Lenten Observance in Community

There are many ways to observe Lent.  I’ve tried a few and while it seems wrong to say some were more ‘successful’ than others (successful defined as, ‘I was able to do whatever it was I tried to do almost everyday), I usually approach Lent with some caution, knowing that ‘successful’ is probably the least important aspect for me to keep track of during Lent.

So, this year, while I am exploring the ways of a writing path, I invited the Writing Guild to participate in a joint observance, by writing a Sestina Poem together.

The Sestina poem fits rather well into the timing of Lent.  It has six stanzas, each consisting of six lines.  Since there are six members of the Writing Guild, it seemed almost perfect that each of us could write just one line of poetry per week throughout the course of Lent and that would create a whole Sestina which could unite us in prayer and discipline.

The other notable aspect of the Sestina is that it has only six end words, which are shifted in each subsequent stanza as the poem progresses.  These we chose together, first contributing them to a jar and drawing out six to serve the structure of our poem.  The six for this poem are:


Each week, I will post the growing poem/prayer. Already, for me the practice has been instructive.  Since it takes the form of a prayer, it becomes a matter of some faith to first send a line of significance and vulnerability (as prayers tend to be), by email onto the next person on the list, trusting that they can pray honestly that line for you and for themselves in order to pass it to the next person.  Then, after my line is sent (prayed) I’m aware, that a prayer is being prayed, line by line for me, for us, as it is written and exchanged.  It sure slows praying down, both because I’m crafting a line of poetry as well as a writing a prayer and then I have to wait, many days to see what shape the prayer took.  Maybe we always pray too fast. Maybe we could be more aware how the substance of all our prayers are passed from hand to hand like this Sestina is doing for this small community o friends.

Bring a balm, a fragrance, to this heart in need of solace
and to this body bullied into this unholy pace.
Bind up my worries and sorrows.  Pour me love’s healing wine.
Let my soul draught deeply, let it soothe my bones.
Life to death. Communion, please for the solitary
kneeling at the altar, my very essence, I return.

The Writing Guild is: Deb, Denice, Kevin, Laurel P, Shelley, Laurel A

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