Picture looking out to the sea from the edge of the shore with yellow and pink sky. Word: The morning after (a poem for when your faith has been rocked) Faith in Grey Places

Loneliness in the morning after (a poem for when your faith has been rocked)

Today’s poem draws on the time after Jesus’s resurrection when he had breakfast with seven of the disciples (John 21:1-14). The disciples had been fishing all night and caught nothing, but when Jesus tells them to throw their nets on the other side of the boat, they catch a large number (of large fish). 

There are various ways to take this story. You could say the disciples were returning to what was familiar to them, though I’m more inclined to think they were doing it to relax as much as anything else. I also think the large catch was an affirmation of what they were doing. 

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A sonnet from a modern Thomas (reflecting on what it takes to share our faith)

The lectionary readings this week include the story of Thomas recorded within John 20:19-31. When Jesus appeared to his disciples, he wasn’t there, and then he wouldn’t believe them until he saw Jesus for himself.

He said he would need to see the marks in Jesus’s hands and side before he believed. What I find remarkable is that when Jesus does appear to Thomas, he offers Thomas his hands and side. Almost as if he wants Thomas to believe. 

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Paper cut-out of a tomb with the stone rolled away, against a brown background with light seeping through from above. Text: A question, not a criticism (a poem reflecting on the resurrection accounts) Faith in Grey Places

A question, not a criticism (a poem reflecting on the resurrection accounts)

Jesus’s resurrection is the best surprise ending ever. It’s so good, so fitting, so unexpected, so inevitable, so awe-inspiring, so triumphant, so impossible to make up.

The accounts of the resurrection are in Matthew 28:1-15,  Mark 16, Luke 24:1-49 and John 20:1-23.

As I read through them this week I was struck by the number of questions that Jesus and the angels ask Jesus’s followers. The most famous is “Woman, why are you weeping?” when Jesus meets Mary Magdalene but she doesn’t recognise him. But there are several others.

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A single cross standing on a dark plain, silhouetted on a blue and purple sunset, with the words: Father, forgive (two poems inspired by Jesus's words on the cross) Faith in Grey Places

Father, forgive (two poems inspired by Jesus’s words on the cross)

Two short poems this week, both reflecting on a prayer Jesus made whilst he was on the cross on Good Friday: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” 

It’s recorded in Luke 23:33-35, though some manuscripts don’t include it. Curiously, the NET footnotes say that “even those who regard the verse as inauthentic literarily often consider it to be authentic historically.”

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Close up picture of a rich woman in a large ornate room, sitting on a red and gold couch, wearing a tiara, looking out towards the light with a concerned look on her face. Has the text: His blood and his body, a poem reflecting on when Pilate washed his hands

His blood and his body (a poem reflecting on when Pilate washed his hands)

Last week I wrote that I’ve written these poems starting from a blank slate, meaning the end result often surprises me. Again, this one surprised me.

Also, I hope you like Shakespeare.

I wanted to reflect on Pilate’s agency, especially how on Good Friday he tried to wash his hands in public and absolve himself from the guilt of Jesus’s death. The account is in Matthew 27:11-26, Mark 15:1-15, Luke 23:1-25 and John 18:28-19:16.

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Sunset over the sea with small waves crashing close to the camera. Text over the top: The Longest Sabbath - A poem reflecting on Jesus's prayer: "Not my will but yours." Faith in Grey Places

The Longest Sabbath (a poem reflecting on Jesus’s prayer: “Not my will but yours”)

I’ve written these poems starting from a blank slate, meaning the end result often surprises me. This one… this one really surprised me. In short, I started out wanting to write about Maundy Thursday, but ended up writing something peaceful set on Holy Saturday. I also cried a lot while I was writing it (but in a good way, I think?) 

I wanted to reflect on Jesus’s agency and will, when he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, the night before his crucifixion. He was so overwhelmed with sorrow, knowing what was about to happen, that he asked God (the Father) if it was possible for him not to suffer. But, having prayed this, also prayed that the Father’s will be done, not his own.

The account is in Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-42 and Luke 22:39-46.

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Brown parchment background with text over the top: Don't ask (a poem about Jesus debating on his own terms) Faith in Grey Places

Don’t ask (a poem about the debates Jesus had)

This week I wanted to explore the idea of holding your own in a debate intended to undermine you. I’m looking at it in the context in the week before Jesus’s crucifixion, when he was questioned in the temple. In particular, when he was asked by what authority he said and did the things he did. 

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Profile picture of a young donkey with the text over the top: My neighbour's colt, a poem inspired by Jesus's entry into Jerusalem. Faith in Grey Places

My neighbour’s colt – a poem inspired by Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem

In this poem I wanted explore the idea of following orders in the context of Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, a week before his crucifixion.

When systemic injustice is uncovered, you often hear this point raised: can the rank and file be blamed for complying with unethical instructions from their commanding officers?

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Neutral choice (a poem inspired by Mary of Bethany when she anointed Jesus with spikenard)

For lent and Easter 2021, I’m writing a series of poems, each exploring the theme of agency through the lens of stories from Jesus’s passion. This first one is inspired by Mary of Bethany when she poured a pint of spikenard over Jesus’s head.

Actually, the gospel accounts vary. 

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Where has the cadence gone? A lament during times without structure.

Note: While the word ‘cadence’ has a number of meanings, this poem uses it primarily in the sense of a sequence of notes or chords that bring a musical phrase to a close.


Where has the cadence gone?
The sentence-ending fitting word,
The coda of a rhythmic song?
When inhale, exhale linger – but not too long.

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Background picture of pebbles with the words: A liturgy for the forgiveness of bloodguilt (based on Psalm 51) | Faith in Grey Places

A liturgy for the forgiveness of bloodguilt (based on Psalm 51)

It so happens that the revised common lectionary puts readings from Psalm 51 and 1 Timothy 1:12-17 on the same day. It’s year C, on the 19th Sunday in ordinary time.

In each of them, the authors reflect on their bloodguilt – the guilt of shedding innocent blood.

Below I’ve written a liturgy that congregations can use to pray for forgiveness of any guilt they may bear for shedding blood. First, I’ll give a little context.

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Prayer of welcome for the Holy Spirit

I was tasked with writing a prayer of adoration for Pentecost – and came up with these ways of describing the Holy Spirit. For a while afterwards I wanted to put them to a picture, though it’s hard to find images for the Holy Spirit that do justice to this wonderful person of the Trinity. Imagine my delight then, when I was able to photograph a lectern hanging, whilst visiting a small village Methodist church.

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Isaiah 58:1-9a (remix) – a call to Christians who campaign

I wrote this poem as an alternative ‘remix’ version of these verses to raise a contemporary challenge to the church. I want to get us thinking not just about the causes we campaign for, but also about the methods we use in our activism, and what it is that produces lasting and fruitful results.

Like many of the Old Testament prophets, Isaiah spoke about injustice, calling the people of Israel and Judah to account for their actions and appealing to them to change their ways. And I know it’s a cliché but: many of his words, written hundreds of years ago, are deeply resonant today. Especially when it comes to ending oppression and showing hospitality to the poor.

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