distribution words

these are words for men in isolation in prison. they’re fed the elements through a slot in the door. bloody hard to write, for a number of reasons that i won’t go into here.

this bread tells the story of grace
told around the table for thousands of years
in the company of millions of people
all are welcome at this table.
you are welcome at this table.
take and eat, this is grace, given for you.

this wine tells the story of love
lived out in the world since its beginning
turning despair into life
fear into hope
bringing wholeness to all that is broken.
take and drink, this is love, given for you.


update: I’ve decided this won’t work at all within the context, but i’ll leave it up for posterity’s sake! hoping the spark of whatever creativity i had before will come back soon…!

9 Comments

  1. Cheryl,

    I’ve been really fascinated by your posts on this. Thanks for sharing them.

    Something in this one brought me up sharp, though, and I offer these reflections, for what they’re worth.

    As I read this and pictured the circumstance in which it would be used, I wondered why you chose to use the table image so solidly. Because, unless a table were being carried around to the cells and able to be seen by the person in the cell, the concrete thinking part of my mind would be saying “no, there is no table.” (I am one of those people whose mind, when invited to imagine myself in a peaceful place, says “no, I’m not,” and cannot enter into the exercise.)

    I wanted it to say something about the table coming to people who want to be part of the meal, or being present in many different places in many different shapes, or expanding to be where people are who want to join the company. Or maybe I want the bit before to say something like

    sure, as we do,
    that we belong at this table
    and that Jesus is here with us.

    and he joins our table
    to every other table
    where people meet,
    have ever met,
    will ever meet
    to share bread and wine

    I’m afraid I’m being a little incoherent here, but I think I am trying to say that I would like the link between the prison cell and the church universal a little more strongly drawn. Which isn’t to say that you do. One of the things I really like about your liturgical pieces is that they avoid the temptation to try to say everything we ever wanted to say about this all in the one place at the one time, so that liturgy becomes a wall of words that locks people out rather than inviting them in. And maybe I’m trying to do the latter???

  2. Cheryl

    thanks for commenting Judy, i need to think about – i suspect you’re right.

    this was written to be used on its own, not with the liturgy below. the one below will be used in a context where the men do sit around a table. this one will be standing on its own – a 30 second communion, for people who know communion, but for whom the traditional liturgy isn’t suitable.

    i haven’t met these men yet – and it’s written for a very specific group in the prison. i have in my head – rightly or wrongly – an impression of a more abstract intelligence than the general prison population.

    i’m really noticing that i haven’t been into the prisons for 3 months, and i forget so quickly what it’s like, and where the community is. i seem to only be able to write when the smell of the prisons is in my pores! i’m not good at writing for an abstract audience…

  3. I was once privileged to play at Deer Park womens prison. What struck me, (I wasn’t prepared for this) was that the essence of the Gospel music that we were asked to present was the message of freedom. It seemed an odd place but somehow never more real. if nothing else, it gave me an different insight into the evolution of the Gospel music of the African American slaves & how the singing of inner freedom was so important to their survival

  4. Cheryl

    slavo zizek, a croatian philosopher, has some interesting thoughts on that. i’ll search them out and put them up here…

  5. Cheryl, I like it, I really do. I don’t think it needs scrapping. The thing that jarred amongst words that I otherwise found very apt was the table. I haven’t met the particular men, but I have seen the cells with the slots in the door, spoken to men inside them. found it very strange. Very public in a way other prison visiting wasn’t.

    How about an adjustment that just takes out the table?

    this bread tells the story of grace
    told for thousands of years
    in the company of millions of people.
    all are welcome to share.
    you are welcome to share.
    take and eat, this is grace, given for you.

    this wine tells the story of love
    lived out in the world since its beginning
    turning despair into life
    fear into hope
    bringing wholeness to all that is broken.
    take and drink, this is love, given for you.

  6. Cheryl

    Judy, it’s not that i don’t like what i wrote, it’s just that it doesn’t feel right for the context – too wordy, to be honest. trying too hard… I think i’d use it still in other contexts

  7. Thinking back to my hospital CPE experience, I wonder – if the people concerned are familiar with communion, maybe stick with something close to familiar words? That might make the very different situation actually feel like communion.

    I took communion to a former Presbyterian, did the right liturgy, gave the bread and ‘wine’ and she smiled and nodded and made all the right noises. When I said the Aaronic blessing as I was about to leave, though, she visibly relaxed and her thanks sounded heartfelt rather than merely polite. The Aaronic blessing was a big deal in the Presbyterian church in a way that the communion liturgy wasn’t.

  8. Cheryl

    i’m writing new words in response to a request. there are some reasons why the familiar words aren’t appropriate.

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