AMP. Always Electric.

Volume 1, No. 1

Survival of the Fittest

 – Rev. Davis Smith Brainard, First Congregational Church, Lyme, CT, ca. 1860

New churches grow like an infestation.
They challenge tradition, cause rivalries.
It’s rather like that man Darwin’s theory:
the strongest church survives. Pitted against
Methodists, Baptists, and a few Catholics,
First Congregational has held its own,
even as our members are tempted to err,
to worship incorrectly, even to join
the Abolitionists.

I have been forced
to excommunicate several of our
company: young, energetic members
of our own family, who had turned away
from the path of quiet sobriety.

Despite that drain of hope, our spiritual life
stretches the rafters of the meeting-house
when our voices rise together in a hymn.
Are not the deep questions of ship-builders,
venerable captains of packet-ships,
captains of whaling vessels, and their wives
equally needful of our Father’s grace
as those whom slavery has civilized?
Yet our grown children join other churches.

A church needs baptisms, not funerals!
So our council plans to build a horse-shed
for use on inclement Sabbath mornings.
We will win back the imaginative
and energetic. We’ll make people seek
the privilege of worship in our church!

Marilyn Nelson

Marilyn Nelson, the recipient of the 2012 Frost Medal, is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and Poet-in-Residence of The Poets Corner at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. These poems are part of a sequence called The Meeting-House, about the 350-year history of First Congregational Church of Old Lyme, CT.