churchmousequilter

Priestly Duties

I am enjoying discovering the poetry of Stewart Henderson at the moment.

This one is for my clergy friends in this week after Easter:

PRIESTLY DUTIES
Written for Eric Delve 23.5.96

What should a priest be?
All things to all –
male, female and genderless
What should a priest be?
reverent and relaxed
vibrant in youth
assured through the middle years
divine sage when ageing

What should a priest be?
accessible and incorruptible
abstemious, yet full of celebration,
informed, but not threateningly so,
and far above
the passing soufflé of fashion

What should a priest be?
an authority on singleness
Solomon-like on the labyrinth
of human sexuality
excellent with young marrieds,
old marrieds, were marrieds, never
marrieds, shouldn’t have marrieds,
those who live together, those who live
apart, and those
who don’t live anywhere
respectfully mindful of senior
citizens and war veterans,
familiar with the ravages of arthritis,
osteoporosis, post-natal depression,
anorexia, whooping-cough and nits.

What should a priest be?
all-round family person
counsellor, but not officially because
of the recent changes in legislation,
teacher, expositor, confessor,
entertainer, juggler,
good with children, and
possibly sea-lions,
empathetic towards pressure groups

What should a priest be?
on nodding terms with
Freud, Jung, St John of the Cross,
The Scott Report, The Rave Culture,
The Internet, the Lottery, BSE, and
Anthea Turner,
pre-modern, fairly modern,
post-modern, and, ideally,
Secondary-modern –
if called to the inner city

What should a priest be?
charismatic, if needs must,
but quietly so,
evangelical, and thoroughly
meditative, mystical, but not
New Age.
Liberal, and so open to other voices,
traditionalist, reformer and revolutionary
and hopefully, not on medication
unless for an old sporting injury.

Note to congregations:
If your priest actually fulfils all of the above, and then enters the pulpit one Sunday morning wearing nothing but a shower-cap, a fez, and declares: ‘I’m the King and Queen of Venus, and we shall now sing the next hymn in Latvian, take your partners, please’. –
Let it pass.

Like you and I,
they too sew the thin thread of humanity,
Remember Jesus in the Garden –
beside Himself?

So, what does a priest do?
mostly stays awake
at Deanery synods
tries not to annoy the Bishop
too much
visits hospices, administers comfort,
conducts weddings, christenings –
not necessarily in that order,
takes funerals
consecrates the elderly to the grave
buries children, and babies,
feels completely helpless beside
the swaying family of a suicide.

What does a priest do?
tries to colour in God
uses words to explain miracles
which is like teaching
a millipede to sing, but
even more difficult.

What does a priest do?
answers the phone
when sometimes they’d rather not
occasionally errs and strays
into tabloid titillation,
prays for Her Majesty’s Government

What does a priest do?
tends the flock through time,
oil and incense,
would secretly like each PCC
to commence
with a mud-pie making contest
sometimes falls asleep when praying
yearns, like us, for
heart-rushing deliverance

What does a priest do?
has rows with their family
wants to inhale Heaven
stares at bluebells
attempts to convey the mad love of God
would like to ice-skate with crocodiles
and hear the roses when they pray.

How should a priest live?

How should we live?

As priests,
transformed by The Priest
that death prised open
so that he could be our priest
martyred, diaphanous and
matchless priest.

What should a priest be?
What should a priest do?
How should a priest live?

Stewart Henderson From ‘Limited Edition’ published by Plover Books

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