BLOG 6: BACK TO OUR ROOTS
On the Thursday before St David’s Day, on my pilgrimage Yn Amsang Dewi Sant, In the Steps of St David, I found myself, if not at journey’s end, then in that part of the world which is most associated with our Patron saint.
I was in Dewisland itself, whose Welsh name is Pebydiog . It is the area of Wales most associated in legend with Dewi himself, the area, so it is said, where his earthly journey began in the sixth century.
I was visiting the group of five ancient churches which has recently been constituted as the Benefice of North Dewisland. By the end of the day the total number of churches I had visited since the journey began just over a year ago was one hundred and eleven (out of three hundred and twenty eight); and I had been welcomed by the clergy and people at twenty seven benefices.
This last sequence once again presented me with the sheer variety of churches and congregations in this diocese; and with the generally positive and hopeful attitudes of both clergy and people as they face the numerous and far reaching structural changes which affect both diocese and province at this juncture.
It took me from the Carmarthenshire estuary to the North Cardiganshire coast; from the eastern edge to post industrial Carmarthenshire; from substantial Victorian seaside churches to very small rural and quite isolated churches, one of which once produced thirteen clergy (their names are on the sanctuary panelling) including a bishop.
This reminds us of how much the rest of the Church in Wales and Anglican churches far afield owe to North Cardiganshire as a nursery of the ordained ministry; and of how things have changed – the last name was dated 1939.
The journey included a visit to Pembrokeshire and a newly established Local Ministry Area, which gave the opportunity to both people and clergy to tell me how it was all going. Then there were the projects reaching out to the community, especially the lonely; and a substantial number of those projects involve the use of church buildings refurbished to meet those particular needs as well as creating spaces for post service hospitality…
…contact with schools, – both church and community, both English and Welsh medium – and with tertiary education: it is so good to know that clergy are making and sustaining links with the schools on their patch, both as governors an visitors.
There were visits to local employers, heritage sites, housebound parishioners, including some very alert nonagenarians and centenarians, and there was the worship in all its variety but in every case prepared with care and delivered with sensitivity.
And then having visited and enjoyed my visit to North Dewisland, on St David’s Day itself I found myself literally, or at least metaphorically and in imagination, treading in the steps of St David, as we made our way in procession from the well at St Non’s, his traditional birthplace, through the streets of the village city to the Square, on to the mediaeval Cross – it is me or do the steps up to the Cross get steeper every year? – for the blessing of the City and then down to the Cathedral through the Close for prayers at the Shrine.
I did indeed have the feeling, given that we were singing Baring Gould’s hymn, that we were ‘treading where the saints have trod’. I have the same feeling, as I continue my journey in Dewi’ footsteps around the diocese to churches which bear the names of so many of his contemporaries, the saints of the ancient British church. But that feeling is not confined to the past. I also feel, and know, that what I have seen and experienced in the last year, mans that I am walking alongside and in the footsteps of the saints of the present, who give life and grow hope to the communities in which they live; and whom they serve.
Bendith y Garawys as bob un ohonoch
+ Wyn Tyddewi.