Church of England Diocese of Exeter Topsham


This week the Reflections are based on Amanda Gorman’s reading at Joe Biden’s swearing-in. 

Amanda the 22-year-old poet who wowed the crowd.

I am selecting passages or sentences to base our reflections on for this week and you might like to print off Amanda’s reading and read through it every day. You will see references to scripture in many places and I will pick up on some of these. These reflections developed through conversations with a friend so each Reflection brings together a collage of ideas.

Amanda read this- or view her reading on YouTube Click Here

When day comes, we ask ourselves where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry, a sea we must wade.
We’ve braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace,
and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.
And yet, the dawn is ours before we knew it.
Somehow we do it.
Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken,
but simply unfinished.
We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.

And yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine,
but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.
We are striving to forge our union with purpose.
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters, and conditions of man.
And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.
We close the divide because we know, to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.
We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.
We seek harm to none and harmony for all.
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:
That even as we grieved, we grew.
That even as we hurt, we hoped.
That even as we tired, we tried.
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.
Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.

Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid.
If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.
That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.
It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it.
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
This effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed,
it can never be permanently defeated.
In this truth, in this faith, we trust,
for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.
This is the era of just redemption.
We feared it at its inception.
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour,
but within it, we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.
So while once we asked, ‘How could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?’ now we assert, ‘How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?’

We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be:
A country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.
We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation.
Our blunders become their burdens.
But one thing is certain:
If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change, our children’s birthright.

So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.
With every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.
We will rise from the golden hills of the west.
We will rise from the wind-swept north-east where our forefathers first realized revolution.
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states.
We will rise from the sun-baked south.
We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.
In every known nook of our nation, in every corner called our country,
our people, diverse and beautiful, will emerge, battered and beautiful.
When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid.
The new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.

Amanda Gorman

Tuesday 20th April

We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.

"In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams." Acts 2:17

Amanda dreamt of being President of the United States, and who knows what the future might hold but instead she is reading at the inauguration.

We too might aim for a particular job or a goal for later in life but sometimes it is not what we want that happens and looking back on life we are able to say what transpires was what we needed at that time. One door closes another one opens, and it might be a step on the road to our original vision. God does have ways of nudging us but we need to be open and accepting of change in our plans.

John Henry Cardinal Newman wrote: God has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. God does nothing in vain. God knows what he is about.

A Quaker proverb runs:

I shall pass through this world but once! Any good thing therefore that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.

The first disciples had a habit of saying, ‘It seemed good to us and the Holy Spirit’.

Is there a person to be contacted or a task that I am being prompted to undertake?

Tony Raven

Monday 19th April

The loss we carry, a sea we must wade.
We’ve braved the belly of the beast.

The thought that comes immediately to mind is of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea and of course Jonah and the Whale.

Loss comes in many ways. Grief is not just associated with death, but might be the loss of a job, the loss of a precious object, the loss of sight or hearing, and indeed we have to wade through, metaphorically a sea or even mud. As Christians we are not guaranteed an easy ride but what we do have is hope, the light at the end of the tunnel – the Christ light held before us.

Jonah was not at all happy about being asked to go to Nineveh and preach against the people there especially as they were people with terrible sins. How often do we feel we should go somewhere but don’t relish the idea of sticking our head in the lion’s den, maybe we are asked by our boss to undertake a job which we are not really up for, so we put it off. Then when he or she asks after the mission we have to say I haven’t done it yet. Jonah was like that. His escape from the task was to find a ship going in the opposite direction but God in the story, had other ideas. Read through the story of Jonah.

Take a few moments of quiet to reflect on your times of wading through a sea or indeed mud and then times when you too have put off doing something you would rather not undertake.

Jesus compared Jonah’s three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish with his own three days and three nights in the tomb.

If Jesus trusted the saving power of God to raise him from the dead can I not trust God’s saving power to raise me up in a grief, or loss or darkness that I undergo?

Tony Raven

Theme for the week: “The God who opens doors”

David Byrne

“The God who opens doors” 5.  Friday 15th April

“A good wife, who can find?”(Proverbs 31.10 - Revised standard Version)

In the goldfish-bowl-like atmosphere of a small residential college, Margaret and I wanted to keep our growing relationship as secret as possible, to avoid raising expectations and putting pressure on ourselves. Apart from one or two close friends and one of the tutors, we didn’t let on. We met only on Sunday evenings, and in Margaret’s room. This was conveniently off-site, but on the road back from the city- centre church where we both went for worship, free from college responsibilities.

We were due to finish in Durham at the same time, so what to do next? We greatly enjoyed each other’s company, prayed together each week, and visited each other in our respective parents’ homes during vacations, but still had no definite conviction that God wanted us to take our relationship further. So we pursued parish appointments separately. I ended up in Maidstone in Kent, and Margaret near Southend in Essex, 21 miles apart by helicopter with the Thames in between. Neither of us could drive, or afford a car. Was God closing the door?

Quite soon a distant relation of Margaret’s, who also lived near Southend, got in touch with her. It turned out that every month on a Saturday (which happened to be Margaret’s day off) she used to drive down through the Dartford Tunnel to visit her sister in Folkestone. On her way she passed within a couple of miles of my curate’s flat in Maidstone. “If Margaret ever wanted a lift ….?”

The Book of Proverbs, in the version we were using at the time, asks “A good wife, who can find?” It seemed that, without us forcing or manipulating anything, God had indeed found me a verygood wife! You must ask Margaret if you want to find out what it was like for her – she had, and still has, a lot of patience!

Question:Are you ever tempted to “force the pace” with God?


Next week Tony Raven’s reflections are based on Amanda Gorman’s reading at Joe Biden’s swearing-in. Amanda the 22-year-old poet who wowed the crowd. You might like to l read it in advance.

“The God who opens doors” 4.  Thursday 14th April

“For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD, “plans for welfare, and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”(Jeremiah 29.11)

I had had a very sheltered upbringing, so I took the opportunity after graduating to spend a year in Bermondsey in London, volunteering in a Christian youth club. But I needed to earn my keep and wasn’t robust enough to work in the docks; I ended up as a very junior insurance broker in the famous “Room” at Lloyds of London. Two days a week, at 5 o’clock, I would change my clothes in the downstairs toilets and walk across Tower Bridge to the club. I wasn’t a “natural” in either environment, but it was a salutary lesson, not to pretend in order to blend in, but to be myself in both places.

Before I had started my theological studies I had been accepted by the CofE for training for ordination. From then on every step seemed like pressing on a door to see if it opened – as in Acts 16. I had only ever lived in the south-east, so it was quite an adventure moving to Durham, where there was a training college embedded in the University. In another sign of God’s timing, it had just appointed the first full-time pastoral studies tutor in any CofE clergy training college. After 4 years in the rarified atmosphere of Cambridge this was just what I needed, and the Durham pit village where I helped out in my second year was very different from any previous experience.

But it was also the only such college at the time to train men and women together! After single-sex education since the age of 8 this too would be a new experience. I had brothers but no sisters, was very shy with the opposite sex, had never dared date a girl, and in fact had come to a place before God where I was quite prepared to remain single in his service.

But then there was this woman student who’d started the year before me. Our first conversation was sitting diagonally opposite each other at the crowded college dining table. She had a smiling face, and a caring presence …

Question:How easy do you find it to be yourself in different cultural contexts, and not attempt to change your personality or hide your beliefs in order to gain acceptance?


“The God who opens doors” 3.  Wednesday 14th April

“The good hand of my God upon me.” (Nehemiah 2. 8)

Through the rest of 6th form I was a very enthusiastic young Christian, wanting to share my faith with everybody, unfortunately not always very tactfully. My ‘A’ level grades were OK but nothing special, yet my school encouraged me to sit for the Cambridge entrance exam. Neither of my parents had been to university, nor any of my grandparents, so I took the rather relaxed view that if God wanted me to go there he would have to “open the door”. You could say that I didn’t help him, because I was going to church meetings four nights a week, and certainly wasn’t “cramming”.

So when the telegram arrived, saying I’d not just been accepted but also awarded a scholarship, it had to be because God wanted me to go there! This assurance became very important the following year when, in my first term, I found myself completely out of my depth both academically and socially. If it had not been for the support of my new Christian friends, and the assurance that God himself had opened the door for me to be there, I could easily have given up.

Cambridge had other benefits. Every Saturday evening a succession of the best known Bible teachers in the country was invited to speak for nearly an hour to 300 students. And most degrees were in two parts; so when I could see that my subjects (Classics – Latin, Greek and Ancient History) were going nowhere for me after the first two years, I switched to Theology. God’s intervention again! Not only that just 5 days before the new course started my Local Education Authority extended my grant for the extra year, but also that my Classics studies gave me a significant and detailed head-start with several aspects of the Theology. God knew that I struggled academically, and gave me a helping hand. He knows, understands, and makes allowances for our weaknesses! "’My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weak-ness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses.”(2 Corinthians 12 v. 9)

Question:Do you think it is ever right to “make things difficult for God”, in order to be sure of His will? (An extreme example would be Elijah pouring water on the sacrifice on Mount Carmel – I Kings 18)