Pastor’s Letter for October 2021


Pastor Jim Martin of St. Matthew United Methodist Church in Weston, WV
Jim Martin

Several of my pastor friends read Mary Oliver’s poetry.  I discovered her through their references to her work mostly, of all places, on Facebook, and now count myself as a reader of her work.  She had a remarkable ability to observe and be curious about the world around us.  And in doing so, Oliver’s writing reflected her reverence for God and God’s creation.  Read aloud “Praying” which was published in her book, THIRST: Poems by Mary Oliver.  Seriously, read it aloud.


It doesn’t have to be

the blue iris, it could be

weeds in a vacant lot, or a few

small stones, just

pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try

to make them elaborate, this isn’t

a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which

another voice may speak.

I had been enamored with those who pray beautiful, poetic prayers.  I respect and appreciate one’s skill in praying extemporaneous prayers, or perhaps memorized, that are delivered with eloquence, wisdom, and care.  But there was a time, when I felt intimidated to pray aloud because I feared I was not eloquent or skilled.  I did not want to be compared with those I had decided were more gifted than me.  

But that’s what we do, many of us anyway, isn’t it?  We compare what we think our praying may sound like with a standard we have concocted in our minds.  And so, many refrain from ever praying aloud.  If cornered, we might mutter a prayer in hopes that only God hear our offering.  We fear judgment in praying, but not from God.  

Mary Oliver, who is eloquent in word choice and verse, says it plainly:  Praying doesn’t have to be the blue iris!  It could be weeds in the vacant lot!  Praying is not a contest.  Praying is the doorway, she reminds us, into thanks.  And praying is a silence in which another voice may speak. 

It seems to me that so many who are not shy about offering support, well wishes, condolences, or opinions are shy to pray aloud with others.  To borrow an expression from The Letter of James: my sisters and brothers, this ought not to be so.  Let’s practice praying these next few weeks, if only in the presence of God.  Share what is on your mind and in your heart, then practice dwelling in the silence in which another voice may speak. 

In Christ,

+ Pastor Jim