Over sixty people joined our bi-monthly evening of prayer and we had some wonderful feedback. Do join us for the next one on 27th April, 7pm to 8.15pm, which will be hosted for the Hackney Deanery by St John’s Hoxton.

Andy Rider, Dean of Mission, interviewed Jo Davies, Chaplain of Pentonville Prison.  You can watch the interview here.

Bishop Joanne gave a reflection on the following short poem, Gift: A Reflection for Lent:

Some ask the world
and are diminished
in the receiving
of it. You gave me

only this small pool
that the more I drink
from, the more overflows
me with sourceless light.

by R. S. Thomas
from Experimenting with an Amen (1986)

I like poems for Lent that are short and exposed, with just the essentials left – as we are before God when we strip away the things that don’t matter. I hope that this is a poem that you might allow to accompany you through Lent, a small poem which, like the pool that is its subject matter, keeps on giving.


This poem only has two sentences. Both sentences start within the first verse. The heart of the poem for me is therefore the four words of the second verse: “only this small pool.” The first four lines lead into it, by way of comparison. And then the last line of the first verse, running on into the prominence of the first line of the second verse, brings us to the gift which is the title and subject of the poem.


Let’s come back for a moment, before we reach that gift, to the poem’s first four words: “Some ask the world.” We need to clarify in our heads quite quickly that this refers to asking for the world, i.e. asking for a lot, an inordinate, unreasonable amount.


But because we walk into sentences in poetry not knowing where they are going, that meaning doesn’t become clear immediately. And the idea is also left hanging that maybe someone is asking the world their opinion. Hold that thought through the rest of the poem: what do we need to give up in terms of the world’s approval in order to appreciate a true gift?


This is a poem which reminds us that it is possible to ask for so much and yet receive so little. Not only receive so little but be diminished by what we have asked for. Why? Because our asking reveals our least attractive traits – greed, perhaps, or insecurity, or impatience, or a thousand other lacks.


When we switch from asking, to being given, we find the gift at the heart of not only the poem, but our relationship with God. “You gave me . . .” Jesus Christ is the epitome of that gift, one freely given, unasked for, containing the essence of the giver and overflowing with love for the recipient. So too it is with God who gives of himself, his only Son, out of love for the world.


This is a gift that unwraps itself in the second verse, rather like the gift of Christ does once we accept him into our lives. Notice how the meaning falls, overflows perhaps, from one line to another, like a stream tumbling down a rocky bed, or like each layer of a waterfall breaching its edges before coursing down to the next plane.


only this small pool
that the more I drink
from, the more overflows
me with sourceless light.


God’s love overflows and keeps breaching any boundaries that we might set for it.


Notice the syntax – these lines are structured around “the more . . .the more”. The more I drink/from, the more overflows/me.” The subject gets deliberately lost, I think, starting out as “this small pool” and then becoming more generally the whole body of water which overflows.


And then there’s a switch from one sourceless thing to another: from water to light, both biblical metaphors for Christ himself. There is no further source to discover because God has existed from before the world began. God is the source.


This Lent, we don’t need to ask the world – either ask for the world or ask the world’s view. We only need to gaze into and drink freely and deeply from the overflowing pool which is God’s gift to us in Christ.

The Rt Revd Dr Joanne Grenfell
The Bishop of Stepney