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…
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
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
Down in the deeps
a river ran through it.
It surfaces just there
in a pool downtown where I saw children play
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