December – Reflecting on the incarnation

Ruth Hobson is a poet whose work is inspired both by her faith and by concern for our broken and fractured world. This poem, from her new collection Starwise, brings together many of the images associated with Christmas traditions. But it also delves a little deeper, becoming at the same time mysterious and relevant to our contemporary lives. The boat of legend is compared to the vessel that brought the Magi to Bethlehem, to the solemnity of church hierarchies and symbols, and then to the empty tomb. So the death and resurrection of the Christmas babe are already hinted at.

Then we are shown those for whom He came, those He loves the most: the homeless, the outcast, the suffering and the refugee. And we are reminded of our own call to follow.

We are grateful to Ruth Hobson, and to her publisher Palewell Press, for allowing us to feature this poem. To find our more, or to order a copy of the booklet, go to


Some say the boat had silver wings
and a single silver oar
without a sound, circling around
and never came ashore.

Some say there were three, with crimson sails
and a king in every stern –
each gold crown gleamed and they sometimes seemed
to go and then return.

Some say the boat was draped in purple
weighed down with graven stones
and the priestly caste, before the mast
sat stiffly on gilded thrones.

Some say the boat was empty,
half-sunk and bound to fail
but wood and nails and white raised sails
told another tale.

An old woman stood up in the market
‘Stand round and listen to me!
The boat of your tales with tattered sails
is coming towards the quay.

The mother who crouches in the prow
is poor and dispossessed –
with sleepless eyes she calms the cries
of the baby at her breast.

Throw out rough ropes for outstretched hands
and bring them safe to shore
let their feet mark, as they disembark
a pathway to your door.

The place where we meet the homeless stranger
and the place where the lost are found
the place of our toil on familiar soil
tonight becomes holy ground.’

October – ‘Now hell is here’: Poetry as a response to current events

The Reverend Dr Andrew Pratt is well-known for his hymns, but he also paints, takes beautiful photographs and writes poetry. Much of his work is reactive, responding to news items that are often shocking. This poem, written after the terrible events in Israel and Gaza, gives words at a time when we may be finding them hard. It could be used as an introduction to lament or intercessory prayer, or for focusing our own thoughts at a time of international crisis.

Now hell is here, and words are cheap,

a bloodied sheet, a shattered bed…
as women, men and children weep,
while prayer is silent, felt not said.


With seeds of vengeance sown not sought,
while roots in hearts of flesh, not stone,
bring carnage traced with quiet thought
as guilt will fester none will own.


And distantly, in muffled sighs,
of deep regret and dark despair
we wring our hands and harbour lies,
dare not admit the blame we share.


© Andrew Pratt 17/10/2023
We are grateful to Dr Pratt for giving us permission to publish this poem on our website. You can
find more of his work on his blog:

September – Celebrating the season

It is that time of year when the leaves change colour and many churches (even urban ones) hold harvest festivals. John Keats’s great poem revels in the sights, sounds and scents of autumn, and encourages its readers to do the same. He moves us from the voluptuous days of late summer, through the richness of harvest to the melancholy season of rapidly shortening days and coming cold. And he urges us to rejoice in all of it. The poem is filled with a love of life, even as it hints at an awareness of mortality. Barely a year after writing it, he was dead.


Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.


August – Emily Brontë: No Coward Soul is Mine

Although best remembered for her novel Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë was a passionate poet. Although much of her work was destroyed some pieces were saved by her sisters and published in a slim volume. This poem tells of faith in an all-powerful, everlasting, and ultimately loving God who cannot be imagined by mere mortals. Our religious language and structures pale into insignificance beside the eternal, infinite reality. So indeed does what we, in this temporal world, understand as death.


No coward soul is mine
No trembler in the world’s storm-troubled sphere
I see Heaven’s glories shine
And Faith shines equal arming me from Fear


O God within my breast
Almighty ever-present Deity
Life, that in me hast rest,
As I Undying Life, have power in Thee


Vain are the thousand creeds
That move men’s hearts, unutterably vain,
Worthless as withered weeds
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main


To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by thy infinity,
So surely anchored on
The steadfast rock of Immortality.


With wide-embracing love
Thy spirit animates eternal years
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates and rears


Though earth and moon were gone
And suns and universes ceased to be
And Thou wert left alone
Every Existence would exist in thee


There is not room for Death
Nor atom that his might could render void
Since thou art Being and Breath
And what thou art may never be destroyed.

Vacancies at the Central Readers’ Council

Secretary to the CRC
Andrew Walker, our Secretary, will be retiring in the late autumn. The Board is looking for someone to replace him in this responsible and stimulating post. Salary: £15,000 p.a. for a 17.5 hour week. Expressions of interest, and requests for further information should be sent to You can also contact Andrew or Imogen Clout (Chair) to arrange an informal chat.

Website Editor and Communications Officer
CRC is looking for a freelance editor to manage the website and create electronic communications with members. We envisage the post taking a day a week. Applicants should be able to edit in WordPress. Expressions of interest and requests for an information pack to

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