Poetry- YouLead

The workshop-

A friend and colleague, Tau’alofa Anga’aelangi and I were asked to put together a one hour online workshop for youth leaders with varying levels of interest and experience with poetry, either to be performed in Church, or the wider community.  ‘lofa writes mostly for church, and focuses on the written word, I write mostly for the public, and with performance in mind- as much performance as a male middle age Anglo Saxon can manage anyway!

The blurb was: 

Can you use the C word in Church?  What about if it’s in a poem? Can a poem ever be a sermon, and does it matter if it isn’t? Who decides? Unleash the poet within you in this provocative, permission giving workshop with Tau’alofa Anga’aelangi and Jason John, two Deacons exploring the intersection of poetry, preaching and prophetic advocacy.

Follow-up links for workshop participants will be added between now and August 10th or so.

Some of the questions that came up, or that we anticipated:

What is appropriate for audience and setting? Do you write for an audience or just share what comes to you- how personal?

Is “performance” appropriate in church?  

How important is delivery?  Eg the David and Bathsheeba song.

The prophets were ‘performers’ and the psalmists use extreme language, what does that mean for us?

What is the role of a poem (or any unexpected form) in worship?

What is a sermon?  Do you need a sermon? What is the gospel?

Does the sermon/reflection have to address everything (tick all the boxes all the time?)

How do you delight outsiders without offending insiders (too much)?

Is art/poetry more about questions, and can we handle open questions in worship?

Examples- Lofa and Jason

Fonua. Connection. Reciprocity.

Lofa contributed a reflection and poem to Common Grace for the 2019 Season of Creation.  Common Grace is a Christian, justice focused organisation.

You knew me, before You formed me in my mother’s Fonua,

Through the pito, You, nurtured and nourished me, with all that sprouts from the fonua, it was I,

I who didn’t realise…


This is the poem from the workshop, don’t watch it beforehand unless you are the kind of person who likes to watch the end of the movie first.  Where is the line in mixing faith and politics between relevance and offence?

I’m not a racist, but…

This is one of the few of mine that has nothing explicitly Christian in it.  Not deliberately, it just came out that way.  A farcical look at the serious problem of race-baiting, which serves the powerful in our society.

Secret Sacred Stories

How as a minister do I share enough of my story to encourage other people to tell theirs, especially about something as sensitive as sex and relationships?  Reactions to this one are likely to be polarised.  What potentially polarising poems are you willing to pen and perform?  How much of yourself do you reveal, and what level of risk are you willing to endure?  How do you we deal with the fact that our story is always at least partly someone else’s, who might not want it told?


This poem I wrote for church, as much for the people who get dragged along on Easter as for the regulars.  This is the COVID version. 

Examples- from others

Australian Poetry Slam.

Check out the finalists from various years on their youtube channel.

Joel McKerrow

An Australian Christian poet like Lofa and me. But famous!  Here’s his youtube channel.

Other resources

Go to a writing workshop, or even enter the Australian Poetry Slam by clicking on the 2020 heats tab.

Live near Parramatta?  Check out the very friendly bunch at Westside poetry.  They are also hosting the APS heat on Aug 19.

Chase up one of Sarah Temporal’s writing workshops- next one Aug 16th

She also has a list of open mics– even though they are from face:face events, the links will take you to their new online details. 

Schedule an Event


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