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

Lenten Reflection 4

Good Friday Reflection. Canberra Central Uniting Church. 19 April 2019.

Here hangs a man discarded,
a scarecrow hoisted high,
a nonsense pointing nowhere
to all who hurry – [*]

and don’t we, hurry right on past this death, all death if we can? Of course, for loss is painful, grief hurts, and that’s only the death of someone else. Don’t confront me with my own. Don’t remind me my death is an inevitable, integral part of my living.

I so appreciate the deliberate, careful, honest slowing down we do here at Wesley this week. We don’t skip from Palm Sunday celebration to Easter Day celebration. Oh, no, in this community, we enter the journey Jesus takes, and pay attention to it, as his journey towards death.

For the journey to resurrection begins after that, is a distinct journey, and is one that Jesus takes in secret, just between him and the Holy, or between the Holy Three themselves.

Holy Week is not a journey towards resurrection. Holy Week is the journey towards death.

We took that so s…

Diary of a Chronically Exhausted Vicar / Lent Reflection 3

Two Lent reflections in one week, after three weeks of not writing the reflections I had intended, when Lent began. Such is Lenten practice with Chronic Exhaustion.

Yesterday I wrote about the first reason for the interruption to the intended series of reflections: the aches and fatigue set in, and I had to slow right down.

Today, the second reason: the energy returned and the aches diminished.

Sounds a strange reason not to return to the intended practices of Lent, perhaps. Stay with me.

You see, that’s almost the more challenging part of life with chronic exhaustion, the times you feel OK. That’s when you have to be more careful with how you spend your energy, because the temptation is to use it. It might have been days, or weeks, or longer, since you felt able to walk straight and freely, to think clearly, imagine wildly: and like a person who hasn’t eaten for a long time, you want to gobble it all up at once. And that will make you ill.

What you want, need, to do, actually, is to …

Diary of a Chronically Exhausted Vicar / Lent Reflection 2

Back in March, I had this idea that I would write a Lent reflection each week of the season. However, here we are, closing out week 5, and this is only the second of such reflections. There are two reasons for that, both to do with the Chronic Exhaustion. To avoid an overly long post (and to catch up another of the ‘missing’ posts, perhaps), I’ll explore one today, and one tomorrow.

In the first of the Lent reflections, I wrote about the book with which I intended to engage through the season, a book of daily stories on Holy Solitude. I have hardly opened the book since.

For such intentional meditation for which I was to employ that book, I have set a corner in my bedroom with a pouffe and cushions, my old iPad for music, a bible, a book of psalms, colouring books and pencils. To sit on that pouffe, I must engage my core muscles for a straight back, engage my legs and arms for balance. It’s not meant to be comfy, it’s meant to be exercise: meditation that exercises my whole person, fo…

Implicated along with the lost son

A Lenten Reflection for Wesley Uniting Church : Lent 4, 31 March 2019

Lament of the Lost Son Luke 15:11–32 and Psalm 32. Lent 4.
would I be happy,
this rejection of you

would I be happy,
telling you the truth
of all the wrong I’ve done?

I have kept such silence,
have stayed far from you,
and I am wasting away;

my stomach makes my moaning,
for my voice fails me,
my strength fails me,
I have failed me, and you, and God.

would I be happy
if I came home
to you?

could I be happy,
bearing the shame,
all my losses, to you?

I abandoned Wisdom,
though you would teach me;
I discarded the principles,
the respect you sought to instill;

I have nothing left, now, but
regret, and can I let that go?

can I stand, the memory
of your strength to sure me up
in my weakness?

can I walk toward you,
the memory of love enough
to guide my way?

can I hope to be happy,
bringing my shame home
to you?

can I hope to know peace,
falling at your feet?
can the memory of y…

Love is stronger than fear.

Lent 2 sermon for Wesley Uniting Church, Canberra.

Luke 13:31–35 
(Philippians 3:17–4:1; Psalm 27; Genesis 15:10–18) 
I have a confession to make.

I have not been able to bring myself to watch the documentary that tells two boys’ stories of abuse from Michael Jackson. I suppose I don’t want to see; I suppose I am not prepared to pay the cost. That cost will be a loss of cultural heritage, because how can I listen to his music again, when I accept the reality. To be honest, there were other things I found unlikeable about Michael Jackson, but this I know I will not be able to overlook. There is a loss in the being betrayed or at least let down by someone I admired, if only for his music.

But in this refusal to see him in this light, I am also refusing to see those two boys, those men.

Goodness it’s been a full and complex week or two, has it not.

Journalist Louise Milligan spoke on channel 10’s The Project this week (video here), and having written a book and spent time with one of…

Holy Solitude: Lent Reflections 1

Holy Solitude. That’s the name of a book I got to inspire my reflection this Lenten season. (Holy Solitude, Heidi Haverkamp) With characters from biblical stories and from the history of religious practice, I am invited to enter the wilderness to be alone with God.

Participants in this book’s practices are encouraged to ‘decorate’ the house, as one would for the season of Advent or Christmas. In some ways it is more ‘un-decorating’, as the author suggests removing candles, for example.

I have been slow to enter the process and the practice, but as this first week has unfolded, I have read stories of Hagar and been reminded that she entered the wilderness, cast out of Sarah’s house not once, but twice; and of Paul, contemplating his withdrawal from a quite extroverted way of living for three days of literal darkness and introspection.

I have turned off the timer on my string of lanterns, which usually shine for half an hour around breakfast time, and for a couple of hours in the evenin…

Diary of a chronically exhausted vicar. Episode 22.

Pain. So much pain. Have I run a marathon? Been hit by a bus? No. I have chronic exhaustion, or my doctor calls it fibromyalgia, and it’s flared up. Again.

First, I can’t tell you how important it is that when I sit in my GP’s room, slumped, slow, sleepy, she sees all that and names it. You look exhausted. Is the fibromyalgia flaring up again? 

Seen. Named. Affirmed. It is not ‘in my head’, some figment of imagination or hypochondria. I have a chronic illness, and it is perfectly legitimate that I feel the way I feel.

Then she did the doctor thing of holding her patient to account. No full day off in weeks? That won’t be helping. 

We talked about the importance of those 36 straight hours I get every week, in which I rest and switch off the otherwise constant attention given to my ‘work’, my congregation. And in recent weeks, I have not had that. There has been a funeral to arrange; there has been an important phone-in board meeting; earlier in the month, there was a drive to Sydney to…