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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Poetry from the pews

Homespun verses from the congregation can enliven worship

The poet's eye," William Shakespeare wrote, "doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven." Indeed, as with music, painting and other art forms, writing poetry can provide a creative sacred space where the divine and the human spirit work together.

Most churches use poetry in the form of Psalms or prayers. But when a congregation empowers the poets who sit in every pew to get busy, something special can take place. Here are some ideas on how to make it happen.

All Saints' Day is a good occasion to introduce the practice. Try using poetry to connect the lives of renowned saints with our everyday saints. Parishioners could research and write a free-verse poem about the patron saint of their occupation (or those of others in church). A carpenter, for example, might choose St. Joseph.

Then the poets, or volunteer readers, could recite the work in place of the sermon at worship. For added effect, readers could be dressed in symbolic clothing.

Or members might research saints who have the same first name as themselves or other parishioners — and write about Stephen, Martha, Timothy and Katherine.

Commission the poets and give them plenty of time to research and write.

Have the readers practice reciting the poems aloud and coach them with such tips as speaking words in phrases and not automatically stopping at the end of each line.

An All Saints' Day festival could begin with a poetry worship service in the morning followed by a luncheon. Or plan an evening worship with candles and a reverent setting. Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Palm Sunday, Easter — or whenever a special service is needed — are appropriate occasions to adapt the format of this poetry service.


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