The Interfaith Contact Group

The Brighton & Hove Interfaith Contact Group


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Irony, Hope and Words and Whispers of Good News

November 4, 2020

The news that we will return to total lockdown has been greeted in many ways — acceptance, approval, despair, disbelief and sorrow to name but a few. So perhaps the mood of the moment needs to be hope, faith and a smidgeon of optimism.


Words of Connection was set up to bring a spiritual link between all of us as we find ourselves shut away, day after day. But it’s our members and friends that prove that despite isolation, we can stay positive. Our first reading today is a poem from Meg Culshaw. She wrote saying “My great-niece, who is studying literature at university sent me a poem which said ’Not all who wander are lost.’ This was my reply.”  Thank you Meg for the poem, which begins “Do you wonder when you wander…” This is followed by a tongue in cheek prayer by a Jesuit priest… about his mask. We follow this with a poem that seemed just right for the moment – it’s by the great Vietnamese priest Thich Nhat Hanh, and it’s called The Good News. One line of this poem says “hugging is possible,” which may cause a little sadness right now, but it’s also true to say that one day, hugging will be possible again. We close with two wonderful readings from the book entitled Earth Prayers. The first is an astonishing “earth” version of the Latin prayer – Anima Christi – adapted by Jane Pellowski. The second is A Sabbath Poem by Alla Renee Bozarth.

Please stay well, keep strong in every sense, and enjoy Words of Connection. We are connected in many ways, and this is one way that we prove it.

Very best wishes,

Chair IFCG


Meg Culshaw


Do you wonder when you wander,
When to greet when you meet (no nearer than six feet)?
With waves
And smiling eyes above you mask?

And do you dash and not meander
Down supermarket aisles to home
There to roam in your imagination and wander
In wonderment midst books and
Poetry?  Locked down
But somehow free.
I know you keep in touch,
By elbow, phone and screen
With friends and family who mean
So much.

Oh, 2020 what a year!
But with VISION – 2020 –
There’s an antidote to fear.


Fr. Edward Schmidt SJ

Holy God, you see me and you hear me.
Through my mask, you see if I smile or if I scowl.
Through my mask, you hear me if I whisper a brief prayer or mutter a muffled curse.
My friends don’t see or hear or know; nor do my family; nor my colleagues.

But you do.

This mask takes away power – the power of clear communication but also the possibility to infect. But it also grants a freedom to be with.
My smiles, my thoughts, my mumbles, though – these I know, but they are a greater mystery to others now.

But not to you, Lord. You see past my mask, you hear through it, you know.

But your mask, Lord, what about your mask? Who can see through your mask? Hear through it?
I cannot.
I cannot see if you smile or if you scowl.
I cannot hear if you whisper an answer to my prayer or brush off my curse.
I cannot sense if you are pleased with me or if you are waiting for me to do much better.

Can we all take off our masks, Lord? Put them away?

When the disease that moves us to mask our faces for safety fades away, will our eyes and our ears be stronger, better able to see and to hear the smiles and the frowns, the cries and the whispers of those who fill our lives? Who make our lives worth living?

Will we see, Lord, that what we think of as your mask is really also our own, our inability to find you in the rush of our lives, our failure to see you in all the wonders you show us, our incapacity to hear your gentle voice in the tumult that surrounds us.

Can we know, Lord, that we put on many masks so we can cope, avoid, pretend, be acceptable? (What scar did the Phantom’s mask hide? “Who was that masked man?”)

Help us, Lord, to move beyond our masks. You are here for us to see and to hear. Help us. Let us take off our masks.


Thich Nhat Hanh


They don’t publish
the good news.
The good news is published
by us.
We have a special edition every moment,
and we need you to read it.
The good news is that you are alive,
and the linden tree is still there,
standing firm in the harsh winter.
The good news is that you have wonderful eyes
to touch the blue sky.
The good news is that your child is there before you,
and your arms are available:
hugging is possible.
They only print what is wrong.
Look at each of our special editions.
We always offer the things that are not wrong.
We want you to benefit from them
and help protect them.
The dandelion is there by the sidewalk,
smiling its wondrous smile,
singing the song of eternity.
Listen! You have ears that can hear it.
Bow your head.
Listen to it.
Leave behind the world of sorrow
and preoccupation
and get free.
The latest good news
is that you can do it.




Earth Prayer
(Adapted by Jane Pellowski from Anima Christi)


Soul of Earth, sanctify me.
Body of Earth, save me.
Blood of Earth, fill me with love.
Water from Earth’s side, wash me.
Passion of Earth, strengthen me
Resurrection of Earth, empower me.
Good Earth, hear me.
Within your wounds, hide me.
Never let me be separated from you.
From the power of evil, protect me.
At the hour of my death, call me.
That with your living ones I may thank you
For all eternity.


A Sabbath Poem

The Small Plot of Ground 
Alla Renee Bozarth

The small plot of ground
on which you were born
cannot be expected

to stay forever
the same.
Earth changes,
and home becomes different

You took flesh
from clay
but the clay
did not come
from just one

To feel alive,
important, and safe,
know your own waters
and hills, but know

You have stars in your bones
and oceans
in blood.

You have opposing
terrain in each eye
you belong to the land
and sky of your first cry,
you belong to infinity.