In the Dreamtime that was Portland – Poetry Before General Conference

At the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Oregon, I watched a group of children playing in a fountain and was moved to write a poem about the struggle my church was going through. I still hold on to the dream that we can breathe again as the 2019 Called General Conference convenes in St. Louis this weekend…

Photo by Limor Zellermayer on Unsplash

In the Dreamtime that was Portland

Ezekiel saw from exile

what we refused to see

We were busy surveying the ruins of the Temple

to see if our pillars or spires still stood

Jakin and Boaz, Israel called them

Ours we called, “I Shall Not be Moved”

and “I Shall Not be Rooted”

We gnawed on our despair in silence

not trusting God or one another

not offering our hurt, our grief

for fear God couldn’t handle it

But Ezekiel

who saw the wheel

also saw the river of life

trickling out the Temple base

tumbling toward the city yet to be


What I’m saying is – we didn’t see it.

In the dreamtime that was Portland

we didn’t even know that 

down beneath the illusion

that we were powerful enough

and savvy enough

and good enough

to hold

it all



Down in the deeps

a river ran through it.

It surfaces just there

in a pool downtown where I saw children play

believe it!

as I ate from behind a glass.

I imagined they knew 

the joy of baptisms received and remembered

and the quenching of a wilderness stream.


If we would go down to that river

we would see the things only prophets see:

would see the Chinook’s ripple on the water’s skin 

would see the wounded bird take wing

we would yield to the flow

the rain would set in gentle

and we could breathe again.

— Alex Joyner, 16 May 2016

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