Unchurched

Unchurched—I love this word!
It makes me feel like a vacant lot,
a sanctuary for knotweed & loosestrife.

*

We unchurched are like salamanders:
slippery, amphibious, choosing to dwell
where you only go for baptism.

*

I called an owl & she answered.
It was Greek to me, but she flew right in
& clacked her bill threateningly.

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15 Comments


  1. The owl. Is she a mysterious un-angel in an un-church? Churched or not, it’s impossible to make real sense of things, and be frightened either way?

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  2. How much this feels like Emily Dickinson.

    I love this poem.

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    1. Thanks. Yeah, there’s no doubt that when the word “unchurched” bubbled up to the surface of my consciousness yesterday morning, its suitablity as poetic material was influenced by my reading of “Some keep the Sabbath going to Church” a few days before.

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  3. I love the truthiness of that first line! :-)

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    1. Personally, I really do like the word, but I realize that readers who don’t will read irony or sarcasm into that.

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  4. I love

    a sanctuary for knotweed & loosestrife

    and the way the second stanza suggests that the unchurched dwell in connection / communion in a way that we “churched” folk rarely manage.

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    1. Thanks. I doubt that’s universally true, but it seemed O.K. to suggest that it could be, given the implication of the term “unchurched” that we are somehow deficient.

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  5. I love this poem. I love this word! On first glance, The world unchurched sounded to me almost like a medieval pejorative against unbelievers. Sort of akin to unwashed. Or maybe it was a punishment. A banishment. “You are now unchurched!!” Then it started me thinking. It could do double duty. There seems to be no word for people who have been ‘churched’ since babyhood, and decided in adulthood (or early kidhood) that they do not believe anymore. Yeah, I know. Anti-theist..Atheist, Agnostic…but non of those presuppose that the person has been through the church, and finally emerged if not totally unscathed at least elightened. In this context, unchurched doesn’t mean you have never been, but that you have been there, done that and are now deprogrammed and free at last.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Joan. I love your Medieval associations! As for a modern label for those who’ve broken the church-going habit, I’m thinking maybe disenchurched would be more descriptive.

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  6. Heh…Maybe you are right..but it sounds a little too much like disinterred for me to warm to it. :) The possibilities with this are endless. If you regained your faith would you be rechurched or re-enchurched or….
    At any rate…great poem. And it gives me a whole new warm cuddly feeling about water.

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  7. I love this. I looked up “unchurched” and was disappointed in the poverty of its definition on line. I’ve always thought of unchurched as having a meaning similar to unschooled, but in the most positive way, as a person who seeks knowledge or spiritual wisdom outside of the usual conventions and therefore is primarily an independent thinker. Your poem seems to share this view.

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    1. Yeah, I guess the dictionary definition would be simply one who doesn’t go to church, though it implies that one could if one wanted — i.e. one is at least of Christian heritage. I’d assumed it was of quite recent coinage, but Merriam-Webster claims its first recorded use is from the mid 17th century!

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  8. This little poem is so packed with images that it’s like a trailer running on loop in my head for a film I want to see. And it’s packed with flavour, so it also feels like a little stock cube, intense, peaty and fragrant. It makes me smile.

    I’ve never had an owl clack her beak at me, though I’ve had one fan my face with his wings.

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  9. intense, peaty and fragrant
    Damn, I need to use that quote on the back of my next book! Glad you liked the poem.

    I don’t know which other species do the bill clacking, but it’s very characteristic of screech owl threat displays. There are invariably youngsters nearby when they do that.

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