, Holy Spirit.

He can choose to light our hair or flame the church elsewhere.

Come, Holy Spirit.

He breathes in all that lives, but him himself he gives.

Come, Holy Spirit.

He has no off-limits place yet wears no single face.

Come, Holy Spirit.


Power of God among us.

Come, Holy Spirit.

Love of God within us.

Come, Holy Spirit.

Life of God despite us.

Come, Holy Spirit.

Joy of God to give us.

Come, Holy Spirit.


Wait and pray and wait.

Come, Holy Spirit.

At any time or date.

Come, Holy Spirit.

In him become the place

Come, Holy Spirit.       

Where God spreads out his grace.

Come, Holy Spirit.







16th April 2016




Silence is kept, a shared, bracketed moment of inner hearing,

the prioritising of a listening that moves beyond

the background of noise and intrusion.

Silence is kept.


Silence is held, gift of him who blows where he wills,

who wills to blow like pressure bursting from the earth,

never ending, urgent but also able to whisper.

Silence is held.


Silence, breath that needs no words to be a voice,

is friendly quiet, a meeting point, a thin place and disclosure.

Silence, love's touch and attention,

is not barricade against the clamour of noise

but door opening onto response to the Word.

Silence, love's touch and attention.


18th April 2016


Death of St James, Castle Eden

In Easter we closed the Church
never again to gather there as your holy people.
We sang loud praises for your mercy and salvation.
We gave thanks for the centuries
and their celebration of your life-giving and our ministry,
for faithful people and sacramental grace.
We gathered at your altar and fed at your invitation.

Easter and yet Good Friday. There was death.
The paralysis of darkness striking deep into hope.
Uncertainty's bewildering, disabling blow at the heart.
We will not seek too soon to be raised up,
before bereavement has been known for what it is.

Let us, O Lord, who took time to stay in the tomb,
express our grief.
Surprise us again with hope,
and breathe on us the way forward into life.



20th March 2016

On Palm Sunday

The Lord has need? 
How can he, complete, say such a thing,
who owns all that lives and breathes? 
Even the rocks and the very dust give him all glory.

Humans have to be loved into co-operation with their God, 
and they do it by anger and rejection, 
shouting Crucify and putting him under.

What wonder, the lengths that God will go to, 
out-running the measure of hate and sheer evil before hauling us all over the finishing line into a love that will feel at home in Heaven.



21st April 2016


At the Gregory Chapel, Durham Cathedral


Christ is in the Aumbry;

seeing the lit flame sets faith ablaze

with all the colours of love.


Here is God in particular,

in a cupboard within all that he has made,

he who cannot be contained.


The elements themselves,

reserved for sick and dying,

are the Gospel in précis,

Christ giving himself

to save and heal us now and always.


He escapes all effort to be constrained,

boxed up, made in our own image.

For this is God, and how can eternity be described?


But there are cracks through heaven's wall, and this is one.

We are permitted an impression,

a glimpse and foretaste of the daylight beyond.


When, eventually, we fall through, it will be into endless light.



23rd April 2016

Only in Everywhere

Only in everywhere has God painted on the canvas of Creation; 
in beautiful and in terrifying, in calm and in storm.
There is no place, no person, no thing without the signature of his genius.

From our ignoring, our ignorance, our deviation 
from an open-eyed sighting of all that we needed 
already provided in the Garden, 
from our wanting the more that was not ours to have, 
came our great loss.

Only in particular, in the Proper Man, in Word made flesh, 
in Love that never comes to an end, 
in Life its very self becoming Death, 
in Death being usurped by a Life yet more powerful and winning, 
in the Garden's sealed tomb being burst open and emptied, 
has the new and indestructible canvas been painted, 
into which step and you are there as from the beginning.


2nd May 2016


Another Big Bang


The Big Bang started as love-making in the heart of God,

rolling out into universes,

compacting stuff into matter and matter into dust

out of which he formed his love child

who, like him, had the as-at-the-beginning freedom to make love.


When love went sour, and at the right-time-much-later,

God set in train another Big Bang which,

imploding in breath-sucked-out as he hung and died,

detonated on the eighth day,

rolling away incalculably more than a stone sealing a tomb,

pulsating on into the life of the ages.



3rd May 2016


Castle Eden Dene


Whoever carved this V shape in rock

left it bleak and bare, scraped barren.

Nature in Time softened, shaped its lack

with earth and seeds and rabbit warrens.


A once mighty river is now a stream,

slow and paltry, job done then but fed

now by the drainage of landscaped dreams,

a castle’s glory when knights of old led.


In the valley sheer rock faces wilderness.

The deer and squirrel avoid man’s intrusion.

Yet, like Eden itself before the transgress,

untresspassed life flourishes in the profusion


Of a gardened sanctuary, a natural confederacy.

There are pathways here. To stray is to spoil

what to tread down is mere conspiracy.

As concrete kills, so life is renewed from soil.


4th May 2016

The Smile of God

Not because he was lonely but because he is lovely 
did he create all that has ever been, 
and make humankind the crown wearer.

Ever complete in himself, in fire he blazes, in dance he dances, 
but beyond human knowing till he gave the Word, 
and the invitation to come close and, coming closer, 
to enter through the veil that he himself has pierced,

And to be fulfilled in all that our longings search for, 
ours and all that is made, while now, as we stretch for it, 
that great wind which swept over formlessness 
blows sin out of us and holiness in, 
to cause the music of heaven to be transposed 
into justice for all, that all may know the smile of God


April 2016




Why, sometimes, do I call Thee Thou?

Not because I am old fashioned, if I am.

But because Thou art closer to me 

than my heart, my mind, my soul, 

yet farther above me than infinity.

Tenderness and awe call to me 

and provoke me to use the whisper of singular love, 

in moments when You will not do.


Yet I know that You do not mind. 

You look for love, not religion, 

and rejoice at what does me good.

I who am filled with words,

who am fulfilled by the Word, 

hope to reach beyond the need for words, 

when all chaos and darkness have made way 

for the silence of love.



5th May 2016

Ascension Day

Returning where time and space neither exist nor matter,
the uncreated, now fleshed and wounded,
wears our face in heaven, where he prays for us, 
waits for us, sends on us again that undivided Love.

Mission ended, mission begun, seamless story 
which only humans divide into chapters. For in Godhead 
there is only Love's creative, saving beat.

All our calendars are provisional. 
They supply our means of remembrance, 
and spur on observance. Eternal truth thus penetrates 
our attention and lifts us there.

Christ is risen, ascended, glorified. Alleluia!



6th May 2016


Silence, Poetry and Purpose


Can I in poetry writing create a silence,

this being said by someone to be its task?

I'm not entirely sure, have never been sure, 

and that, I conclude, is why I ask. 


But silence may perhaps create in me a poem, 

and I may perchance respond in furious haste 

to write down what it is that occurred in me, 

whether or not, it may be, that it's to your taste.


And silence that is filled, as streams are from the hills, 

may flow out into meanings to read or speak, 

into some kind of sense or truth that enlightens, 

and not just a pious thought bland and weak.


But if it startles, sparkles, takes you somewhere else, 

like listening to a good, persuasive debater, 

then poetry out of silence can make the heart sing

and the joy of it all immeasurably the greater.


And silence, the already there silence behind all noise, 

that waits to be known as a heard silence, a voice still small,

is like when you unshutter a window from blocked-out light 

and you see that you can see now, and that is all.



11th May 2016

He Ascended Because

Full in stature he has gone before, 
our measure and goal completeness of soul.

Now in the heights, he was once in our depths, 
below and above, the fullness of love.

Distributing grace till we see his face,     
he builds our health with spiritual wealth.

Infancy shed, no longer misled, 
he the truth is our aim and route.

Bound by his love, the church can now live 
as a body that grows, where holiness flows.

Ephesians 4. 7-16


13th May 2016


Age: Reminiscing Forwards


It has taken me an age to reach this point

at which I can see some waymarks. Long “retired”

from  a job, I am now paid not to work,

yet still the call to serve is strong. Even stronger.


Looking back over bewildering distress at a time

when life’s intended progress was disrupted,

and my call was rerouted into illness, sadness, darkness,

live seemed to be spelt backwards. But why, O God?


Like a stream finding a new channel down which to flow,

so my health, my well-being, repaired down new pathways

over the decades after collapse, towards reconstruction.

Ever a work in progress, don't call me complete.


But I say this:

Where  I was going to I had no idea.

Where I am now I have little to regret.


14th May 2016


Gentle Us


Gentle us, dear Jesus.

Gentle us in thought and deed with meekness like yours.


True us, dear Jesus.

True us in thought and deed with truth like yours.


Health us, dear Jesus.

Health us in thought and deed with wholeness like yours.


Spirit us, dear Jesus.

Spirit us in thought and deed with the Spirit like yours.


Cross us, dear Jesus.

Cross us in thought and deed with the Cross like yours.


Unity us, dear Jesus.

Unity us in thought and deed with the Unity like yours.


Heaven us, dear Jesus.

Heaven us in thought and deed with Heaven like yours.


When our bodies rise, dear Jesus,

When our hearts and souls and minds and strengths rise,

Glory us with the Father, and you, and the Holy Spirit,

One God ever.







16th May 2016

In Ordinary Time

Approaching confession, my stomach tightens, 
my muscles hurt, 
and yet my sins are so ordinary, so normal, so everyday.
I give them to Christ sinless saviour, he who cleanses, 
he, ever clean, the truth, the life, the way.

Pain remains though I am wholly pardoned.
My penance is to pray, to worship, to praise, 
through Scripture's word and aware of his creation
to see his glory and the wholeness of his ways.

Frailty, liability, the hold of sinfulness, 
though then wiped away at his dreadful cost, ,l
persist as my hazard, I know to my cost.
But loved as I am, I'm forgiven and freed, 
and commissioned to serve by the fire of Pentecost.

That fire, touch from the Godhead, 
like the bush that burnt to reveal his very name, 
let it always cleanse and always grant light, 
let it spread though the nations till Kingdom come in his name.





















16th May 2016


As I Remember


The smell of bracken, waving or crushed, does it for me.

Walks in the morning of my life in those woods

at Emperor Napoleon 111’s son’s monument,

in such an incongruous setting. But there it was.


I'm with him, my brothers and a dog.

He wears his cap and uses his walking stick,

more out of pleasure than need. Always Autumn,

or so I think of it. The mind plays tricks.


Those holiday journeys, mainly to Wight:

Mum has prepared delights to eat.

We sit on the Downs above the Solent,

then travel on to the ferry. Dad, sunglassed,

smokes his pipe,.


Another journey was awful. The spiralling down into dementia,

through an illness which should have been caught in time.

The few final miles stretched out before mercy released him.


I find that the keepsakes I have catapult me back

in a craft of love and respect. He was singing once, I remember,

and I, so little, looked up in such joy. Handwriting in my prayer book, photos of his different stages, these things reunite us. There were other things I kept for a while and then let go.


I did let him go, of course. He had lived well, and rests in peace.

I in my turn will take my memories with me. But for now they are a part of the continuity that defines us. I am his child, one of his family, and I can't tell you how proud.













17th May 2016


The Winding Road


It winds. How it winds!

And it starts downhill, falling rapidly,

sharply, giddily, turning insanely.


You are sick with it, and never in control.

None of the exhilaration of coasting,

easing off the pedals, catching breath.

This road you travel is dangerous, life-threatening sometimes.


Down in the valley and on the level,

where you feel only flatness, numbed by it all,

you begin again to use your own strength.

And the temptation is fierce to find somewhere

to ride away into nowhere, good old friendly nowhere.

I might have tried many times.


But the road begins to rise and your attention is distracted.

And, climbing onwards till you stop for breath,

there is a bit of a chuckle, a pleasurable and proud chuckle.

It takes you by surprise because you weren't expecting this.


And when you are ready you pedal on upwards,

towards light and sunshine, and towards wellness.


It often winds up like this, and recurs.

















19th May 2016


Offering up Pain


Sad news and heartbreak on a May morning,

a bitter herb to taste,

a bewilderment shared

and brought to God in the Cathedral.

A loved one betrayed.


The embrace of God, so vast and great, so warm and kind

in his human faces, blesses, encourages and numbs,

but does not remove today's pain and pain yet to be faced.


Forgiveness to offer and to mean,

understanding that we are all frail.

To a young man here, wishing to make his confession

and to change his life

I declare God's forgiveness, as I am called to do.


How will it work out for us? So many questions,

like traffic in my mind roaring round a roundabout,

so many.

Not yet the answers. For now just to confide in God.







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23rd May 2016

The Vision

Where a long-built house has flowed 
down the waves of an undulating hill, 
improved and renovated so that hundreds 
can visit but in comfortable privacy,

I returned after decades. It was deja-vu at first.
In fact quite ghostly. I heard the voices and songs 
of long ago, saw faces and 
remembered conversations.

But then came the new, quickly. 
Friends and colleagues, addresses and discussions, 
today's laughter and something I said at the table 
that was, well, racy, though it was true. 
Heads turned. 
But they'd never met my Father in Law, had they?

Like the topography, the Conference was flowing and lovely,
full of surprise and provoking thought. 
A touch for each of the senses, like the bushes in flower, 
the softness of grass on feet, the smell of feasts,
the sound of happiness from the playing field.

There was the 'Come and get it' invitation, 
outdoors and in.
God, always speaking, sometimes enables 
the closer attention that such a setting provides, 
outdoors and in.

We were there to Catch the Vision. 
How is sight caught, netted, drawn in and kept? 
Yet we landed big fish and sprats, 
both to sustain us and to share around 
the spreading multitude whom we serve.

Visions often come in dreams, 
and already it seems a dream, 
but not one whose point flees the mind
at the wake of day.

Vision granted, reacted to, acted upon, 
the three flowing into one, 
as we headed away on Trinity Sunday.



24th May 2016

Stepping Up and Stepping Down

For as long as you are able it is good to climb stairs, 
for the body benefits from the demands 
you make upon it.

Tiring as it may be to go up several flights, 
it is a healthy tiredness that draws breath from you, 
clearing the head as you replenish the air in your lungs.

Monasteries in the Eastern Church are often 
a steep climb to reach, deliberately. 
Not merely do they keep the vowed away from the world.
The world has to make the effort to meet the vowed.
Best to be on foot if on pilgrimage, at least some of the way.
It is a different air when you arrive.

There is a time for stepping up and a time for stepping down.
New challenges call for fresh dedication, 
a setting aside of time and energy, 
best surrounded by prayer, 
the humble saying of Yes but Please Help.

Stepping up is not forever. That is the way of stagnation. 
But while you are there you admire the view 
and survey the job to be done. And, time passed, 
as much a part of the calling is to step down, 
whether or not you have fully realised 
what it was that you stepped up for.

New staircases are everywhere. 
Take one. See where it leads.
Time will come when you'll need to use the lift, 
or the arms of others to support and carry you.
This is normal life, not failure. The carried have so much to share with the young stair-racers. 
Ask one to stay to help you.

It's all adventure.



28th May 2016


Poor Jesus


Poor Jesus.

He is surrounded by Pharisees and Lawyers, 

angry and feeling insulted because 

he has spoken truth to power. 

They invited him to take dinner with them 

but not into their hearts.


Poor church, barracked by politicians and journalists, 

angry and feeling insulted because it, 

sinful and fallible, dares to speak truth to power.

They love the state occasions and services, 

but "Let Religion know its place".


All praise to Jesus, 

who for our sakes exchanged riches for poverty,

Glory for insults, life for death.

Sit up and listen, angry power.

You will have had your time at Kingdom come.


1st June 2016

Along the Rhododendron Road

Along the Rhododendron road, 
slow and winding, 
all sorts of joys were ours for the looking.

We looked and saw.
It was wonderful to see what a man had caused 
to grow on a steep, bare hillside once, long ago.
Strong, tall trees which changed the climate there, 
near the old market town.
The bushes, deep in the colours of their flowers.
Lakes supplying water to the engineer's marvel of a home.
Innovations of many kinds.

When we stopped the children rushed out to play.
Modernity has provided excitements for them, 
rest for their adults, and nature obliged with sunshine.

Cragside spells out adventure and effort as well as joy, 
on and off the long, winding road around the estate.
There is a new junction for this family now to take,

which though it may be slow and demanding will have joy and colour.

Above all, we shall see.

1st June 2016

The Cost

How much is it going to cost? 
For some, martyrdom. 
For most of us, merely love for the other, 
in patience and kindness, 
humility in looking for what the other can offer 
and rejoicing in the breath-taking slant 
that their love brings to us. 
All that 1 Corinthians 13 thing.

The cost of discipleship of Jesus is not ever straining 
till unity drops down and we can say It Is Finished!
Discipleship may rather prove divisive, 
if truly we serve Christ as the Lord. 
For if he is Lord then Caesar is not. 
Bonhoeffer saw that and died 
while others served Caesar and lived.

It costs to unite while still divided;
for each tribe to see and honour Christ in the other, 
those in the big tents of Rome and Canterbury and Constantinople saying I love Christ as I see him in you, 
and those within the littler families inside.

For all, the cost is to receive grace to see in the other 
the many faces of the one Christ; 
that the one with whom we differ, 
sharply perhaps, is no less loved and acceptable.

For if anyone is in Christ, how dare we ask 
Is she one of us?
How dare we withhold from any of his 
our full embrace?
Across our barriers of sex and gender, 
marriage or Eucharist or priesthood, 
Christ raises the banner of inclusion, 
the unity that welcomes all who honour him.

True unity divides. It is seen in feeding the hungry 
and welcoming the homeless stranger. 
It is seen in the marks of the crucified 
willingly worn by those who, like him, 
stretch themselves out.

The cost is solidarity with him, and it is given 
before it is achieved.
The cross, and so the crown.
The tombless Lord breathing resurrection air into all.
And so the rainbow.

2nd June 2016

Glad to Be Here

Tears surprise me in the Feretory as,
kneeling before St Cuthbert, they well up 
and demand notice. 
I have prayed pilgrim prayers,
prayers that Christians love to pray 
and the one the Saviour taught.

Pastors cry as well as comfort, 
and I have brought myself as I am to Christ this morning. 
I have entrusted to him once again those on my heart.
I thought I was calm, 
but tears taught me to be myself,
not in control but guided by him whom I serve 
and love and worship.

There in the Feretory I had had such intimacy, 
a closeness which enables and motivates me. 
I am glad to be here



2nd June 2016

An Active Memory

Cuthbert, your attractive presence
is another of the mysteries here; 
you are an active memory, 
as Bede and Oswald are.
The energy of your life, its imprint on our hearts, 
the prayers to God generated here 
over so many changing times,
amount to talkative holiness, a felt holiness 
in this Church where God discloses himself so variously.

As it was for you there then, we make Eucharist here.
We journey on with Scripture to speak to us, 
Psalms and hymns to give us voice, 
interceding through Christ and offering Apostolic ministry,
as you did.

You, once the keeper of sheep, 
are still gathering a flock for Christ. 
God grant that we be faithful, like you,
and welcome all as he draws them closer.

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3rd June 2016 




Ah, destination. That means arrival, obviously.

Or, instead, does it mean further exploration?

For as people do not step off a train and into their homes

in two strides, so arrival means travelling onwards,

more movement, further to go.


In Christ we depart from his arrival.

We journey on from his finish.

Our destination is on the far side of the known way,

and who knows where he will take us then?’

while our this-side journey is no rush to find safety and cover.


Occupied as we are trying to be like Christ to his world, 

and forsaking all routes of escapism, we’ll go looking for him here.

Loving him, we’ll mirror his compassion by caring for those he cared for.

the beggar on the side of the track will preach to us.

Africa, Syria and a host of nations whose displaced children

cling to the side of our boat will not be left to die.


And what of us? Drowning in our greed and self-absorption,

we are sinking beneath waves, we are failing to cross the river,

weighed down with what Christ told us to discard.

We cannot ignore another journey, the inward exploration

of our own hinterland, to claim it for Christ and bring it under his control.

The muddled, muddied mystery that we’ll find there

is a lifetime’s work to tame, never worthy of a Royal Visit.


But Gospel! For we shall not run into buffers at journey’s end, so called.

There are ages to come, not yet disclosed to us.

But he will show his unbelievably rich grace then

and take us on the journey that knows no limits.


4th June 2016


I have to put the brakes on, and keep the car 
at crawling pace behind the flock. 
The shepherds, gaffer and son, 
skilfully guide the flock towards the field ahead, 
urging on the stragglers that have been entranced 
by the smell and taste of long wayside grass. 
All must travel and arrive together, none left behind.

So with humankind, our Good Shepherd 
will not rest until he has found all lost, 
straggling and separated. 
And there will be such joy, such joy.


6th June 2016

Meeting Me

I walked up towards the Cathedral, 
looking for whom I might see.
I recognised who was coming my way.
I recognised myself and me.

There wasn't much point in asking my name.

I enquired as to health and to wife.
And is it well with myself? I asked. 
Am I getting good value for life?


I mustn't complain, but I did so I did,
I rattled off many a woe.
But just to be different I mentioned one joy,

then many others, don't you know.

I lifted my hat as we parted, 
though I found myself followed by me.
I expect that I'll be my companion 
for ever. But shall we wait and see?


8th June 2016

Being a Mugwump

On my long journey I became a Mugwump.
It wasn't an easy, straight thing to do.
There were lessons to learn and baggage to dump.
I really cannot say that others aren't true.

But I'm jolly glad that I'm now a Mugwump, 
and it may, of course, be right for you.
It's a tribe of a kind, a political lump, 
that doesn't forget there's much work to do.

I will not try to make you a Mugwump.
Be sure of you own mind if I were you. 
I'm not on the side-lines having a grump.
We may not be many, we may not be few.

























13th June 2016


Revelations of Divine Love


Shewing the way with your Shewings,

seven hundred years ago,

O enigmatic lady faithfully repeating

the Revelations of Divine Love

that he disclosed to you.


Why you, unlettered and a woman,

so disqualified to dare what you dared?

Why did God choose you?

Were you a mother, like Mary?

Had he prepared you through grief, not just illness,

with a sword that pierced your heart,

so that you were able to receive liberties

which could have condemned you?


A long life walled away from disease and infection,

from disquiets and troubles,

gave you eyes to see that all shall be well

because, Julian, Christ had shown you

what none but you could see then.


Good and faithful servant of your Lord,

how so much do we need your wisdom now!


13th June 2016


Death by Small Thinking.


Death by small thinking.

People reacting with rapidly decreasing imagination,

self on the throne and who cares about the rest?

Nations allowing their own to be massacred

because the Gun Idol is all.

Powers that blast away the lives of innocents

seeking to defeat ideology by main force.

Hate feeding hate against colour, creed and sexual orientation.

Small churches planning to become smaller by playing safe.


Onwards into fantasy, consumerism and the comfort

of an imagined past where everything shone safely!

Lest we remember that courage, sacrifice and selflessness

obtained for us the chance to think big.































16th June 2016

Coming and Going With God

It's so loud! So exciting! 
Here are the school leavers, come to thank God 
for all they have learnt, for all their friends, 
and to trust him.

The past is so great. The future's a bit scary.
They will be going up to Big School.

Each year the groups come in turn, 
the families so proud,
Mums wondering at how quickly 
the years have gone.

So different to many Cathedral services. 
Shouts and screams of joy agree with 
the Archdeacon's 'How great is this place!'.
Other visitors are slightly bemused:
'I wasn't expecting this'.

Cathedrals are made from stone and elastic.
They curve in and out of time and eternity,
mystery and matter.
The same energy flows through it all.


17th June 2016


All This Madness


Their bodies lie side by side;

thousands of drowned refugees,

families killed by ordinance,

LBGT murder victims,

Jo Cox MP, and the next untimely dead,

all are side by side in the Father’s vision,

next to Jesus.


Were they perfect as he is? 

Did they sin,


get disapproved of by peers and

accused of indecency,

cross political divides,

irritate by their frankness,

offend by their urgency?


Who cares? Not you, the God we know,

whose sinless Christ was you, crying, dying

next to all sorts and conditions of humans,

killing death and breathing resurrection breath.


Breathe love through us so that we may bring

some sense into all this madness.


22nd June 2016


On The Eve of The Referendum


In the gloaming of solstice days 
grey, discrete clouds drift high above 
this parcel of Earth, eggshell blue sky 
above and behind.
How strange the feeling that they precede, 
here on the north east coast, 
the stormy rain clouds from the Atlantic Ocean, 
somewhere else's weather making a strong claim 
to be ours after such a perfect, hot day.

Tomorrow we decide our future 
but we cannot elect our weather nor climate. 
It is not a nation's business.

Were we, though, to act in unison with others 
in the call to repair a broken world, to recondition 
the common environment and to bind up the broken-hearted,
who knows whether the ravages of unpredictable changes
that have flooded through us may be turned back?

We decide much tomorrow, and God remains faithful whatever.
But we live on an island that no longer is an island.
There can be no drawbridge.
God grant us joy at being part of the main.




















23rd June 2016


Prayer for the Day


God our Father, Lord of all Creation 
from whom all come and to whom all shall return,
your blessed Son is the King of Kings

who won the prize of our salvation by ascending the cross.


Grant us in our decisions today

 to follow him in all humility and right thinking,
that we may seek the common good before our own desires, 
and so to bring healing to our divided and torn continent,

that your Kingdom may come and your will be done

on earth as it is in heaven,

through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.


24th June 2016

The Day We Stepped Back

Clouds, first heading towards, 
now covering the sun.
The match is over for now, 
let us concede.
Yet the rain has stopped.
Those who take no notice 
of how Creation speaks to our emotions are in deficit.

Of course skies can clear again, and will. 
But each dawn opens a different day 
which must be faced according to realities.

Who can and will reunite us 
in this new direction we face?
Will they have eyes for Heaven 
as well as earth, this island earth? 
Or, seeing only castles in the sky, 
will the temptation be stronger 
to pull up the drawbridge 
and leave the main to shift for itself?

Let Britain thrive again by returning to its God.
Let service trump self-interest. 
Thinking new thoughts on a different day, 
let us renounce disorder and that we have made.
















28th June 2016


A Sorry State


Being in a sorry state is like
parts of our garden furniture
which a scrub and a coat of paint
and some glue would remoralize.

It could also mean the repentance of a nation
after its war crimes are exposed
as light shines into the dark corners.

Or perhaps the numb shock after a seismic result
has divided rather united a nation,
and knocked its steerage out of control.
The dark evil of racism seizes this moment
to lash and jeer and to line up its targets.

Pray for a nation whose strength
is in love not might, and in humility
to live with its choice

with a generous heart

while caring for lost and least.
























1st July 2016

The Year Half Over

There was grunting dread and pissing fear 
as they waited in trenches for the signal, 
explosion over there chased by the whistles. 
The sun was up and the game was afoot, 
and the Generals drank their Champagne. 
And the Miners called up from the pits 
completed their subversive work 
that half-over year, 
when the carnage commenced for a million to die.

We remember them now and the sun is up 
on a scene of complete disarray. 
Have the Generals gone mad? 
Have they got any plan? 
Do they know what on earth they have made? 
The battle is raging, the casualties great 
among Generals and Tommies alike.
The outcome's unknown in this half-over year, 
nor what might be gained or be lost.

























4th July 2016

In Reply

Since I cannot begin to describe you 
or speak into your very essence 
like some space probe discovering surprises 
about a planet, 
I must begin in silence, and allow you to speak first.

And because I am so easily distracted, 
waylaid and scatter-thought in mind,
I rely on you to catch my attention and grip it.
You wave at me in sacred word and place, 
in little local Jerusalem,
in the rhythms of both familiar and strange, 
and in my neighbour the beloved of God.

And it is you, I find, who is praying in me 
so that I may pray and make reply 
to grace-bestowing, life-giving first words, 
so that conversation catches fire, 
the flames refining mere clay into precious metal.

























5th July 2016


The Day Before Chilcot


Nostalgic for the old certainties,
the tyranny which might slay your family
but spare you, it must be hard to read
the spinning compass of anarchy
when armies battle in the Mesopotamian plains,
taking apart the cities, destroying ancient monuments
and putting the innocent to the sword.

Such a dangerous freedom, unasked,
forced upon them by blundering, far away interferers,
requires now flight and escape,
the risk of life lost, all lost. But what now to stay for?
There is no mercy in staying, little welcome ahead;
and evil follows across the sea to the cities of the safe,
the places of those tainted and treacherous
in the dark eyes of evil.

There must be hope; not of replacing as it used to be,
as if what has been set loose can be put back
in the box from which it came, for history is written,
but located in God
who is there as everywhere. But with hope,
sorrow and shame for such a high price paid,
and the unravelling threads of pride.
Above all, let there be truth.







8th July 2016


Glory, Reflected


And the blackbird, at Evening Praise,

sang Glory, Glory, Glory, as the heavens do,

and the wood-pigeon, far away, echoed

what we humans in Durham had heard and discussed,

and loved to hear and loved to discuss and loved to realise.


For God radiates, not just through the sun,

not just everywhere and through every thing

but in some particular way;

a painter,

a sculptor,

a poet,

a composer,

an artist

or someone faithful just being faithful,

and love is delighted at the pro-creation,

and evil slinks away.


15th July 2016


Weep and Act


Pray for peace in Nice,

in the silence after atrocity when shock and grief paralyse,

in the clamour of outrage where decency condemns.

Pray for peace in Nice.


Love the peace in Nice

as your heart goes out to adults and children,

as your mind processes the evil of a single man.

Love the peace in Nice.


Work for the peace in Nice

to be reality that exchanges terror for truth,

to be built on God’s kingdom of lasting peace.

Work for the peace in Nice.



16th July 2016


Widened people are watching the DVD 
of two lovers marrying forty years ago. 
Hair has fallen out; what remains is grey. 
The cake is cut into the next slice 
of what life will bring; grandparenthood and new grace.

Blessed with warm sunshine today, 
crowns are covered to protect them 
while reminiscences are shared, 
introductions made and CVs explained. 
The younger generation play 
the games of the carefree while 
wrinklies boast of past and future operations.

Reunions speak volumes re unions;
the permanence entered into at the altar 
prefigures the fullness that lies beyond. The ending 
ahead is the start of beyond permanent. 
For who can tell how many more years?
Through trust alone can we learn to receive what is promised.

But there is no future in God.

Top of Form


18th July 2016


When you get close enough to the yellow sign 
you can read its warning but, 
if by then your brakes have failed, 
you plough on ahead, seeding the shattered wall 
with shards of glass and twisted metal.

And when the ground quakes and shifts all around you, 
there is the terror that wraps around you 
and speaks death or maiming.

So, too, the quakes and aftershocks 
of the collision of the known and unknown, 
the safe and the feared, 
and the allure of seeking shelter that affords 
the least of all possible risk.

The refuge and shelter that is God 
propels the refugee into the danger of discipleship, 
where damage and loss has already met its remedy 
and terror is not ultimate.

There is a new process of navigating 
the tumults and riding the storms. 
Where to go except to God, and where except with him?

Our help and shelter sends us on our way accompanied.


18th July 2016


I am an only Siamese twin 
requiring surgery within 
to separate me from me and self
which want to squander all my health.

This operation may be risky.
I'd better take a calming whiskey. 
Though that may help to dull the pain,
I fear, alas, more work will remain.

The mind and heart, seats of the will, 
need treatment with the sweetest pill 
and that is Love, great test of all, freely given 
to restore my health and fit me for Heaven.


20th July 2016

On Pipe Smoking

This little pipe of mine, 
like the light, I'm gonna let it shine 
while I enjoy the sensations, 
the joy and the game of pipe emission.

Some, I know, hate the smell and the smoke. 
For others, Dad or Grandpa my pipe evokes. 
Some people stare and kids are bemused
But there are many dreams, and some are pipeful.
A smoke enables a being mindful and a chance for some consideration,

and pipes, yes pipes, are part of this nation.



21st July 2016


In silence that sings, ears are cleared and attuned, 
made ready for a new knowing of the unknowable, 
not yet in fullness but in the glancing touch.

The time taken to hear may be so much shorter 
than the time taken to prepare, 
to jettison cargo and cast off dead weight,
to look around and yet not be distracted, 
to have no agenda that demands.

For God he is our lover and our love,
our host and our feast.
When he speaks he is not encumbered with words;
his silence is eloquence itself.
The Son's flesh embodied The Word,
but in heaven they converse wordlessly 
in the utter unity of love.

The heart in transformation, steeped in His words, 
seeks to go beyond its own into transparency.


23rd July 2016

Pilgrim Hymn

To set the heart on pilgrimage 
and follow our dear Lord 
like those of each and every age 
who heard his gracious word 
is heaven now and in this life 
in which we pledge to serve 
the needs of all while we have breath 
and give what they deserve.

On high and low and every day 
the Lord is our desire; 
the man for others in whose way 
the will is lifted higher.
We mark the lives of those whose face 
was turned to Christ alone.
We pray with them and seek the grace 
to work till work is done.

So, onwards on our pilgrimage 
till all is reconciled 
and justice flows in our own age 
for every man and child.
Our hearts will grow as we attend, 
and hear his gracious word.
We ask him now our sins to mend.
Let him be truly Lord.




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