First Presbyterian Church Pastor Todd Jenkins’ penchant for writing poetry began in an unusual way back in 1994.
He had been trying to compose a sermon for his Presbyterian congregation in Georgia all week but was experiencing a writer’s block of sorts. It was Thursday, on Thanksgiving Day at his aunt’s house in Georgia, as they were finishing the meal when suddenly an idea came to him while sitting at the kitchen table.
Since it was the beginning of Advent, thoughts of getting prepared for Christmas came to his mind, and he said in his mind he felt the cadence of Clement Moore’s poem, “The Night Before Christmas”.
“I started writing on a napkin,” Pastor Jenkins said.
The poem just began to flow, and he finished it on a scrap of paper.
That Sunday the poem became the entire sermon, but, since it was his first poem and he didn’t consider himself a poet, Pastor Jenkins didn’t tell the congregation that he wrote it. It happened to be the same day that a Pastor Nominating Committee would be visiting the church to hear him preach.
He slowly recited the poem for the congregation that Sunday. Later, he had an informal interview with the committee, but never heard from the search committee again.
Years later, he was told that a member of the committee said, “I don’t know why we would call him as our pastor; his whole sermon was just a poem, and he didn’t even tell us who wrote it!”
“I didn’t write another poem for five years,” he said with a laugh.
About 18 years ago, Pastor Jenkins, his wife, Jennie, and young family moved from Georgia to Fayetteville where he began to serve as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church. In 1996, he began to write for the church newsletter nearly every week.
“In the late 90s, I started writing more poetry and putting them in the church news.”
Since then he has written hundreds of poems.
He thanks Jennie, and children, adults now, Katie, Holly and Owen, for their patience through the years. He would frequently have an inspirational moment and stop in the middle of family meals or events to write on a scrap of paper or text message his thoughts.
In the introduction of his new book of poetry titled, “Tuesday’s Muse: Visual & Verbal Appetizers for the Great Banquet of Your Life”, he writes: “Poetry is about blank space, pauses and silence as much as it is about words.”
He continues, “It gives the readers enough of a taste of the poet’s thoughts, ideas, feelings and experiences to draw them in; but leaves them a little bit hungry, both allowing and requiring them to finish the meal with their own words, ideas, emotions, and stories.
“Though these poems/prayers surely come from many years of distilling and marinating, it is often a particular time, place, and circumstance that squeeze the words onto a page and screen in a form that gives meaning,” he writes in acknowledgements of his book.
“I am eternally grateful to the congregation and the community for allowing me to grow with them, along life’s ebb and flow,” he continues.
“There’s a sense in poetry that you can say more than in prose “… Poetry leaves space,” said Pastor Jenkins.
His poems reach into the depths and heights of human experience, ranging from fear and pain to hope and faith.
For the past 12 to 14 years, he’s been e-mailing poems in his Tuesday Muse, a weekly email to people all over the country. He also began the blog, tuesdaysmuse.blogspot.com.
People kept urging him to publish his poems until he finally relented. Publishing a book was a totally new experience, and he needed help.
Along with his family, relatives and friends, members of the congregation and a couple of schoolteachers assisted with proofreading, editing, formatting and creating the cover along with writing reviews. Pastor Jenkins took many of the photos in the book while on Sabbatical, and family, relatives and friends submitted the others.
The book, which can be ordered on Amazon or through Pastor Jenkins, contains 60 poems, as well as a scripture and photo with each poem.
Books purchased through Pastor Jenkins will be signed on request. They are $11 if purchased locally, and for $15 a book will be signed and mailed anywhere in the United States. Contact Pastor Jenkins at the church at (931) 433-1905 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.