When the folks have gone.

This arched, stained glass window casts a soft glow on the wooden pews in this central Iowa country church.

The poet and priest, the late R.S. Thomas is a favorite of mine. His strong faith and his honest doubt, shape many of his poems. What does happen when the folks have gone, and dust settles on the empty church with only the priest remaining to clear up, to pause and perhaps even to pray? Thomas knew that feeling week by week in the small rural churches that he served in Wales. Handle this poem carefully, don’t rush, accompany the silence, and offer your own prayer. The following link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqWVdzOZLCU is Thomas reading this poem.

In Church

Often I try
To analyse the quality
Of its silences. Is this where God hides
From my searching? I have stopped to listen,
After the few people have gone,
To the air recomposing itself
For vigil. It has waited like this
Since the stones grouped themselves about it.
These are the hard ribs
Of a body that our prayers have failed
To animate. Shadows advance
From their corners to take possession
Of places the light held
For an hour. The bats resume
Their business. The uneasiness of the pews
Ceases. There is no other sound
In the darkness but the sound of a man
Breathing, testing his faith
On emptiness, nailing his questions
One by one to an untenanted cross. R.S. Thomas

Our Father
which art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done in earth,
as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and
the glory, For ever, Amen.

One thought on “When the folks have gone.

  1. The power of this poem comes best to me by listening to Thomas recite it but at the conclusion I thought perhaps a phrase was missing as his voice seemed lingering on an unexpressed thought. I listened again, and twice more. What I first perceived as incomplete ultimately felt like a thought was being passed to me for consideration; the end of the poem, but not of its meaning. I know the silence of many rural churches and I have interrupted it many times with opening creaky doors to peak inside, curious to see.


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