The Interfaith Contact Group

The Brighton & Hove Interfaith Contact Group


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The Magic and Power of Words that Reveal Light

July 29, 2020

It is said that poetry and prayer are closely connected, and these readings reflect this idea. Our opening reading was a prayer written during lockdown; it is dedicated to those that confront conflict. It was featured at the end of our documentary film, Light in the Lockdown. Staying with the theme of light, this week we explore the beauty of poetry that illuminates us, describes light or recalls it.

The second reading is by Peter Crowther, a British poet and novelist. The third reading is a magnificent poem simply called The Sun, by Mary Oliver. Where Shadow Chases Light is by the great Bengali poet and Nobel prize winner Rabindranath Tagore. This work has a dreamy simplicity, and ends sweetly on a note of hope and optimism.

Stay safe, stay well and thank you for your attention,

Chair IFCG


We stepped into the gloom
And met lockdown
The ghost of COVID separated us
Imposing self-isolation
Making us all prisoners behind windows
Gazing at empty streets

That gloom has cast its shadow before
In times of plague, war and brutality
In times of desolation
(And it must be said)
That as night stretched out before us
We also found ourselves
At the gates of despair.

But as we peered through the dark
We were able to make out the shapes of light bearers
Black, white, female and male
Brave, kind and compassionate, young and old,
We saw them striding past the fear of others
Haunting the corridors of hospitals
Working in food banks, homes and places of worship
Holding the hand of death

And now we must admit
Darkness is always there
It must be
And it can be challenged
And though we’ve known fear and loneliness
And have witnessed sadness
We can also see the light
We can recognise the stars… those angels
Those bearers of hope and love
The living spirits that have brought light to the lockdown.


Pete Crowther

From my cottage kitchen window I can see
Two fields away the blue, the shining sea
And ships that slowly glide to far-off shores
Each one a separate world with its own laws;

They pass beyond my window and are gone.
When morning comes that miracle, the sun
Lifts slowly from the sea, a sacrament
Of grace and glory, or enlightenment.

My cottage truly is a house of light:
By night shines Sirius, cold and bright
And in the afternoon our living room
Seems more like a sunny meadow in mid-June.

From it we see the sun prepare to slumber
Wrapped in the gleaming waters of the Humber
While to the south another lighthouse shines—
Peace be to Spurn* and you who read these lines.

*Spurn is a narrow sand tidal island, located off the tip of the coast of the East Riding of Yorkshire



Mary Oliver

Have you ever seen
in your life
more wonderful

than the way the sun,
every evening,
relaxed and easy,
floats toward the horizon

and into the clouds or the hills,
or the rumpled sea,
and is gone–
and how it slides again

out of the blackness,
every morning,
on the other side of the world,
like a red flower

streaming upward on its heavenly oils,
say, on a morning in early summer,
at its perfect imperial distance–
and have you ever felt for anything

such wild love–
do you think there is anywhere, in any language,
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure

that fills you,
as the sun
reaches out,
as it warms you

as you stand there,
or have you too
turned from this world—

or have you too
gone crazy
for power,
for things?


Rabindranath Tagore

This is my delight,
thus to wait and watch at the wayside
where shadow chases light
and the rain comes in the wake of the summer.

Messengers, with tidings from unknown skies,
greet me and speed along the road.
My heart is glad within,
and the breath of the passing breeze is sweet.

From dawn till dusk I sit here before my door,
and I know that of a sudden
the happy moment will arrive when I shall see.

In the meanwhile I smile and I sing all alone.
In the meanwhile the air is filling with the perfume of promise.