Words, Images and Imagination – Reviews

Singing the Faith plushttps://www.methodist.org.uk/our-faith/worship/singing-the-faith-plus/posts/a-break-from-hymns-a-new-collection-from-andrew-pratt/

Northwich Guardianhttps://www.northwichguardian.co.uk/news/18942916.retired-minister-comberbach-releases-book-poetry-art/

Methodist Recorder / ArtServe Magazine

Poems, Pictures and Photos – produced during Lockdown

Andrew Pratt, ‘Words, Images and Imagination’ – Poems Watercolours Photos, Upfront Publishing, 2020, ISBN: 97-178456-740-8, p/bk, 71 pages. Click here to buy.

This is a beautifully produced collection of 40 poems, 10 photographs, and 14 watercolour paintings all created by Andrew and collected together during these strange Covid-19 times. It vividly and powerfully bears witness to the huge wave of remarkable creativity currently breaking onto our world during this uncharted and unprecedented pandemic.

A large proportion of these poems, pictures and photos have been inspired by nautical imagery, reflecting the author’s long-standing connection with the sea, from early childhood.

The poems have the clear stamp of a seasoned and experienced hymn writer. (He has already over 1500 in print).  They are remarkable for the way they encourage the reader to make full use of her imagination, and for the many hints and resonances with familiar famous words and phrases which readily come to mind. The very first poem ‘The suck of surf through shingle’ might remind us of Matthew Arnold’s famous ‘Dover Beach’, and the alliteration produces striking sounds which resemble Gerard Manley Hopkins. This poetry cries out to be spoken and heard.

Other notables, including Dietrich Bonhoeffer, are occasionally referred to by name, and their influence is unmistakable in our poet’s phraseology and skilful word painting.

Many poems draw on feelings and emotions all too familiar during these trying times, even though we are aware that not all of them were written out of the pandemic experience. But ‘Loneliness is a passing place’, ‘Things we know are never wholly certain’, and ‘Firm foundations shift and crumble’, could well reflect our current psychological disruption. There are poems resonating with the sounds of two World Wars, and there are commissions from JPIT (the Joint Public Issues Team of UK churches) which reflect the struggling search for truth and justice in a society still obsessed with, and hidebound by, traditions and ‘doctrines’. As a consequence, every minister should carefully ponder ‘Must this clerical obsession…’, and in ‘After the vote’ we have a powerful reminder of the problems we all face when we listen to the cries of refugees clinging to our shores.

Our author comes across as one who longs for openness and inclusivity, honesty and the need to face up to the reality of pain and death, and the more we read aloud these skilfully crafted lines the more likely are we to hear the strains of this sense of longing. It’s like the fluid tones of the waves and the echoing sound of the sea.

The Watercolours and Photos, which are interspersed among the Poems, add fresh dimensions to the words of this moving collection. Andrew is clearly a skilled painter and photographer, as well as a powerful word-smith. His sense of proportion, his restrained and delicate shading, his unique eye for colour, and his experienced view for composition, all contribute to this splendid poetic treasure-house, this realm of possibility which opens up before us. We can see, hear and feel something of the adventure, mixed with anticipation, which we experience when we cast off and set out on our ‘sea of faith’.

‘Words, Images and Imagination’ is a gift in every sense.

Harvey Richardson – November 2020

Published by

Andrew Pratt

Andrew Pratt was born in Paignton, Devon, England in 1948. For his first degree he studied Zoology (B.Sc. Hons., London) before going to the University College of North Wales in Bangor. Andrew obtained a M.Sc. in Marine Biology which was partly dependent on a thesis on the Effects of sympathomimetic drugs on the rectum of Pleuronectes platessa (effects of drugs on the guts of the plaice). From here he went to St Luke’s College, Exeter, since absorbed into Exeter University, to study for a PGCE. Andrew taught in Essex, Wrexham, and Liverpool together with some brief spells of supply teaching since entering the ministry. Subjects have ranged through biology, chemistry, religious studies, swimming, personal and social education, and health education. During his M.Sc., he began to foster a belief in God. He became a member of the Methodist Church in Exeter. Moving to Essex he saw little of the church as both his parents died in a space of a year and he was away seeing them at weekends. In Wrexham (Gresford) he sensed a call to the ministry and in 1979 went for theological training at the Queen’s (Ecumenical) College in Birmingham. He was there for three years, partly doing a post graduate Diploma in Theology at Birmingham University and partly doing ministerial training. It was here that Andrew began to write hymns as a means of exploring theology. He had already written poems (mainly for private consumption!) one of which was published in a college magazine at St Luke’s in 1972. Since leaving Birmingham, Andrew has been stationed in Northwich, Nantwich, Leigh and Hindley, and Orrell and Lamberhead Green (near Wigan). While in Nantwich he began to achieve publication of his texts, firstly in Hymns of the City and then, under the guidance and constructive criticism of Bernard Braley, with some regularity in Hymns and Congregational Songs. Andrew was asked to be part of the groups that edited Story Song, Big Blue Planet and Sound Bytes. He has been regularly published in Worship Live and has had articles, hymns and reviews published in the The Hymn, The Bulletin of the Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland(of which has been the Editor since 2004) Theological Book Review, Writers News, Writing Magazine, the Methodist Recorder, Reform and Crucible. For some time he broadcast regularly on BBC Radio Merseyside. From 2004 he was a member of the Music Resource Group appointed to compile Singing the Faith, convening the words group until its dissolution in 2009 when he resigned. Blinded by the Dazzle, his first hymn collection, was published in 1997 by Stainer & Bell. Further collections, Whatever Name or Creed, Reclaiming Praise and More than Words were subsequently produced. Over a period of three years, with Marjorie Dobson, he wrote material for the Revised Common Lectionary which was published on www.worshipcloud.com HymnQuest includes over 1400 of his hymn texts. He is a Non-Executive Director of Stainer & Bell Ltd., and was instrumental in their establishing a web site (www.hymns.uk.com) carrying contemporary hymn texts which could be downloaded for local use. He is Chair of the Pratt Green Trust. On two consecutive years Andrew entered the Pratt Green Essay Competition, achieving second and joint first prizes. This work acted as a springboard for his research in hymnody. In 1997 he gained a M.A in English from the University of Durham for his research into Frederick Faber’s Hymns on the Four Last Things. He has researched the origins of the Methodist Hymn Book (1933) for a Ph.D., at Liverpool Hope University College. A book based on this research, O for a thousand tongues – the Methodist Hymn Book (1933) in context was published by the Methodist Publishing House. In 2004 he was appointed as a tutor and then Acting Principal at Hartley Victoria College (part of the Partnership for Theological Education in Manchester) to its closure in 2015. He continued as an Honorary Research Fellow with the Partnershp. While there he wrote Net Gains (Methodist Publishing House) and Study Skills for Ministry (SCM). He has lectured and led workshops in the UK, USA, Finland, Poland, Ireland, and Germany. He has written and contributed to many books relating to hymns and worship including Charles Wesley: Life, Literature and Legacy (2011, Epworth, edit., Ted Campbell, Kenneth G.C Newport), Why Weren't We Told? (2012, Polebridge Press, USA, R.A.E. Hunt) Hymn, song, society (2014, Unigrafia Finland, edit Tapani Innanen, Veli-Matti Salminen), Methodism Abounding (2016, Church in the Market Place, edit., John Vincent), The Servant of God in Practice (2017, Deo, edit., J.W. Rogerson and John Vincent). He has written a series of reflections on selected hymns of Charles Wesley (Inextinguishable Blaze) and co-written with Marjorie Dobson two books of worship resources, Poppies and Snowdrops and Nothing too religious (both Inspire, Methodist Publishing House). In 2017 with Jan Berry he edited and contributed to Hymns for Hope and Healing (Stainer & Bell Ltd). He was one time Chair of the Methodist Peace Fellowship.

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