Two poems

Two of my favourite places in Dunedin are the aviaries at the Dunedin Botanical Gardens and the Presbyterian Church’s Archives Research Centre. Weird birds seem to dominate both places. Yesterday, I visited the latter, a place from which it seems I rarely depart empty handed. I left with the following two poems. They were amusing enough to share:

‘The Ecumenicist’, by James Forrest

I caught an Ecumenicist
And kept him in a yard.
I fed him up on sugar-beet
With olive oil and lard.
I kept him effervescent
With the aid of sherbert-fizzers,
And snipped his budding principles
With ecumeniscissors.

In ecumenisentiments
His training was intense;
With ecumeniscience
And ecumenisense;
As he greedily devoured
All the Acts of Convocation
To stimulate the art
Of ecumeniquivocation.

I loved my Ecumenicist
And firmly hoped that he
Would one day ecumenicise
My darling C of E;
But every time I turned, occurred
Another cataclysm –
My Ecumenicist had bred
An ecumeniSCHISM!

Discouraged by experience
I felt it rather vain
An ecumenisysphus
For ever to remain;
My fervant ecumenical
Experiments had failed
And ecumenicynicism
Finally prevailed.

‘Little John Robinson’

Little boy kneels at the foot of the bed,
Droops on his little hands little gold head.
Hush, hush, whisper who dares –
Little John Robinson’s saying his prayers.

“God bless Daddy – I hope that’s right.
Hadn’t we fun with his book tonight?
The words are long, and the theme’s so odd,
But the title’s lovely – Honest to God!

If I open the pages a little bit more
I can see Alec Vidler just round the door.
He’s a beautiful beard, but I doubt if he should …
Oh, God bless Tillich and make him good.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer just writes in red
That the notion of ‘God out there’ is dead.
And John Wren Lewis finds God in all
Though Bultmann doubts if that’s true at all.

They’re so clever, and I’m just me;
And what it’s about I can’t quite see.
I said, ‘Bless Daddy, and Tillich and …’ oh!
While I remember, the Publishers too!”

Little boy kneels at the foot of the bed,
Droops on his little hands little gold head.
Hush, hush, whisper who dares –
Honest to God, he’s just saying his prayers!

(‘Little John Robinson’ appeared in The British Weekly, June, 1963)


  1. The Ecumenical Canoe Trip – oarsome!
    You find your poems in weird places Jason – you’re doing something right.


  2. Hi David. Why do you ask? I’m not sure I have a strong opinion either way, but the poem certainly resonated with my observations of a movement that has, at least in my neck of the woods, seemingly all but run out of water in the desert.


  3. Thank you. Your question is a fair one. I admit there is scant energy in my own region for serious ecumenical endeavor, not even to live out the Reformed-Lutheran Formula of Agreement now over ten years old. Nevertheless, as a child of the Reformation, I have high regard for Calvin’s willingness to cross even ten oceans to heal divisions in the church. The tradition in which I worship is an inheritor of much fruit from ecumenical dialogue and shared undertakings belonging mostly to the last century. What is yet to emerge in this new one remains to be seen. Yet, the PCUSA continues to value our ecumenical commitments as it is in our DNA. So we protect scarce dollars, staff resources, and attend to ecumenical dialogue with recent fruits including the document “These Living Waters,” a joint statement on our common baptism between a number of Reformed bodies and the Roman Catholic Church. Another document now under development around the Lord’s Supper is tackling much harder questions standing in the way of eucharistic hospitality. I have no high expectations for quick progress given the current retrenchment from Vatican II.

    Finally, I guess, in the principle of “lex orandi, lex credendi,” a baptismal ecclesiology and the Nicene Creed are gradually taking hold of the worshiping assembly to which I am called. The unity of the “one, holy, catholic, apostolic church” is not something I am free to give up on. Thus, my question – the poem seemed to reflect just that.

    By the way, you have an excellent blog.


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