Many of us who are alumni and members of Maple Grove United Church in Oakville, Ontario are heartbroken at the news of the death of Andy King, a beautiful soul. These last years, Andy has served as a Christian Education Leader at MGUC. I remember Andy’s broad slash of a smile and sense of humour. He was part sideshow barker, part eternal child, and part spiritual nurse, in all things carefully kind and generous.
But no capacity of Andy’s could eclipse his facile and expert manner in poemcraft. In 2013, Andy won a poetry contest held by the Toronto Star – “Sestina for Rana Plaza” – remembering the garment factory in Bangladesh that collapsed that year. Experiences of injustice caused him exquisite pain. You can find it here: https://www.thestar.com/life/2013/11/13/foreign_equality_sestina_for_rana_plaza.html
As I was departing from Maple Grove in 2014, Andy was undertaking a unique spiritual discipline: to write a complete poem for each upcoming Sunday in the Revised Common Lectionary. The result is a treasury of imaginative riches. Please take a trip through these delicious gifts.
Andy felt life deeply. Whenever I think of him, Kierkegaard’s definition of the poet appears before me:
“What is a poet? An unhappy man who hides deep anguish in his heart, but whose lips are so formed that when the sigh and cry pass through them, it sounds like lovely music… And people flock around the poet and say: ‘Sing again soon’ – that is, ‘May new sufferings torment your soul but your lips be fashioned as before, for the cry would only frighten us, but the music, that is blissful.’ And the critics come forward and say, “That’s the way, that’s how the rules of aesthetics say it should be done.” Of course a critic resembles a poet to a hair, except he has no anguish in his heart, no music on his lips. (Kierkegaard, Either/Or, 1992, 43; cited 73)
I, for one, am grateful to God for the example of Andy’s poetic spiritual practice. But looking past this discipline and through the beautiful surface of his work my eyes are drawn to peer into the cataracts of his profound yearning for the Reign of God. He never struck me as an unhappy man. However, he was unsatisfied, thirsty for justice and righteousness without a hint of violence or threat.
This is his last poem on his lectionary blog as far as I can tell. It closes with a prayer clearly born from that thirst for God:
“O Holy One, come into this,
our self-made wilderness.
Come be with us in the loneliness of
our cell phones and computers,
come be with us in our hunger
for the meaning of our life,
come into the wasteland we
are making of the earth,
this kingdom of our arrogance where
we so often forget the life-giving love of God.
“O Holy One, help us here,
before this wilderness becomes
one we do not
know how to leave.”
could I add
Now you have left, friend.
And the only succour I can find
is the trust that, in God’s economy,
each succeeding day
will close the distance
We will embrace then.