Call to Prayer & Action for Ukraine: See here for periodically updated information, prayers, liturgy, and action points.


Issue 05

Journey towards Easter In Song, Silence and Poetry

Terry Brauer

Terry Brauer is a dyed-in-the-wool Anglican who has worshipped at St Francis of Assisi, Pretoria (SA) for 65 years. She loves music, poetry and spirituality and is venturing into a more contemplative journey.

I know in my “knower” that I ought to be able to find my centre, that is God within me, wherever I might find myself, but sadly I am someone who needs to move away from the myriad distractions which tend to overwhelm me. The advent of mobile phones and other technology has been, paradoxically, a blessing and a curse especially for one who is apt to go down a rabbit hole whilst scrolling.

Part of evangelical spirituality has included encouraging us to talk to God (almost as we would to a friend) as our primary method of communication as God is fully accessible to us. The Americans have a word that, for me, illustrates so well our tendency to talk at God, and that is “yammer.” Whilst this is certainly of merit, it has led to very little room, in my experience, for learning the habit of listening.

Stillness is not the mode of our Western “operating system,” though we are certainly moving that way through the cosmic consciousness that is having a real impact on new ways of exploring our spirituality (albeit that many of these ways hark back to the ancient practices!).

Photograph and collage by Terry Brauer

About eight years ago I was introduced to the contemplative practices and what a difference these have made to quieting my mind and allowing me to listen with the heart. Although I had been familiar with retreats over many years, I have recently been attending ones which focus on creative aspects like movement, art, music and poetry as a means to exploring God more deeply.

I love writing and poetry and see myself as a “wordsmith” (though with not much self-belief in this area). One of the benefits of our long lockdown was that it allowed me space, daily, to go inwards as a refuge from my previously frenetic pace of never allowing still time. I began a lockdown diary over 170 days and poetry began to flow as well as sharing my mind’s meandering. I discovered the gems of Jan Richardson and began to sit lightly with Mary Oliver’s poetry.

So, when I was invited to this most recent retreat titled “Eastertide music and poetry as prayer,” my heart stirred. The setting for these retreats has been an old stone church set in tranquil South African foliage and even the flowers in the garden led me immediately to the Lenten and Easter symbolism of purple and gold. The initial poem contained an image of a volcano gently erupting with God’s love and this has stayed with me throughout my Lenten journey.

The second session immersed us in the organ playing “O Sacred Head Surrounded” accompanying a note-perfect, sonorous alto voice. As I sat in the chapel, the stained-glass window throwing light and shadow on a very chilly day, the heaviness and sadness of this piece was palpable as I was overcome with the fact that even God at the point of crucifixion could not overcome human suffering. As verse two was sung, I began weeping as my mother’s recent death was before me as if I were in her room as I heard the words :

     Thy comeliness and vigour

     is withered up and gone,

     and in thy wasted figure

     I see death drawing on.

Crown of Thorns, Museum Leuven, Belgium

I saw Jesus’ life force ebbing away in the image of my mother’s slipping slowly from this life. The last part of my sorrow was further explored in Hopkins’s poem “I wake and feel the fell of dark not day.”

The creativity released in this kind of retreat has become a stimulating and enticing entry point for me into other levels of experiencing God using all my senses and allowing it to sink from my head deeply into my heart.

Pierced by Pain

Terry Brauer

     Surrounded by purple

     Proudly erect salvia

     The velvet drapes over the altar

     Sonorous dulcet organ tones

     And alto melody

     Stirring the depths of soul and


     The piercing thorns

     Pierce my heart

     Pent up pain pours from the pierced


     Mine and His.

     Tears for losses

     My family

     My country

     The world

     Scars across our beloved land


     Scarified Ukraine

     Scars of humanity’s greed, hunger

          for power, hatred

     Like a river of blood

     From the pierced side

     BUT the thorns and nails do not

          overcome –

     Love erupts within the ashes.

Jacek Andrzej Rossakiewicz, Crucifixion