a poem reflecting on the demolition of one of our churches

My friend Rev Dr Susan Jones wrote the following poem after spending some time near the damaged Christchurch CBD and the ruins of one of our Presbyterian Churches.

The photo was one I took at around the time she must have written the poem.

There’s not much beautiful about being broken                      

There’s not much beautiful about being broken
Prosaic cyclone fencing saves passersby from further injury
but today no sunlight glints on raindrops
to encrust them with diamonds;
no aesthetic design lines lift the spirit.

The footing of a mighty church laid low is no inspiration
only commemoration of glories once-been.
Piles of rubble beg the question
of whether these stones will ever sing
out to us again of transcendence and divinity.

Spires and steeples are no longer reliable
signposts to where we thought God lived.
The mighty spire which told us God was up there
is now down here among us.

Is God here too?

Where is God now when
church doors are closed on broken masonry shells;
‘Danger’ written in red?

Church after church, they are saying now,
has been disproportionately hit
by these tremors of the earth;
in proportion though to
the degree to which the church has
(or more frequently) has not updated itself;
the inertia of establishment preventing renewal
symbolised by the vulnerability of its buildings to seismic shock
imitating the inertia of complacent belief
that eternal verities need no renewal
or adjustment to changing contexts,
so we could fool ourselves we still had the answers,
not realising the questions had changed.

By all means let us mourn
the passing of beloved windows memorialising our dead
organs which may sing no more
sanctuaries safe no longer.

But let us also mourn our own rigidity
our unreadiness to be renewed;
that these new faultlines have exposed
our own faulty assumptions
that ‘eternal’ meant ‘unchanging’.

Let us weep.
Let us wail and gnash our teeth,
not over tumbled bricks
but the hardness of heart which has left us prone.
And when we have cried each tear to the very last
then let us reconsider
how we will be church again.

Will we resist this seismic shock,
learn no lessons,
and build again with little change?

Or,  will we hear the message in the creaking of the earth,
read the signs in the tearing open
(with the same conviction of the Calvary moment)
of our holies of holies?

And will we ask the right questions:
‘what has this crucifixion come to save us from?’
and ‘what shape will God’s resurrection take this time?’

Susan Jones     18 June 2011

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One thought on “a poem reflecting on the demolition of one of our churches

  1. I, like all the other recipients of the $200 grocery vouchers, was touched by the generosity and compassion shown. Being in the Red Zone is not easy, with such an unknown future and supporting 3 children on my own, what the future holds is unknown, but it kindness such as this gift that makes life so much easier. Thank you so much. Dianne

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