Grove of Patriarchs: A Poem

I’ve had a few folks ask me if I’d share the poem I wrote and read at the Annual Congregational Meeting. Here it is!

How many trees were felled
for the making of this place?
And where did they come from?
Some came, surely from not so far away
rooted and raised in the Northwest rain
they knew this land well
its culture and climate
its soil and soul.
Some came from further afield 
(or further aforest)
brought here by mighty ships
on mightier swells
bringing the beauty and sins of distant lands
to this home where they came to live and love.

What did the trees look like before they came?
Some had a strength and sturdiness
that came with great age
which they gave to fortify the place,
now mighty beams lifting ceiling and sight
to Things Above.
Some came diseased, deadened, warped
and found in the giving of themselves to the place
that they now had a place.
Some came too rigid
and were softened, bent,
and in their bending they became
instruments for stringed songs
violins, guitars, cellos, violas and basses
from them rose a resonance
a beauty not possible before their bending
a freedom not imagined before giving themselves up.

How many trees were felled for the making of this place?
On the sanctuary ceiling are rows of 
planks upon planks upon planks
easy to overlook or to take for granted
and yet if just one was missing
everyone would notice the gaping gap
and the place would feel forever incomplete.
Trees that are now pulpit, font, table
handed themselves over to careful carving
the chipping away, that something
always seen in them 
that they could not see in themselves
might be revealed and discovered,
and in the beauty unveiled in the carving,
these containers of the Holy
point to the beauty of the plain elements they hold
bread and cup, water, an old book
a heavenly feast, spring of eternal life, the Word made flesh.

How many trees were felled for the making of this place? 
Many trees, and only one tree
that cursed tree
that sits in the center of the place 
where the Carpenter gave his life for the forest
in their surrender to the Carpenter killed on the tree
together they have made 
and are making and 
are being made by this place
felled trees now trees of the field
clapping their hands in joy
planted by streams of water
in giving their lives up
to the place, to the Lord of the place
they have been found
in their dying, here at last, they live.

This Place

Posted by Tyler Kirkpatrick | 5/16/2019

Some of you have asked for a copy of what I wrote for the Annual Congregational Meeting on Monday night. Here it is:

I’ve never been bashful about stealing a good idea. A mentor of mine wrote something called “This Place” for the congregational meeting at his church in Hollywood, and I figured I’d try something similar for our church.

This place. 9300 Nels Nelson Rd. People go past this place on their way to the county fair and to Olympic High School, to their neighborhoods and to Bucklin Hill road. People go through this place on their way to prayer and new lives and newfound friendships and redemption from painful pasts. People go out from this place on their way to be witnesses to the resurrection in their cubicles and classrooms, dining room tables and hospital hallways; as bold colonizers of the Kingdom of Heaven offering hope and love in the territories of death and deadness and despair.

This place is the sound of a man who can walk again drumming on Christmas Eve and the warm murmurs of continued conversation in the Narthex even though the worship service has already begun. It’s the clank of mugs and silverware as selfless workers wash dishes in the kitchen because the dishwasher is only a dish-sanitizer. It’s the lingering smell of bacon on late Saturday mornings and of Italian soup dinners on weekday evenings and of coffee on… every morning. This place is the sight of the neon blurs of glowsticked-teenagers racing through the darkness on balmy summer nights and it’s the tantrumed tears and delighted smiles of little ones in preschool and Sunday school and on Thursday morning playdates. This place is the stories of the past and the visions of the future, and the stories and visions in this place are always the stories of God’s faithfulness and the visions of God’s new creation.

This place sometimes lacks the grandeur of a high-steepled downtown church in the heart of a booming metropolis or the polish of a megachurch on podcasts and livestreams, but this place continues to be this place because the Lord of the Church called us—these particular people to be the Body of Christ in this particular time and this particular place at 9300 Nels Nelson Rd.

This place is always a place on the way for people going past, and for people going through, and for people going out. And this place itself is always on the way—on the way from the grand traditions of what it has been to the new thing God is calling it to do and to be. The words of the Lord of this place are carved into an old brown wooden sign hanging behind the bell in the arched entryway to the doors of this place. And so the people of this place are on the way not simply for the sake of going somewhere or doing something, they are on the way because each Sunday they pass under and read those carved, ancient words and they find themselves in ever greater pursuit of the One who is himself the Way.

Older posts…