Rooted and Established (For William Grant Broughton)

Today’s poem is written in memory of the first and only archbishop of Australia, William Grant Broughton. His story is a dense and confusing one to read, full of internal debates over the division of church and state. It isn’t one which lends itself immediately or easily to poetry. However, I have chosen to focus on Broughton’s determination to plant a strong, secure church around which Australian society could flourish and grow, and his fear of what might happen if the state had greater authority than the church – not an easy topic to take a firm and confident stance on in today’s society, yet one which got me thinking about what it means for the church to be truly rooted and established in the God who will grow it regardless of government policy. I hope I’ve succeeded in turning this into something poetically meaningful!

Rooted and Established (For William Grant Broughton, First Bishop of Australia)

Arriving on new soil, you saw in this your duty:
That in the ground you’d plant the church,
The roots of orderly, just society,
Grafting the nation to its growing stem.

And when the forces around you fought
To make the State a taller tree,
You fought back, pruning branches which
Threatened what you sought to grow.

Sometimes the sun of this new garden
Made you wilt, and your lame leg
Slowed you down as you paced the ground;
Not all the workers were your friends.

But the tree you tended, you must know,
Had roots far deeper than this soil
And did not need the earth’s supplies
To grow and flourish far and wide.

Had you stopped a moment in the garden
And seen, in increments beyond you,
Its certain growth, its strongest roots,
You would see how deep, how fixed, how wide,

How high its arms, how sure its fruit.
For you – like me, like all of us –
Could have rested in its shade
For it established you.

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