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That They All May Be One

by Lionel E. Deimel


“That they all may be one,” they say he said,

But what of us when thus we pray?

Are not our bonds of wine and bread

Sufficient for the Church today?


Must Christians understand as one

The mysteries of God above?

Or should we learn from God the Son

That unity derives from love?



This poem was inspired by John 17:20–21, which in the King James Version, reads
Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
Of course, it is a response to those in the Anglican Communion who believe that “being one” means that we must have uniform theological beliefs, an idea hitherto alien to mainstream Anglicanism.

I began writing this poem 4/16/2011, the evening before Palm Sunday, and I finished it two days later. I thought of the first line before I had any idea where the poem was going. That line may seem unduly complex, but I think it popped into my head because many of the words that St. John puts into the mouth of Jesus seem, if taken literally and in the context of the other three gospels, improbable. Moreover, a proper reading of the first line stresses the word “all,” rather than the less meaningful “they.”

I wrote two verses rather quickly and could not think of what to write in a third. I eventually concluded that two was enough.

I was not especially happy with the second verse, which seemed rather forced in its original form. I was surprised, however, when, upon reading a draft for a priest friend, he objected to my original third line: “Is unity in wine and bread.” I replied that I was not questioning the power of the Eucharist, but others were. The final version makes my point of view clearer.

That change inspired a search to clarify the second verse, which was originally

Need we understand as one
The mysteries of God above?
Or is the life of God’s own Son
A sign that all that counts is love?
This verse, in fact, went through many variations before reaching the version above. The final poem achieves a greater unity than the earlier drafts.

When I finished this poem, I was reminded of Harry Emerson Fosdick’s line from his famous sermon “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” which appears on the home page of my Web site: “Opinions may be mistaken; love never is.”

— LED, 4/18/2011

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