A passionate and historic debate on women bishops inspired a talented vicar to write a poem on the subject at his first public reading as the Church’s ‘adopted’ poet.
Revd Peter Walker was formerly adopted as the Church in Wales’s poet at its Governing Body meeting on Thursday within minutes of members voting in favour of a Bill to ordain women as bishops. He read three poems – two already published and one he had just penned, inspired by the debate.
The “adopt a poet” scheme is run by the H’mm Foundation and is designed to raise the profile of poetry in Welsh life. The foundation was set up by businessman and poetry lover Ali Anwar, and he attended the meeting at Lampeter for the launch of its latest member.
Peter is a team vicar based in Llandudno Junction. He has published three collections of short verse with Y Lolfa – Penmon Point, Old Men in Jeans and Listening to Zappa. Originally from the West Midlands, Peter taught modern languages before training for ministry. He says, “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.
“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.”
The Bishop of St Asaph, Gregory Cameron nominated Peter, who serves the Rhos-Cystennin Rectorial Benefice in the Diocese of St Asaph, to be the Church’s adopted poet. He said, “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. 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.
“I am delighted that Peter has agreed to be formally adopted by the Church as part of the H’mm Foundation and I’m looking forward immensely to his readings – and possible compositions – over the year. His poems have a way of challenging us to reconsider the world through the eyes of faith, and to comment poignantly on the realities of Church life today. He is a poet worth listening to.
“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.”
Mr Anwar said,“I’m delighted that the Church in Wales is taking part in the ‘Adopt a Poet’ scheme. I welcome the continuous support to The H’mm Foundation, particularly from the Archbishop Wales Dr Barry Morgan.
“We were inspired by the bard teulu (household poet) tradition of Medieval and Renaissance Wales, when we created The H’mm Foundation to encourage businesses and other organisations to ‘adopt a poet’, in order to showcase poetry in the workplace and in Welsh life.
“Building links between the business and the arts communities should be a creative experience for both, especially in a country which has a deep and innate respect for poetry. The H’mm Foundation is a new source of income for poets and hopefully a source of inspiration for people in Business.
“We are looking forward to working with the Revd Peter Walker over the next months to raise the profile of poets and poetry in Wales particularly during the centennial celebrations of R.S. Thomas’s birth.”
Peter’s poem inspired by the women bishops’ debate follows. The photo attached shows Peter with the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, and Ali Anwar.
At Governing Body – by Revd Peter Walker
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?