Part of our worship event @ Greenbelt festival-


There was a concern in the land

In every town the roads were lined with beggars

There were homeless orphans and widows cast out onto the streets

The lunatics were stoned by children

And melancholics drowned their sorrows with gin

The mess of it all was in the middle of us

The Jesus in the least of these

Was weeping

He had no home amongst us


So the good people gathered

“What is needed” they said “Is asylum.”

A safe home where broken people can live out their lives in care-

Protected from all of the mess of life

Fed and warm and watered.

So money was gathered

Stones were shaped and raised

Staff were retained and clothed in crisp starched clothing

And the heavy doors were opened wide in welcome


And so they came- the halt, the sick, the lame

The motherless and the pregnant child

All those broken by worry and grief

The shakers and the mutterers

All the awkward squad

The outsiders now came inside

They were home at last


It went well for a while

All was orderly and planned

Starved frames filled out

Songs were sung again in the entertainment hall

Gardens were laid and tended

Sheets danced in the evening sunlight

And a bell rang out to warn of the dowsing of night candles


But time passed, and shadows fell

Budgets were tight, and the paint peeled on windows

The good folk who had once been so generous had other calls on their coin

A few still visited on feast days but for the most part

Out of sight became out of mind.


And there was trouble

The awkward squad was still awkward

The asylum split into‘us’ and ‘them’


‘We’ had roles- uniforms and clipboards, rotas and registers

Big bunches of keys danced at our belts

We had dreams- of advancement, romance and families

We had homes away from this home


‘They’ stood the other side of our desks

Dirty and lacking in motivation

Ungrateful and manipulative

Un co-operative with our assessments

Lacking insight into the nature of their dysfunction.

They had ceased to be like us

Rather, they lived out regulated half-lives

They ceased to be flesh

And became instead a collection of paper

In manila folders


Despite all the material provision- something was missing

Despite all the person centred plans, the person was not at the centre

Despite the close press of humanity, there was no family

Despite all the risk assessments, there was no adventure

Despite all the planned activity, there is no purpose

Despite the safety of the high walls, I am still destroyed


So it was that care became captivity

Individuals became invisible

And home became hollow

And toxic

And Jesus in the least of these

Was weeping





1 thought on “Asylum…

  1. I like this poem very much. You have described how so-called “do-gooders” inadvertently reveal their true motivation in “helping” their fellow-man. I would say that they are religious and are just like the Pharisee in the parable of the publican and the Pharisee, both of whom were praying in the temple. The former would not lift up his face as he confessed his sins, whilst the latter was glad he was not like the publican – being an upstanding member of society, always doing what is necessary to maintain his lofty position.
    God’s grace cuts right across this. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. If we invite him in, Jesus at the centre of our being is our new life. Yes, we sin, but we look at things from Jesus’ perspective. We do not earn God’s love. it is a gift, freely offered to us. And God in Jesus by His Spirit is love within us.

    Check out these extracts from my published collection of poems –

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