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Hope in the Midst of Hurting: Poetry from Rev. Brian Shivers


Rev. Brian Shivers (MDiv ‘10) has found a therapeutic way to express himself while holding space for those experiencing hurt through his poetry, a medium of expression that has become an extension of his ministry through the hope and healing it provides. As the Pastor and Head of Staff at Northminster Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, Shivers has a great deal of experience offering pastoral care that recognizes the hurts people are feeling while also helping them discover hope. He has written poetry on and off for over 25 years, but in light of tumultuous events and painful, divisive rhetoric unfolding in recent years, he began viewing his poetry as more of a spiritual discipline. Through social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, Shivers generously shares his poems with a broader audience, fostering connections and sparking meaningful conversations.

We recently caught up with Rev. Shivers and asked him some questions about his poetry. We have shared his responses below, including four of his poems as a means of encouragement to our readers. We hope you find his spiritual practice of poetry as inspiring and encouraging as we do!


Q&A with Rev. Shivers:


When did you start writing poetry?
I have written poetry off and on for over 25 years. In 2016, I decided that with all that was going on in the world I would take on a more disciplined practice of writing to sort out my own feelings and thoughts. This has proven to be both a spiritual and therapeutic practice for me.
What is the process like for you?
The process is a little all over the place. Sometimes it is full on inspiration and sometimes it is a wrestling match and most of the time it’s a little of both. The important thing for me is that I write. I try really hard not to judge myself or what I have written. The important thing is to get what is inside out in one way or another. It is a faith practice because it allows me the space to work out what it is that I believe about the divine, humanity, and our struggle. It is therapeutic for me because it gives me a space of true honesty with myself. Sometimes something comes out through my fingers, and I find myself thinking, “Ouch. That hits hard.” It is often a surprise.
Why do you choose to share your poems with others?
Posting on social media was an intentional decision. It is really a way in which I hold myself accountable to the process. I can see it out there in the world. I write and release it into the world. I never know where it is going to go or how it is going to land. And I don’t worry myself with all of that. I think that allows others to hear it, to read it, however it might land on them. There has been an unexpected response to many of the pieces. That is quite humbling to be honest.
How does it inform/impact your ministry and overall life (and vice versa)?
I like the vice versa part of this question because I think it is a circle. The poetry is often born out of the work I do and the strangeness of the call on my life. Circumstances, worship, conversations, the news, sacred spaces, nature, meetings (believe it or not) all seem to impact what is written. And the words often also shape the way I see the world. It is fascinating. Some would call that the Spirit. Some would call that energy. Some would call it a muse. Some would call it “woo woo”. Whatever one calls it, I think it is something that shapes us all no matter what our own artistic response might be for after all, aren’t we all artists of one form or another?
What has the response to your poetry been like?
I don’t know that I have a full response to this question. It surprises me how it lands in intensely personal ways for some people. It also surprises me that anyone is reading, to be completely honest.
How can people read and interact with more of your poetry?
Social media (my Facebook and Instagram account) is the most consistent place to interact with it. I also have a blog that includes some of my poetry, sermons, and interfaith work. I have been asked to put some of the pieces into a book, which I hope to do in the coming year. So, I guess people could stay tuned for that. People can view my sermons at the Northminster Presbyterian Church sermons page or on YouTube.

You don’t have to carry it alone.
You don’t have to be strong.
You don’t have to know the solution.
You don’t have to solve all of the problems.
You don’t have to feel up to the task.
You don’t have to put on a brave face.
You don’t have to have your s*** together.

You don’t have to.

It’s okay,
in fact,
it’s important,
to feel . . .


. . . to feel.

- bshivers 2024


It’s the small things.

All those the other things,
the clutter and clatter,
that once seemed so big,
have always been smaller
than the ones
that actually are

Those small things.

The fragrance of your beloved.
The crooked knowing smile
that accompanies finally getting it
(whatever it might be).
The sound of that one lyric,
the guitar lick,
the drum solo,
the unexpected yet perfectly placed rest.
The green grass in the early spring.
The dog’s tail when they hear their name.
The nightingale, the lark,
the morning songbird.
The door held for the stranger.
Thank you.
You’re welcome.


It’s the small things.
Those are the ones
to notice,
to relish,
to drink in.

- bshivers (2024)


As you gaze back
across the landscape
of where you have been,
the shadowy places,
the ones bathed in sunshine,
the stormy seasons,
and the lush landscapes,
give yourself the time and the space
to celebrate this moment
and how far you’ve come.
You arrived here
by navigating there.
You made it.
And here you are.

- bshivers 2024


You have purpose.

It isn’t for the machine
to use you up,
to drain you dry,
to cast you aside.


Your worth
can’t be measured
by production,
by output, by impact,
or by the way you
“move the needle”
for someone else’s gain.

You are here.

You are you.

And that is

In fact,
it may be all
you need to know.

- bshivers 2024

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