Pilgrim Poems

If not now, when?


Rose NilesWe agreed to love
Dedicated to University Heights Presbyterian Church, Bronx, New York
(located in one of the poorest congressional districts in the United States)

by Rose Niles

Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them. —Matthew 18:19–20

in a world of dissonance
where nothing agreed at all
arson reigned, redlining* ruled, gangs of all stripes skulked

we skirted the edges of a rundown soon-to-be-sold
uptown campus of a downtown school
those rolling green lawns
were gated and guarded from us

we skipped quickly by the hulked out buildings
so fast our patent-shining go-to-church-only shoes would blur and shine
and on the hill above us
up the wide avenue
a stone kirk rose
with blue slate steps and arched wooden doors wrapped in black iron
and the doors were
encompassing love inside
flannel board Bible stories, special jobs for us to do
finger painting, singing, dancing, love of Jesus

University Heights Presbyterian Church, Bronx, New York

University Heights Presbyterian Church, Bronx, New York

transforming kind of love
love among people of many nations and traditions
love for the friend and the stranger
but only because
(call the role)
to love

and now we are sent
we serve on many hills
keeping open doors
we agree
to love

*Redlining: the practice, as defined by the New York Times, of “deliberately choking off mortgage lending to predominantly minority communities,” or, as defined by the Encyclopedia of Chicago, “arbitrarily denying or limiting financial services to specific neighborhoods, generally because its residents are people of color or are poor”

Baptized, reared, and ordained a ruling elder in the Bronx at the age of fourteen, Rose Niles has served the church as a teaching elder, pastor, and supporter of theological education. Rose is bi-racial, a daughter of immigrant parents, a mother of one phenomenal woman, and a lifelong pilgrim. Amazed, she finds herself in Houston, Texas, serving Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary on this leg of the pilgrim journey. You can read more of her poems here.