By the Rivers of our Fundamentalist Captivity

By the rivers of our fundamentalist captivity
we sat down and wept
and wept
And when we could weep no more
Tears dried in the sun
we leapt

preaching the poetry of protest
snarling songs of salvation
songs they wouldn’t recognize
songs they couldn’t recognize as
good news.

Our captors demanded we sing
But what they wanted was
a recitation of propagandic slogans
to soothe and pacify.

Emotive masturbation
Propping up passionate frenzy
And illusory peace

How could we sing the Lord’s song
In this foreign land?

It wouldn’t be in a simplicity not yet
come face to face with
complexity,
not yet resolved –
if such were possible –
into simplicity on the other side.

And a question:
wondering if such simplicity
is, in fact,
on the other side

of the waters of exile
the waters of division
the waters that kept us far from home.

How can we sing the Lord’s song
in a foreign land?

We will sing like we’ve never sung it before,
we will preach like you’ve never heard
of the Glory of a Lord who
will not bow

To your paltry persecution,
your miserable mockery of grace

We will not bow
to our captor
to the captivity that still haunts us
that still whispers
sometimes screams from within

You can take the people out of exile
but it’s years before the exile exits the people

And even though we have long since left
Even though we long ago
waded in the water
Even though we long ago
crossed the river to find freedom

Even though we are headed home
It is not home as we remember.

How can I sing the Lord’s song
in this foreign land?

It is with my heart

A heart that has been trampled
Rended asunder.
In pieces,
a heart torn open and kicked to the curb
a heart discarded
a heart with no companion

Until we found each other
Until we came together
Hearts trampled, rendered asunder
Pieces everywhere

And somehow, against the odds,
somehow,
we piece them together
Like a body always meant to be

With a question mark hanging overhead:
mortal, it asks, will these bones live?

But the answer isn’t in a text book
The destination isn’t on a map
Together we respond, and we
Proclaim a hallowed

maybe

All the while knitting it back together
All the while living into love long forgotten
All the while tossing and turning
Sleeplessly as we wonder whether
These bones shall live.

Whether the something beautiful we wish to make
Is of you, for you.
Or if that matters.
Or if the way we are coming to understand you
Is truer than the line we’d been sold

If the City of God
is in fact gift.

And if the City of Reconciliation,
the City of Kinship and Shalom
will rise again from the rubble
of a city laid waste
a city razed in devastation
a city that forgot

What it means to be light
What it means to be love.
What it means to be knit together
and truly, wondrously,
amazingly alive.

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Andrew Stephens-Rennie
Andrew is a writer, dreamer and organizer with a keen interest in developing leaders in faith, compassion and justice.

Andrew serves on staff at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, BC as Director of Ministry Innovation, with primary responsibility for St. Brigids, an emerging Christian community where questions are honoured, faith is nurtured, and discipleship pursued.
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