Pilgrim Poems

If not now, when?


Rose NilesThe end and the beginnings
A poem about the day the church died, its changing shape resisted, with tickets sold for the performance

by Rose Niles

we find it difficult
to adapt to changing conditions,
which explains perhaps
why we may hate the
concept of evolution
and its thunderous announcement
that God isn’t done with us yet,
but is changing
our world even now

we find it difficult
to accept that our corporate
model of church—and all its
PR, hierarchy, risk management,
slate of programs, and shiny buildings—
is based on
much that Jesus abhorred,
that the day the church began to die
was the day
we decided
that everyone
was on their own
and only what sells
or is supported by the powerful
and well endowed
with worldly goods

we find it difficult
to believe
that Jesus would overthrow
our tables,
open the doors of access
for free,
give all our curriculum
and publications
to the poor
and condemn us
for selling access
to God
that only the rich
can afford

the good news
is that the gospel
without us
in bankrupt
unexpected places
and is born in lowly conditions
surrounded by the free gift
of angels forced to earth
of grungy shepherd choirs
and a homeless
this is all we truly know
and all we need
to give away

soon and very soon
we’ll know such sins forgiven
not in part
but on whole,
so that the Holy Spirit
Advocate and Comforter
will dry our tears
of sorrow
hold us through our tantrums of
turning on each other,
help justice and mercy kiss
forgiven and forgiving
until a vital remnant
will get on with living
our evolving

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.