As a girl born and raised on Queensland’s Sunshine
Coast and who attends a community-based, ‘sporting ministry’
focused local church, it’s not often that I get to experience
ways in which the church sets the pace for the artistic community.
Yet over the past couple of weeks I’ve enjoyed a precious
gift - holidaying with friends at their Bradley Beach, New
Jersey, home, and wandering around New York City for days
at a time with no schedule and no expectations.
INSPIRATION; Poet's Corner in the Cathedral of St
John the Divine in Manhattan. PICTURE: Jo Hopping.
My friend, Jo, is
an author of mostly non-fiction books and recently released
her first novel, The Sound of My Voice, detailing
the struggle between father and daughter and the tension between
art and faith, while her husband, Chris, works in the media
department of Redeemer Presbyterian Church - a congregation
that has as its mandate church planting in the city and works
within the context of its intended community. Redeemer is
happy to preach the good news of Heaven in any style, from
hip-hop to the academic community to ethnic gatherings in
Corner really exists, doesn’t it?’ I asked Jo
while settling in. It had been the place in her novel where
the protagonist, Jordan, finds respite and inspiration when
the pressures of city life threatened to engulf her.
Jo nodded, a twinkle in her eye.
‘I’ll have to do the pilgrimage, you know. You’ve
Imagine my delight, then, when I stepped off the subway at
Manhattan’s 110th street and wandered around the block
to discover the Cathedral of St John the Divine - large enough
for a couple of games of football to be underway inside -
and its Poet’s Corner. The Poet’s corner was inspired
by one in Westminster Abbey, and quotes carved onto large
stones paved into the floor pay tribute to the great American
‘Give me truths, for I am weary of the surfaces,’
said Ralph Waldo Emerson; and ‘Dust thou art, to dust
returnest, was not spoken of the soul,’ noted Henry
Oh, that we would have the courage to look past the ‘surfaces’
and to more deeply recognise that the souls which surround
us daily are indeed eternal and need to be nourished!
The part I like best, however, was the ‘Poet’s
Wall’. Moderated by staff of the cathedral, any poems
offered are posted. Some are from children, others from prisoners
and still more are from authors who are doing well and winning
prizes, according to their bios. Contributions come from all
over the world, with the good bit being that those from prisoners
are read by children to their class in nearby schools, with
a student responding by writing a postcard to the author.
This, to me, is community.
Not usually one to be awed by the ‘things of stone and
wood’, I lingered longer than I’d planned before
heading out once again into the daylight and more of that
ridiculously exhausting walking around Manhattan. It was time
to meet Chris for lunch at his office on Broadway.