ISM Poetry Conference | ‘any-angled light’: Poetry and the Mission of Your Church

May 16 - 18, 2017

Jürgen Moltmann once described the mission of the church as “the invitation to God’s future.” It is the task of the church to imagine and re-imagine possibilities as they emerge from the bountiful vision of the gospel, expressing that calling through an array of practices that serve communities of faith and the common good of those around them. How does poetry, we ask, equip us to pursue such a mission in the world?

Our main title for this year’s conference borrows an image from Philip Larkin’s enigmatic poem “Water.” Although its speaker proposes the construction of a personal religion, he ends by imagining a raised glass of water “Where any-angled light/ Would congregate endlessly.” The image of a liquid prism, which receives, refracts, and harmonizes light, seems a fitting metaphor for the multifaceted mission of the church, as well as the work that poetry does.

Itself a kind of prism, poetry has a unique ability to capture and convey the ordinary as well as the extraordinary and sublime. As T.S. Eliot averred, the great poet has both a firm grasp of our familiar realities and is “an explorer beyond the frontiers of ordinary consciousness,” who may “capture those feelings which people can hardly even feel because they have no words for them.” We can think of no more powerful vehicle to enable and equip the church for the many challenges it faces today—to endow those who would insistently and creatively ‘invite others into God’s future.’

Designed for church leaders and laypeople alike, this two-day conference will feature inspiration and practical guidance in the many uses of poetry in our worship, our preaching and teaching, our witness, and our service and work in the world. We will draw upon the rich heritage of poetry from the Psalms and the Prophets, to the poetry of the ancient church and Middle Ages, to Hopkins and the many fine poets of our own age. Our plenary sessions, which feature two of America’s finest poets, our workshops, our worship, and our first ever poetry slam will help us to think poetry, integrate poetry, and even speak poetry to one another as we consider our calling in this age.  


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Hotel and Travel Information

Information regarding schedule is forthcoming.