A church of ancient stone and handmade brick,
Above a fertile plain, upon a hill,
Surrounded by gold crops: barley, wheat,
(Whose scent upon the summer air
In intense heat, is like the scent of heaven
When the old oak door is opened)
Sets the scene
For so much that made England what it was,
And, against the odds, is still.
And just because it's precious, quaint, serene,
Does not imply it stands for all that's wrong.
The wheezing of the organ in its loft
Of 18th century flaking, greyish green,
Accompanies the singing of the flock,
Contraltos fruit cake rich and quavery men,
Mostly white haired, but farming stock,
So there are young ones too, who come along,
And take communion, say the Nicene Creed,
And love their neighbours as themselves;
Knowing Christ and knowing how to act
To make this mean
Something real within their daily lives.
And every week it's always just the same,
With different hymns to wash the message down,
'Amazing Grace', is loved by all,
And sung with feeling
By these farmers and their offspring and their wives,
Whose upper lips are stiff, and who would frown
At any mention one might feel moved.
And Handel at the end to round things off,
Restores us to neutrality, concealing
Any sense that prayer or bread of life or sermon
Might have caused us, standing, sitting, kneeling,
Any deeper pause for thought.
And though I come here, yet I still reject
The central tenets of the Christian faith,
I am moved by its history and tradition.
Partly as enlightenment and philosophical wisdom,
Albeit that they grew in opposition
Were rooted in this same need to stand outside ourselves;
To seek out and discover
Some meaning in the human condition.
And yet, this too has had its season,
And science has itself become religion.
And so perhaps we need to hear again the old ideas,
Not with the arrogance of hindsight,
But really listen with new ears,
Because when wise words aren't spoken,
Heard, dwelt on,
How can there be wiser contradiction?
So every week I hear that God,
Is not responsible for man's misdeeds,
And every week I say the words Christ taught,
Asking that I might resist temptation.
And though I only ponder these things vaguely,
Because my mind is turning on roast dinners,
I comprehend man has his freedom:
Reason, choice, also his lesser instinct, intuition.
And despite redemption and salvation
I feel rather glad we're fallen sinners.