Ode to Ted King



Sitting on your bench Ted King

It’s been a long time

since I’ve thought of you

I’m sorry about that

Buried as you are here

just near this bench,

and in my heart.


Looked more like a Welsh lock forward you did

Bowing your head

through doorways and in prayers

you loved much more than rugby,

Though I saw you more than once

at Newlands.


Stooping over altars on Sunday

I can see you so clearly

Though formidable in pulpit too

Breaking words with such finesse

– so delicate your knowledge

of human struggles and the love of God,

While holding the wafers

so gently in giant hands.


I was so small – the boatboy – remember me?

Carrying the incense

as though the Mass depended on me

Which it did – of course – to me

Parading so needily

through holy smoke and hallowed aisles

in snaking processions

hoping to catch God’s eye or maybe yours.


Came to our home sometimes,

pastorally you came

When something was wrong;

A sister’s illness,

a parent’s sadness,

the world’s badness.

You sat in our lounge

I couldn’t go in –

but saw from the door

more than I was told,

You listening and holding it all in

a sad and reverend pose.


Shaped many’s thinking, you did,

of God, through the 9.15 especially.

How the faithful gathered,

hanging on your words

and a liturgy

that fed their souls about

ways to cross the artificial barriers of sin,

age, race and sexual orientation

as God would expect, you’d say.


So human yet remote, you were –

maybe being so tall

made you hard to read, because you were

a reader’s mind within a pastor’s heart;

A worldly touch within a priestly world;

You were wise, you knew things,

saw films, said yes to protests

and rode a Vespa

(for heaven’s sake, with your cassock on!)


I discovered much later

How much you chose to sit in prayer

in corners alone, in your beloved Cathedral

for 30 years

away from it all

Though you yourself would be the first to say

Just how hard it is to

be silent

and watch

and pray

like this

without talking

and thinking

and doing,

just being quiet

with God

and your self.


And so you became a holy man

Modern mystic, teacher, thinker

A rare priest during

complex times

of struggle and darkness

Seeking hope and the ending of suffering.

From far, making home

under a Southern Cross, you

lived here, loved here

brought great light here

And now rest in quiet here

in St Raphael’s garden

next to your bench here

where I now sit

and thank God for you.

Chris Ahrends

St Raphael’s Retreat House, Faure. 4th May 2012


About chrisahrends

For me, writing is a healing art aimed at healing me - and if in any way it resonates with you - that would be wonderful. I live in Cape Town, South Africa; work in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa and am married to Jacqui Macqueen Ahrends.
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