Long Time Passing

Penny Mawdsley is a primary school teacher with an M.Ed. in Religious Studies and a member of the SoF UK steering committee. This poem, which appeared in the collection Surfing: Women on the Sea of Faith, captures the experience of a SoF annual conference.

What an age since we first came together!
Tiered seats throbbed with expectation, excitement,
Apprehension in anticipation of action.
Here sat strangers, seeking sanctuary
So much flotsam and jetsam on a sea of faith
Fearful and somewhat wary of each other before
IT HAPPENED, we were under way.
Cupitt' s darts struck home, pursued by others' weaponry
And, one by one, folk threw accustomed caution to the winds
Aired questions and concerns common to the throng.

Such characters collected there!
They leavened every group discussion,
Livened up the bar and dining tables.
Spirited chat sprung up in sundry places
No intervention then by skilled Facilitators
Ensuring fair play, gagging the garrulous
And coaxing contributions from the timid!
Who remembers the sparkling set-to between
An urbane photographer from down-under in broad-brimmed hat
And an earnest Methodist Radical, the one who urged us
To engage in political action on behalf of the Third World?
Or an impassioned argument on the sun-drenched terrace
Between a feminist from the Metropolis (into knitting)
And a motherly Mancunian, whose wit and wisdom warmed
Those of us sitting on the sidelines?

Bar closing imposed no constraint on conversations
Carried into the small hours by Quaker universalists
And disenchanted Catholics who next morning clustered
Contemplatively around a clump of driftwood on a table

And, hard to credit now, for such practice has been long
Eschewed - we Anglicans celebrated an uneasy Eucharist,
Sharing symbols of our past, less certain of our future
Before we left to go our separate ways disclosures came:
"Hands up Non-Realists!" and "Who agrees to stay aboard
the yellow submarine to continue a journey
together in the Sea of Faith?"
Most of us answered emphatically that we did.

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