New Release: Hold Them Close

Hold Them Close 
New poetry collection from Sarah Agnew 
Available now! 

The poems in Hold Them Close express the joys and hardships of life in its breadth, from the sacred story of Christian spirituality, to the profanity of injustice; through the isolation of the poet and PhD student’s life and the deep connections to family, friends, community, and creation.  In her third collection of poetry, Sarah Agnew continues to give voice to vulnerability, and thereby seek strength.
Buy it now: 
From the publisher: Resource Publications From Booktopia From Amazon

Midweek Musing. Better together, better different.

I offered this reflection at Wesley Uniting Church, Canberra, this Sunday 20 January 2019. Biblical portions were John 2:1-11 and 1 Corinthians 12:1-11. 

I was at a gathering of Christians to pray together this week; an ecumenical gathering, a multicultural gathering. For a prayer gathering, it felt to me quite wordy; for a worship gathering, it felt to me rather full of protocols, they seemed to need to thank everybody. The theology we sang used language I generally don’t prefer. Things were not done how I would do them, nor in a way that met my expectations, shaped by experience. I was often not really comfortable.

This was a Christian gathering, and it was me, a member of the church in Australia, a Uniting Church person and ours is one member of the global body of Christ. But if I expect every worship gathering I attend to express ideas about God like mine, in language that suits me, and to be structured according to my preferences and expectations – well, wouldn’t that be expectin…

Midweek Musing. Remembering

How do we remember who we have been, to honour the work, the moments, the learning and growing, while continuing to grow, learn, inhabit the moments, work for our present and future?

As a person who appreciates the symbolic - rituals, gestures, signs and symbols - I place symbols about my person.

On several occasions, in quiet moments together these past two weeks, my three-year-old niece has asked, ‘Aunt Sarah, what is that on your arm? Where do your rings come from? What about your earrings?’ And I reply, what does it look like? The picture on my arm looks like a feather, as does one of the rings, another is a butterfly. They come, the rings, from Santa Fe and Scotland, Adelaide, England, and Prague.
I don’t tell her yet, but I am certain I will as her already sound understanding grows even more, that the feather ring and tattoo are symbols of the season in which I stood confidently, embracing my identity and role in the community as storyteller-poet-minister. The Scotland rings con…

Midweek Musing: A new year has begun.

And what have we learnt from the one we’ve left behind?

Christmas 2018 was the first Christmas without their mums, for three friends from childhood / youth. I have learnt, again, to treasure those we love. Two weeks before Christmas, my mum turned 70. I was able to fly home to spend the day with her, as a surprise. To be with her, just enough extravagance to make the day feel special, without going overboard: that was the best gift to give. I was home for Christmas, too, and have been back on two other occasions, both for birthdays as it happens, in this first year living in Canberra. I’ve had two visits from family members as well. Presence. I was able to put more money towards gifts this Christmas than I have for the past three or four combined; but it’s the being present that is even more valuable than the quality gifts. Presence. Family. Love. I learn over and over how profound are these gifts. Hold them close.

January 2018 ushered in a new decade, a new season of life.
This seaso…

Christmas musing. So, this is Christmas. What next?

This is my Christmas Eve reflection for the joint worship of Wesley Uniting Church and Canberra Baptist Church. 

The Shepherd’s Story 
In that region,
shepherds lived,
watching over flocks
in fields.

On that night,
in those fields,
an angel standing
startled shepherds.

The angel spoke,
to calm their fear
with good news
of great joy for all.

A baby born
in David’s town,
your long awaited hope
he is: Messiah! See!

Go find the child,
wrapped up tight,
lying in a manger.

A multitude - a
sudden multitude
of singing, praising,
angels - Glory be
to Holy One, and peace
be known on earth.

A silence - a sudden,
still and shocking
silence fell
among the shepherds.

Then urgency, we
must go - now -
to Bethlehem, to find
this hope, this child.

On that night
shepherds left
their fields, their
flocks, and flew
into town in a flurry -

then fell to silence,
once again,
at the foot
of a newborn’s bed.

Mary heard,
Joseph heard,
everyone awake
heard the shepherd’s tale.

Angels and singing,
shock and running,
silence and awe and wonder.

Mary took the sh…

Monday Musing. On wondrous love.

Mary and Joseph, inspired by love. My reflection from worship at Wesley Uniting Church, Canberra, Advent 4. 

Mary’s Song: Holy Is
My soul sings in wonder,
with awe for Holy One.
My soul sings with joy, sings
the hope I know in God.

Holy One saw me and chose me -
see this gift, this blessing,
and sing with me in awe, for
Divine mysterious grace.

Holy is the Sacred Name,
great and worthy of praise.
Mercy flows from Holy one,
ever and ever unending.

Strength is in Holy One,
to scatter the proud of heart.
Just is Holy One to remember
the forgotten, downtrodden.

Kind is Holy One, to feed
the hungry delight upon delight.
Holy One remembers the people
made holy by the Sacred Name.

Mercy flows from Holy One,
a promise made of old;
mercy flows for Abraham’s family,
for Sarah’s kin in the Divine.

[Sarah Agnew, from Pray the Story]

My soul sings in wonder, with joy, sings the hope I know in God.

Mary’s response to this unexpected, disruptive, shame-bringing and untimely pregnancy is praise. Is jo…

Midweek Musing. On comfort and joy: tidings for whom?

God rest you, merry, gentlemen.  Ever looked past the patriarchal assumption and seen the grammar?  I hadn't, until I started to write new words to a tune I quite like. 

God rest you - rest as a verb, meaning keep. God keep you, or perhaps, God comfort you?  There is an argument for 'merry' as meaning 'mighty', but in today's terms, we would hear, 'joy', I think. God keep you joyful.   And thus the refrain: tidings (a message) of comfort and joy. 
And this hope or prayer for comfort and joy for 'you' or 'us' is an underlying message of many a Christmas carol. But I started to wonder, is the message of reassurance for 'us' - and my 'us' is a predominantly already comfortable, materially speaking, and in many other ways as well, community. Do I want to preach comfort to the already comfortable? Is there not a risk of inviting complacency if I do that?  Is the story of Jesus, of God born into humanity, not about presence wit…

Midweek Musing. Preparing for peace.

This week we celebrated the second week of Advent and its call towards peace. We heard from the gospel of Luke Jesus' cousin John calling to the people to prepare. We heard Paul's prayer for peace for his friends in Philippi. And I mused on the notion that we are none of us at peace until we are all at peace.

Emma Lazarus, 19th century American poet, most famous for the lines of her sonnet which appear on the Statue of Liberty, wrote on another occasion, these words to her fellow Jews – ‘we have not sufficient solidarity to perceive that when the life and property of a Jew in the uttermost provinces of the Caucasus are attacked, the dignity of a Jew in free America is humiliated. Until we are all free, we are none of us free.’

Today, this Advent 2 when we are invited to consider the theme of peace, I want to think about freedom in terms of peace; that living liberated is living in, with, at, peace. So that we might say, Until we all know peace, we none of us know peace.

Beyond t…