This exhibition contains two sequences which combine Sonnets by Poet-Priest Malcolm Guite and work by painter-priest Adam Boulter. 

In the Wilderness

The Biblical wilderness with its rocky mountainous desert has been a place of sanctuary and transformation for prophets and holy men since the dawn of history. 

Here, Abraham and Jacob encountered the divine, Jesus confronted the diabolical, St Paul and the early monks learnt to speak the truth to those who would listen, and contemporary Christians seek refuge from the wars that are ripping apart this region. Here many stories and cultures that have shaped civilisations are layered onto the land.

I AM sayings

The seven 'I AM' sayings are images Jesus uses of himself in St. Johns Gospel, through which they run like a thread of pearls, each hinting at a different understanding of who Jesus is. Simultaneously ambiguous and clear, they have the power to lead us deep into the mystery of who Jesus is and what he might mean to us.


Adam Boulter

Parable and Paradox

Southwark Cathedral Refectory

26th May - 9th June 2017

1 Abraham and Sarah at Mamre

They practice hospitality; their hearts

Have opened like a secret source, free flowing

Only as they take another's part.

Stopped in themselves, and in their own unknowing,

But unlocked by these strangers in their need,

They breathe again, and courtesy, set free,

Begets the unexpected; generosity

Begetting generation, as the seed

Of promise springs and laughs in Sarah's womb.

Made whole by their own hospitality,

And like the rooted oak whose shade makes room

For this refreshing genesis at Mamre,

One couple, bringing comfort to their guests,

Becomes our wellspring in the wilderness.

2 Jacob Wrestles with the Angel

I dare not face my brother in the morning,

I dare not look upon the things I've done,

Dare not ignore a nightmare's dreadful warning,

Dare not endure the rising of the sun.

My family, my goods, are sent before me,

I cannot sleep on this strange river shore,

I have betrayed the son of one who bore me,

And my own soul rejects me to the core.

But in the desert darkness one has found me,

Embracing me, He will not let me go,

Nor will I let Him go, whose arms surround me,

Until he tells me all I need to know,

And blesses me where daybreak stakes it's claim,

With love that wounds and heals; and with His name.

4) Temptation in the wilderness

‘A sacred place is good for looking down from;

You stand above the world on holy heights,

Here on the pinnacle, above the maelstrom,

Among the few, the true, unearthly lights.

Here you can breathe the thin air of perfection

And feel your kinship with the lonely star,

Above the shadow and the pale reflection,

Here you can know for certain who you are.

The world is stalled below, but you could move it

If they could know you as you are up here,

Of course they'll doubt, but here's your chance to prove it

Angels will bear you up, so have no fear....’

‘I was not sent to look down from above

It's fear that sets these tests and proofs, not Love.’

5) Paul blinded being led into Damascus

He cannot see the crescent moon, but feels

This night’s wide wilderness. He is afraid,

And holds the hand of one he used to lead, 

Through folds and shadows where the moonlight falls

He holds his counsel and still holds the road,

As it winds northward. Rounding a last bend,

Paul senses each slight change in scent and sound;

A gradual Damascus just ahead,

Whose pre-dawn hush is filling him with dread,

For what awaits him there is his true end.

Slowly from Ananias he will learn

To touch the body and to break the bread

And, as the scales fall from his eyes, discern

How Love himself has risen from the dead.

6) Abba Moses the Black

You were yourself what everybody fears:

Sickening terror in the wilderness,

Roadblocks and robbery, as hatred stares

From the eyes of a cold killer, practiced, pitiless.

And then you met your match: outdone, undone

By One whose wounds pierced deeper yet than yours,

One victim's agony met you alone

To touch and pars a gospel in your scars,

And turn you to what everybody needs:

All-understanding, all-forgiving grace,

A radical humility that bears and feeds

The needy, lets them blossom in the place

Where love has planted them. Your martyr's blood

Still seeds and feeds and nurtures us for good.

7) Christ amongst the refugees

That fearful road of weariness and want,

Through unforgiving heat and hate, ends here;

We narrow sand-blown eyes to scan this scant

And tented city outside Syria.

He fled with us when everything was wrecked

As Nazarene was blazoned on our door,

Walked with the damaged and the derelict

To where these tents are ranked and massed, foursquare

Against the desert, with a different blazon;

We trace the letters: UNHCR,

As dark smoke looms behind a cruel horizon.

Christ stands with us and withstands, where we are,

His high commission, as a refugee;

To pitch his tent in our humanity.

Encounters in the Wilderness

I Am the Bread of Life

here to get bread? An ever-pressing question

That trembles on the lips of anxious mothers,

Bread for their families, bread for all these others;

A whole world on the margin of exhaustion.

And where that hunger has been satisfied

here to get bread? The question still returns

In our abundance something starves and yearns

We crave fulfillment, crave and are denied.

And then comes One who speaks into our needs

Who opens out the secret hopes we cherish

Whose presence calls our hidden hearts to flourish

Whose words unfold in us like living seeds

Come to me, broken, hungry, incomplete,

I Am the Bread of Life, break Me and eat.

Malcolm Guite

I Am the Light of the World

I see your world in light that shines behind me,

Lit by a sun whose rays I cannot see,

The smallest gleam of light still seems to find me

Or find the child who's hiding deep inside me.

I see your light reflected in the water,

Or kindled suddenly in someone's eyes,

It shimmers through translucent leaves in summer,

Or spills from silver veins in leaden skies,

It gathers in the candles at our vespers

It concentrates in tiny drops of dew

At times it sings for joy, at times it whispers,

But all the time it calls me back to you.

I follow you upstream through this dark night

My saviour, source, and spring, my life and light.

Malcolm Guite

I Am The Door of the Sheepfold

Not one that’s gently hinged or deftly hung,

Not like the ones you planed at Joseph’s place,

Not like the well-oiled openings that swung

So easily for Pilate’s practiced pace,

Not like the ones that closed in Mary’s face

From house to house in brimming Bethlehem,

Not like the one that no man may assail,

The dreadful curtain, The forbidding veil

That waits your breaking in Jerusalem.


Not one you made but one you have become:

Load-bearing, balancing, a weighted beam

To bridge the gap, to bring us within reach

Of your high pasture. Calling us by name,

You lay your body down across the breach,

Yourself the door that opens into home.

Malcolm Guite

I Am the Good Shepherd

When so much shepherding has gone so wrong

So many pastors hopelessly astray

The weak so often preyed on by the strong

So many bruised and broken on the way

The very name of shepherd seems besmeared

The fold and flock themselves are torn in half

The lambs we left to face all we have feared

Are caught between the wasters and the wolf.

Good shepherd now your flock has need of you

One finds the fold and ninety-nine are lost

Out in the darkness and the icy dew

And no one knows how long this night will last.

Restore us, call us back to you by name,

And by your life laid down, redeem our shame.

Malcolm Guite

I Am the Resurrection  

How can you be the final resurrection?

That resurrection hasn't happened yet.

Our broken world is still bent on destruction,

No sun can rise before that sun has set.

Our faith looks back to father Abraham

And toward to the one who is to come

How can you speak as though he knew your name?

How can you say: before he was I am?

Begin in me and I will read your riddle

And teach you truths my Spirit will defend

I am the End who meets you in the middle,

The new Beginning hidden in the End.

I am the victory, the end of strife

I am the resurrection and the life.

Malcolm Guite

I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life

Wherever someone knows that they are lost,

And cries for help to find the way back home,

And turns towards their father's house at last

You are theirWay before they know your name.

Wherever someone searches for the truth

And tests each easy answer in its turn,

Stressing the question, pressing to the pith,

You are the Truth they cannot yet discern.

Wherever someone sorrows over death

Yet seems to glimpse a gate beyond the grave,

A living spirit in the dying breath,

You are the Life within the life they love.

You come to us before we ask or pray

Till you become our Life, our Truth, our Way.

Malcolm Guite

I Am the Vine 

How might it feel to be part of the vine? 

Not just to see the vineyard from afar 

Or even pluck the clusters, press the wine, 

But to be grafted in, to feel the stir  

Of inward sap that rises from our Root, 

Himself deep planted in the ground of Love, 

To feel ones leaves unfold, a tender shoot, 

As tendrils curled unfurl, as branches give 

A little to the swelling of the grape, 

n gradual perfection, round and full, 

To bear within oneself the joy and hope 

Of God's good vintage, till it's ripe and whole. 

What might it mean to bide and to abide 

In such rich love as makes the poor heart glad? 

Malcolm Guite

I Am Sayings