[Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut] Barbara Campbell of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in New Britain has been invited by the bishops in the Diocese of Connecticut to be the first “Diocesan Poet.”
But don’t think of this as some stuffy, distant appointment.
“We invited Barbara to tap into our inner poet and claim a creative expression of our faith,” said Bishop Suffragan Laura J. Ahrens, who took the lead on this effort. “By calling her ‘Diocesan Poet’ we hope she’ll help all of us, as a diocese, to claim our collective poetic voices,” she said.
Campbell understands her new role is more of an instigator than a distant expert, although she does come with credentials as a published poet.
A retired high school and college teacher, she also has the first assignment.
Love of poetry
Campbell loves poetry and has been writing poems for decades — “since I got my first computer more than 30 years ago,” she said. Her favorite poets (whom she calls her “poetic heroes”) include Billy Collins, Mary Oliver, Martin Espada, and Emily Dickinson.
She’s also an active lay woman serving in both parish and diocesan leadership, including St. Mark’s participation in a multi-year regional partnership to develop missional churches.
The poetry is connected.
“As Diocesan Poet, I encourage the writing of poetry as a way to continue to tell our stories,” she explained. “Directly related to us as Episcopalians is writing poems about our own reactions and those of others as we practice being missional, and our descriptions of living in a world and a church both constantly facing change. From time to time I will invite poetry written on a designated theme (see first invitation at end of article). If I can be an instigator of creativity, give an opportunity for a voice to be heard, encourage working as co-creators with God, the effort will be well-placed.”
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by Barbara A. Campbell
(c) March 2012
Like metal filings to a magnet,
I am drawn to fabric stores.
I roll my carriage
through the new offerings
but know I am headed
to that corner of the store
where the remnants are,
I don’t mind the mess.
I’m looking for that one piece of material,
just the right size,
perfect color and feel
for a special project.
That bolt of material down to its last yard
knows it is still worth
$9.99 or $12.00 or even $24.00 a yard,
so, too, those of us still in the church
know our worth lies in God’s grace.
We see, feel and know
(we count the congregation)
we are at the end of our bolt
and surrounded by new possibilities.
From all those shirts and dresses –
a warm quilt of memories,
from the Red Tag shelf –
the silky scarf so admired,
from the tail ends of skeins –
the knit laprobe
that delights with color, warmth and prayer.
What’s the next quilt, or scarf or laprobe
God’s fingers are itching to create?
What relationships of color and texture and warmth
will transform this remnant
into a new creation?
Within that grace,
will I be able to follow Her pattern?
will I be willing
to share my stash?
Invitation #1: Annual Convention 2012
The themes of the 2012 Diocesan Convention are “Claiming, Equipping and Sending Leaders in God’s Mission.” I invite poets in the Diocese to look through their journals and/or consider writing poems which address those themes.
Need a writing prompt? Here’s a few. It’s a broad topic. I’m being generous in options. Focus on one or two.
As you consider your specific example of what God is already doing in God’s world and consider how you can or do join in:
When you listened, who gave you the best information on what was going on?
Where are you as you see God working out God’s mission?
What made you say, “I have to be involved”?
What did you have to learn or perhaps unlearn as you lead?
What’s the role of reflection as you lead in God’s mission?
What are the joys, apprehensions, realities of being sent to lead God’s mission?
I welcome signed poems from all ages, in any language accompanied by an English translation. Please email questions you may have about the invitation, and your poems to: firstname.lastname@example.org
More about Barbara Campbell:
Dr. Barbara Campbell has been writing poetry ever since she got her first computer more than 30 years ago. Her poetic heroes are Billy Collins, Mary Oliver, Martin Espada and Emily Dickinson. As an English teacher, she encouraged her students at New Britain High School and the University of Connecticut to write poetry. She served as a Teacher Consultant with the Connecticut Writing Project, Storrs. She was honored to have poems published by Bard College, the University of Connecticut, and Seabury-Western Theological Seminary. Her poem, “Literalism – as hard to get rid of as bittersweet and poison ivy” was granted a Polly Bond Award of Excellence for Episcopal Communicators in 2008.
She is a member of the Vestry of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, New Britain, Senior Warden Emerita, Liturgical Assistant, Prayer Shawl Knitter, instigator of the Poetry Corner, and member of the Higher Education Committee of the Diocese of Connecticut. In February 2012 she read GOEs at Kanuga. .Last year she inaugurated a “Poetry Sunday” at St. Mark’s. Local poets read their work during the adult forum and she worked with the parish rector, the Rev. Pat Hames, to have poetry woven into the liturgy of the main worship service. (This year, scheduled for Ma 20, 2012.)
Barbara holds two degrees from the University of Connecticut, one from Central Connecticut State University and is a member of the Class of 1964 of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, the second class to include women.
Now retired from both UConn and New Britain Public Schools, she lives in Farmington and canoes at Crystal Lake, Ellington.