Debate on women bishops inspires poet

From left to right, H'mm founder Ali Anwar, Archbishop Barry Morgan and Reverend Peter Walker

The historic debate on women bishops in the Church in Wales last week was the inspiration behind the Reverend Peter Walker's new poem.

Mr Walker, a team vicar based in Llandudno Junction, was 'adopted' by the Church as part of the H'mm Foundation's 'adopt a poet' scheme to raise the profile of poetry in Welsh life.

He has published three collections of short verse with Y Lolfa - Penmon Point, Old Men in Jeans and Listening to Zappa.

The Church in Wales's Governing Body voted last Thursday in favour of a Bill to allow women to serve as bishops.

Immediately after, Mr Walker was formally adopted as the Church in Wales's poet.

For his first public reading as the Church's adopted poet, he chose two already published poems and one he had just penned that had been inspired by the debate.

"As the Church's adopted poet, I hope to offer a perspective on some of the issues facing the church - for instance, how we engage with the largely post-Christian, secular world, and also how we might tap into the broad spirituality that we often encounter around us," he said.

"If theology is about seeking to know the unknowable, then poetry helps nudge us towards that goal with its hints and shadows, its nuances, and the way it can express our thoughts in sometimes unexpected ways. Poetry is at the heart of liturgy, and can be at the heart of our contemplation of the divine.

"Hopefully, it helps reflect on our experiences, perhaps putting our intuitions and our hidden feelings into words."

Mr Walker was nominated by the Bishop of St Asaph, Gregory Cameron, who said his poems had a way of challenging people to reconsider the world through the eyes of faith, while also considering "poignantly" the realities of Church life today.

"Poetry has always had a way of urging people to look beneath the surface of life to a deeper reality, and so it has been an integral part of our worship and life," said Bishop Gregory.

"The Church in Wales has been fortunate always to have had a rich vein of talented poets who express their faith in hymns and prayers – including, of course, one of Wales' most famous writers, RS Thomas, who was a vicar in North Wales.

"The H'mm Foundation is a valuable scheme to support as it brings poetry into our day-to-day lives, making us see the world slightly differently, and reminds us that our poets should be treasured for the insights they give us."

'At Governing Body', a poem by Reverend Peter Walker is here in full:

Had she not said 'yes'
she would not have borne
the weight of the world in her womb
she would not have joined her cries
to the lows & bleats of the oppressed & burdened
she would not have shed tears
at the loss of her beloved boy
in the noisy supermarket of the city
she would not have cradled
the head of her dead son
& almost, almost, almost (but not quite)
wished that he had not been born
& do we say no to her?

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