In the past year the Faith Tourism Group (FTG) met four times and subsequently reported to the Communications Team.
During the year, Revd Canon Sarah Geach stood down as Chair and Tourism Officer and Mrs Caroline Evans took the role of Acting Chair (then subsequently appointed as Tourism Officer).
There has been much movement in team membership this year. However the group continues to represent a wide range of experience in faith tourism projects within the diocese, provincially and internationally. Representatives from Visit Wales were also welcomed at meetings and it was encouraging to see their increasing awareness of the place that churches have in the tourism offering. The attendance and involvement of Howard Llewellyn the new Diocesan Secretary has been very useful and welcomed.
Reports are regularly received from the Saints and Stones Group, the Peaceful Places project in North Ceredigion, tourism projects in Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion and an annual report is received from the Cathedral. Updates are received from the Refreshing North Pembrokeshire Project (RNP) and the diocesan webmaster as well as receiving an international perspective from Mr Andrew Campbell and Prof Jonathan Wooding who is an expert in Celtic faith heritage and pilgrimage.
The FTG continues to….
- Encourage parishes to enhance their ministry of welcome to visitors by providing them with resources.
- Encourage the use of the visual presentation developed for events and parish meetings.
- Expand the database and visitor map of church information throughout the Diocese.
- Be represented at the Diocesan Conference with a stall.
- Link parishes to national and regional projects – these included notably this year a project on holy wells in Wales, now called “Living Wells” which featured in a recent BBC Radio Wales programme.
- Ensure that church visitor information is included in publicity material from The Heart of Wales Forum.
- Support The Art on the Faith Trail. Now in its fifth year, it was extended further south to include churches in the parishes of Walton West, Walwyns Castle, Marloes and Dale.
- Develop the Culture Beacon project. A pilot funded by the Church in Wales which allows visitors worldwide to access information about 19 churches and St Davids Cathedral via a smart phone. (Some changes in digital platform and problems with registration has been disappointing but the content compiled is excellent and will enhance the visitor experience).
- Support the Saints and Stones, who are affiliated to the Tourism Group. They have had a very active year with the dedication by Bishop Joanna of a replica marker stone on St Dogmael’s Day.
- Move the Peaceful Places into a sustainability phase. Funding bids are being submitted, but there are fears that it may not be forthcoming.
New projects include the Tywi Valley Faith Trail which links churches, chapels and holy wells in the valley sited near the route of the new Towy Valley Cycle Path, involving working closely with Carmarthenshire County Council’s Project Officer.
Two Pembrokeshire projects requested support from the FTG this year, Re-Discovering Ancient Connections and Ports, Past and Present: Cultural Crossings between Ireland and Wales. Both look promising for the future.
The FTG carried out its triennial review of its aims and objectives in line with the Diocesan Growth Strategy. Key areas of work have been identified and include the celebration in 2023 of 900th anniversary of Pope Callixtus papal letter decreeing St Davids as a major place of pilgrimage. It has a three-year rolling plan with adjustments as appropriate and subject to external review.
The FTG would like to thank all the parishes, diocesan staff and officers that have worked with them during the past year and are always available to assist congregations with their ministry of welcome to visitors.
Mrs Caroline Evans Tourism Officer