All photography by Lois Siemens

Poems to Use in Church and other Sacred Services

Compiled by Suzanne Ehst
Begun November, 2012

What can poetry do in the halls of churches, by the bedside of the dying, around a sacred fire at equinox? What do poetic words bring us that we cannot find in conversational or didactic speech? Through the careful selection and arrangement of words, poets depict life in ways that make daily moments glimmer with holiness. They help us to see the sacredness of struggle, value the rough edges of theology, find the divine in the ordinary. They peel back the layers of living.

It is because of the spirituality of poetry that I often find myself reaching for it when I plan a worship service. Many times, I spend hours on the internet with a pile of 20 books walling me in, searching for the perfect poem to complete a service, to say what I cannot find the words to say about how the spirit of god meets us in the world. For this reason, I am compiling this resource of spirit-filled poetry, or "non-churchy church poems"--poems that might be used in sacred services while avoiding the reductive tendencies of some intentionally religious literature. Because I was raised in the Christian tradition and continue to worship in that context, this collection has that bent; however many of these pieces capture a spirit that transcends religious boundaries.

To all who seek to find the divine in the only world that we know, a blessing on your reading of these texts.

This is a work in progress, so please return often to find new additions.

To leave a comment, suggest a poem, report a broken link, or suggest further edits, please email nonchurchychurchpoems@gmail.com.
To read a bit more about me or to hear how I answer the question, "Why use the phrase 'non-churchy'?", click here.


Christmas and Advent
Death and Grief
Faith and Doubt
Images of God
Life Celebrated
Morning and Evening
Peace and Justice
Rethinking Jesus
Sacred Books
Sacred Spaces
Thanksgiving and Gratitude

FEATURED POEM: Added 4/25/17

What Song Should We Sing
by Jack Gilbert

The massive overhead crane comes
when we wave to it, lets down
its heavy claws and waits tamely
within its power while we hook up
the slabs of three-quarter-inch
steel. Takes away the ponderous
reality when we wave again.
What name do we have for that?
What song is there for its voice?
What is the other face of Yahweh?
The god who made the slug and ferret,
the maggot and shark in his image.
What is the carol for that?
Is it the song of nevertheless,
or of the empire of our heart? We carry
language as our mind, but are we
the dead whale that sinks grandly
for years to reach the bottom of us?