Inner Room is a project that creates space for people to be creative. It is rooted in the Christian faith, welcoming people of all faiths and none. Run by a poet, its focus at the moment is on creative writing. Inner Room believes that:
- Everyone is creative (including you)
- Everyone can approach universal truths through the particular details of their lives
- Everyone is invited to be creative by a creative God
If this resonates with you, please read on.
* Please note: Inner Room is largely happening on Zoom because of COVID-19 *
What does Inner Room do?
Now in its second year, Inner Room offers a space for the creative reading and the creative writing of poetry. Phase 5, running at the moment, has spaces available for workshops on The Creative Process in the New Year. Room2Write and Connecting with Poems groups are continuing. If you’d like to be added to our mailing list to hear of new opportunities, or if you have any questions, please do get in touch – email@example.com
There is no charge for taking part in Inner Room but we invite donations. If you’d like to contribute towards this work, please do so here
The Watchful Heart and the rest of Phase 4
Above are pictured 15 of the 20 writers who contributed to The Watchful Heart, the anthology of poetry and prose that came from the first year of Inner Room, along with its editors, Richard Skinner and Helen Evans. More than 40 people came to St Stephen’s Church on National Poetry Day to celebrate its publication. You can read about the launch here. If you’d like to order a copy of the anthology (£5 plus p&p), please email us.
Also in Phase 4, the Monday morning Room2Write sessions continued, with emailed writing prompts in May and June followed by fortnightly Zoom sessions during July, August and September. A poetry resource list was on offer to support readers in their own explorations. Finally, two Connecting with Poems groups, where five writers bring their own work for peer feedback, continued to meet on Zoom.
Inner Room: the first year
The first year of Inner Room ran from March 2020 to April 2021. Over that year, our creative readers and creative writers have enjoyed:
- 111 sessions
- offering 234 spaces
- in 21 different groups
- involving 142 contact hours
- and including 40 one-to-one writing tutorials.
In our end-of-year survey of 33 participants, 92 per cent rated Inner Room as excellent and 8 per cent as good (response rate: 25 people/75 per cent). We received more than ten A4 pages of detailed replies about the experience. We can’t possibly do those comments justice here, but it’s clear that Inner Room opening up when so much closed down meant a huge amount to our readers and writers. If you’re one of them, thank you so much for your helpful, heartening responses. Your commitment and enthusiasm have informed the team’s decision to continue running Inner Room. We will evaluate it again in Spring 2022.
The story so far
Phase 3 of Inner Room ran from February to April 2021. Four groups of writers, from beginners to experienced, took part in one of two workshop series: The Craft of Poetry or Connecting with Poems. Our writing sessions, Room2Write, continued by popular demand. Kudos to all of you who turned up regularly for the 7.30am slot on Monday mornings – aka pyjama poetry. The Parish Reading Room also continued. Its sessions in February and March drew upon Lent poetry books, including Janet Morley’s anthology, The Heart’s Time. And in Easter week we held three bring-a-poem events, on the theme of ‘Joy’.
Phase 2 of Inner Room ran from November 2020 to January 2021. We held two series of poetry writing workshops – The Craft of Poetry and The Creative Process – as well as a larger poetry appreciation session – The Parish Reading Room. Writing workshop participants also took part in Room2Write, an experiment to help those of us who sometimes struggle to create a regular writing routine. Our popular bring-a-poem events included the Christmas Reading Room and Room Over The Border, to mark Burns Night.
Phase 1 ran until October 2020, on Zoom, with a larger poetry reading group and three smaller writing groups, all meeting monthly. Events included: What is Poetry?; What does Poetry do?; Poetry and Prayer; Faith, Doubt and Poetry; English Poetry – an overview; God, Love and Poetry; The Creative Process – a series of four creative writing workshops; and Inner Room on Zoom – an online poetry reading on National Poetry Day, October 1st, 2020.
Inner Room launched in March 2020 with a one-day poetry workshop at The Old Deanery, in Exeter, for members of Devon’s spiritual direction network. Patch a few words together – a title taken from the Mary Oliver poem, Praying – looked at how to use poems in spiritual accompaniment and offered the opportunity to explore the creative process through writing. Prior to that, Inner Room ran a pilot workshop on Poetry and prayer in St Stephen’s Church on National Poetry Day 2019.
Why the name?
Two reasons. It suggests that feeling of inner spaciousness – what psychologists call ‘flow’ – which is such a helpful way of being when you’re creating something. And you may also recognise the reference to the bible verse Matthew 6:6 – which in some translations says: when you pray, enter your inner room and close the door. So we hope Inner Room is a place where you can relax and give your creative self some private space, aware (if you’re a Christian) that you’re in the presence of a loving, supportive, creative God.
The Inner Room prayer
whose Son spoke in story and in metaphor
and whose Spirit guards and guides us,
help us to know in our hearts
that you have created us in your image
to be creative.
May we become like little children:
playful as we learn,
open to the wonder of creation
and trusting in your love.
And may your creativity flow through us
to enable us and those whose lives we touch
to grow in faith, hope and love.
In church jargon, Inner Room is a ‘pioneer lay ministry’ from the Parish of Central Exeter, facilitated by the poet Helen Evans with the support of a team drawn from the parish and beyond, which includes the Rector, Sheila Swarbrick and the Exeter-based poet and novelist, Richard Skinner. It ran initially until Spring 2021, when it was evaluated and the decision taken to continue, with the next evaluation scheduled for Spring 2022. It was inspired in part by two courses: Exploring Christian Spirituality, run by the Diocese of Exeter, and Foundations in Christian Ministry, run by the South West Ministry Training College. Inner Room is one way the parish offers the breathing space that’s part of its mission, within its overall ministry of love and reconciliation, and in line with its commitment to being an inclusive church where all are welcomed.
If you’d like to join the mailing list or if you have any questions, please feel free to contact Inner Room by email at InnerRoom@parishofcentralexeter.co.uk