‘We look for God in the multi-layered languages of music and poetry’



This was the theme of the event in Mayfield-Salisbury Church on Saturday evening May 28,2016.   The guest speaker was the Revd Canon Mark Oakley, Canon Chancellor at St Paul’s Cathedral, London, noted author and preacher. Mark was introduced by the minister of Mayfield Salisbury, Revd Scott McKenna.

The full address may be watched / heard on our front page


In his exploration of the theme Canon Oakley stressed that reality is not mirrored neatly in the recitation of any creed.  Faith is not a proud self-consistent philosophy.  It is a living response to the grace of God as revealed in fragile lives.


Poetry is a soul language.  We need to familiarise ourselves with it for it does not work like ordinary speech.  It may confuse us a bit at first, but confusion is part of the journey of life.  Poetry is a language of possibilities; it can be spiritually important.  The difficult times in life as in poetry may be the most significant.  The splash of words can begin to ripple outwards and help our spiritual development to take place.


God gives us our Being; we give back our Becoming.



All religions are foundationally poetic (they then become something else).  Hindu scriptures were drawn from hundreds of poems.  Our Old Testament contains a huge variety of poems: psalms, the Song of Songs, the prophets with their allusions.  The Gospels reveal the artistry of the evangelists.  The parables are made up stories to proclaim their inner messages.  Jesus never says what the Kingdom of God is, just what it is like.


Poetry and stories are there to make us better.  Truth comes in this form, not in creeds.  Truth is too important to be prosaic.  It speaks for us the language of love, so surely this is the heart of religion.


Poetry challenges our first impressions.  It stops us sleep-walking into the ready assumption that first impressions must be set in stone which will last for ever.


People today want quick information: the news bulletin. the world-wide-web.  But we need more than information, we need transformation.  “Relevance” has gone tomorrow; resonance stays.


The poets in our parishes are the Christians.  As Christians we need ears to hear.  This language is a sacrament not a utensil.



The evening concluded, after an excellent buffet, with a period of music sung by the Church’s Chamber Group and readings drawn from a wide range of poets.  This part of the evening was also greatly appreciated by the substantial audience.

NB - Mark Oakley’s book 'The Collage of God' (published by Darton, Longman and Todd) is to be followed in July by his new book 'A Splash of Words'.

(This article was written by a Mayfield Salisbury member, Revd Ralph Smith)