Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Bespoke poetry workshops for churches & interfaith settings

  • For Christian Ecology Link Earth Day on 07/07/2007 I was invited to perform some poems and to run a creative writing workshop. The client said afterwards, "We were looking to unite our efforts with a spirit of joy and a sense of transcendence and you did it in two poems, thank you".

  • The Theology of the Body was retranslated by Prof Michael Waldstien. When it was launched in Westminster, I was commissioned by the Director of Pastoral Affairs to perform some of my poems, particularly 'God and Luci', which hints at the Incarnation and shares God's exhuberant enthusiasm for life. The lecture, by the professor, based on John Paul II's profound reading of the Song of Songs was introduced by music from the bards of the bard school - sections of St John of the Cross sung in Gaelic, followed by poems by the Holy Father in Polish and English. When the convenor of the event sang his closing prayer, everyone felt that truly the Muses had come to the Festival and the beauty of the academic theology had been framed and expressed by the grace of the arts.

  • As part of the Spirit in the City Festival there was one of those moments you dread, when 17 men in Horned Helmets (it's true) decided to invade the stage. Fortunately it was during the poem 'The Universe was not at Home' and the incident fitted perfectly!
    We also had a Bard Tent in Leicester Square to showcase some of the other artists at the Bard School - painters, writers and animators.

  • At Lawrence's Church in Reading were keen that their congregation's artistic talents be released and given a space in church, so in a collaboration with Pilgrim Hearts, a day of prayer and creativity saw the work of many parishioners brought into a new light.

  • Family Life Project in Osterley was another example of a creative writing event that helped people to surpass their own expectations. Given the space and the right spirit, long held fears can be released and spiritual gifts discovered that are sometimes held within an artistic expression.

  • St Mary the Boltons Church specifically wanted to look at the link between creative writing and contemplation. It was fascinating to see the work produced as we wrote with intuitively selected images of buildings and plants in the Old and New Testaments. A deceptively simple exercise elicited some profound experiences and insights. Participants commented that they had really been helped to pray with the texts more personally through this workshop.

    I wonder what CS Lewis means exactly by his phrase the baptism of the imagination. It is certainly mysterious how using the imagination in a prayerful setting can lead to beautifully expressed insights that do not seem to come exactly from our conscious minds.

  • The Ezekiel Project in Northampton booked me 2 years running to work with their trainee youth workers to help them see how you can help young people to engage with scripture and with their inner life using poetry. Again, some wonderful writing and some unexpected personal insights were the fruit of the weekend.

  • It was rather alarming but exhilarating, being invited to perform in front of 4,500 people at Spring Harvest and somewhat unexpected, especially since the venue we were performing at for the rest of the festival included changing in a room the size of a cupboard that already housed a large cardboard cactus. Ah the joys of the actor's life!

  • The Archbishop of Canterbury was a great audience though. He is an excellent poet and really appreciates what one is trying to say. I was delighted to have been chosen to perform one of my own poems 'I put out my poems on my hands, like food for the the birds' as well as the poem I had written for the Intermission project where I had been poet in residence for 2 years. Intermission is a wonderful initiative that welcomes artists to discover their vocation in the arts and to be nurtured in it.
  • Greenbelt is a great place to perform too, and I enjoyed very much the 2 performances and workshops at The Arts CafĂ© in 2006.

  • The Venue in Leicester Square is perhaps even more iconic. Having just returned from Croatia it was a joy to share the poems that had been inspired by the delights of the islands - 'Swimming in the Falling Star Cave' is still a favourite memory.

  • The theme of 'The Brightness of Water' was rendered with immense depth and symbolism by John Paul II. At the time of his funeral, I was invited by Canadian Television to share this poem and to say something of the effect his life had had on me. I was able to say that without his inspiration my life as a bard with a bard school would never have come about. He was an immense champion of the arts, the artist and the value of the life within, the mysterious dignity of every single person, that sometimes only an artistic expression makes evident.

    There are some theological insights, he once wrote, that only an artist can discover and reveal to us.

  • It was fascinating to be asked to do a show for a group called Christian Partners in Parliament, who turned out mainly to be Baronnesses. I was somewhat nervous at the thought that I had no idea really what they might want to hear, but as with any performance, the secret seems to be to start with what is most current for oneself. Then the authenticity and inherant comedy of our lives springs forth and resonates with others. They said they all felt much better afterwards as it had been an extremely tense and stressed time in The House of Lords.

  • First Friday Show was a series of 6 monthly one woman shows that I wrote for the chapel space in the Methodist Central Hall. I enjoyed the fact that it was so close to Parliament and that people engaged in politics and campaigning would stroll over for some poetry after work.

  • Caritas, a charity that engages in campaigning and advocacy asked me to provide a poem to go on the back of a lobbying leaflet. They thought that a page of statistics might be better balanced by a poem to express the plight of young runaways, for whom they were seeking further support. I was really happy to have such a bardic brief.

    Even more so was the invitation to provide a poem for the meeting at The House of Lords with the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Conscience & Belief. Ms Asma Jahangir, Lord Brennan and the other interfaith groups, including The Humanist Society had all presented their submissions. It was honour and an opportunity to be able to close the submission process with some reflections and a poem on the dangers of the standardisation of thought that can come from the bureaucratisation of language. The poem was called 'The Container of Abandoned Minds', which is a phrase taken from Paul Hogget's insightful chapter 'The Institutionalisation of Shallowness'. The change in the atmosphere of the room and the ensuing discussions at dinner were a great bardic blessing. I was thrilled that the poem had touched a chord and brought differing groups together to share their thoughts.

  • The Muslim, Hindu, Sikh & Christian meeting in Slough was also a special opportunity to use a poem to speak to diverse groups who were all trying to express their concerns for the impact that 9/11 was still having on their communities. It was a little daunting to be the only woman on the panel and to realise that it was only poetry that had given me permission to speak; the gift of being able sometimes to heal with words that can speak beyond fearse fears into a place of shared hope. Being a bard is often about creating a space in which fears can be spoken and the unsayable said. Only then can the previously unhoped for be aspired to again.

If your group would like to have a bardic ingredient to a meeting or a project then, it would be great to explore the idea. Just call Sarah de Nordwall 07849 641 899 or email sarah@sarahdenordwall.com

1 comment:

  1. Very good information. Lucky me I came across your site by chance
    (stumbleupon). I have saved it for later!

    Here is my webpage ... funeral poems

    ReplyDelete