The periphery

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One of my chaplain friends says chaplaincy is regarded as either pivotal or peripheral within healthcare. Chaplaincy also sits out there on the edges of what matters to the church. A cousin of mine who runs an Ignatian retreat place in Portugal is a firm believer in permaculture which recognises that the most fertile ground is at the edges, and is also the best place for cross pollination. Chaplaincy is often at the periphery of the NHS and also of faith groups. I was in a multi-faith training session for paediatric chaplains and someone stated that chaplains almost have their own emerging community of values as they are so often pushed out of their sending places of worship and work so closely with one another toward a common goal.

Perhaps you are not a chaplain, but perhaps your vocation too is one that finds you on the edges and occupying a liminal space. In recent weeks with social distancing and self isolation, we have all ended up living on the edges on what we thought was possible. The role of chaplaincy has been perceived as more pivotal when so many approach the end of their life. Others may learn things here which will serve them when they return to their pathed ways.

I just took a walk in the fields and paid attention to the edges. They are a little messy, chaotic, different species dwelling together, various plants intermingling in the same space. You would not plant a garden like this, it is not neat. But life and creativity thrive here. It is the same on the edge of the land, where the sea meets the coastline. Abundant diversity reigns. The space where one body of the sea meets a completely different body of the land. And there are pounding waves and stones and sand ground down by the years of being at the edge.

I once read in an article about gardening, that for some reason people are intent on making their garden’s look like the indoors of their homes. All neat and spruced and tidy. Nature is not like this. As Ken Steven writes,  ‘The lands edges have not lost their mapless unknown’. My kids yelled at me once for tidying up part of the garden, ‘Don’t ruin the wilderness’ they cried. So my garden is outdoors and it looks like it belongs outdoors. My life is spent on the edges. It can be wearing, to be in a space where different phenomenon’s are bucking up against one another. Or in a space where no one pays that much attention because the ordered fields to be harvested are where the focus and energy and investment is. But the edges bring their own gift to the world, connecting the edge of one space with the edge of another. You will find me on the periphery.

You will find us on the periphery

You will find us on the periphery

In the land of the mapless unknown

You will find us at the edges

Where the wild things grow

You will find us in the liminal space

Where no one knows what to expect

You will find us where the sea meets the shore

And no one knows what will wash up next

You will find us among the hedgerows

Gathering what delights are growing there

You will find us with the bees and butterflies

Connecting over here with over with there

You will find us on ours knees

With the beetles and the ants

Living all together

Without a lot of thanks

For our humble jumbled life

And our muddy handed style

But we would invite you

To come a stay a while

In the land where the wild things are

And the place where the periphery reigns

You may learn things here that serve you

When you return to your pathed way.

12 thoughts on “Edges

  1. This is a very powerful piece of writing that resonated with how I have been feeling in the last weeks. Your words are like a pair of glasses, looking at the same things but with a different more positive clear colour. 🙂


  2. Kate,
    This is a beautiful piece; very thought-provoking. You have caused me to reconsider the certainties I had comfortably stored away and I will now have to reassess some firmly held prejudices…what a pain! I know how untidy your garden is and think I could grow to admire it, for the first time!


  3. I really enjoyed your thought-provoking blog, Kate. It has caused me to reconsider some of my firmly held and comfortable views (such a pain!). I also know very well how untidy your garden is and, for the first time, I might begin to like it. Thank you.


  4. As a distinctive deacon, this enormously resonates with us, as we see our ministry on the margins of church and society. Some deacons are chaplains too. I’m reposting this on our Deacon blog.


  5. Kate,

    What an amazingly-worded and succinct piece of writing! It gives me peace of mind and honour to be at the edge. I particularly love the poem at the end. May I please get the author’s permission to reprint, copy or share? Many thanks

    Atique Miah (Hospital Chaplain- Gloucester)


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