Wednesday, 16 February 2011

A place invisible to Google

Last night my friends Chris and Bev Reaney were both licensed for ministry in neighbouring Parishes. Chris is now priest in charge of St Mary's Troedrhiwgarth, Maesteg, and Bev is Curate in the Team Ministry of Llangynwyd with Maesteg, in the same borough. Bev started as a non-stipendiary priest and is now converting over to full time ministry, hardly a difficult task for her with a background in hospital social work, and a quarter of century as a pastor's wife. I've never been convinced by the excuses made for making movement between voluntary and paid ministry more flexible, especially as training for both forms has to a good extent converged. Nevertheless, Bev's patience has been rewarded. Maesteg is lucky to have them both working there as community builders.

Anyway, with the Chi Gung class being moved to Thursday this week, there was no conflict of interest, so I was free to drive up to Troedrhiwgarth for the induction service. I knew it was in the borough of Maesteg, but not exactly where. I had the place name, but not the street where the church was. I tried looking it up on Google Maps. Maesteg, Google could find, but Troedrhiwgarth? No. It offered Troed-y-rhiw in Merthyr Vale instead, and I was able to find Garth railway station, Maesteg but absolutely no Troedrhiwgarth. I couldn't believe it, and was quite upset, as I knew that the Parish contact phone number would be most unlikely to yield friendly travel instructions an hour before the service. However, Google images gave me a photo of the church - in daylight naturally. Would I be able to see it in the dark? There was nothing for it but to drive to Garth, Maesteg, and stop and ask someone.

It rained all the way there, but the journey was smooth. I didn't see a soul on the streets as I drove up Cwm Llynfi hunting for signposts. I found the Garth turning easily, and drove up the main street. Thankfully, that's where the church was easily found, recognisable, ablaze with lights and activity while all around was empty and deserted. I arrived to hear the bell tolling as the clergy procession made its way from the Elderly People's Club down the street to St Mary's. A quarter of the people in a smallish church holding about ninety were clergy.

Bishop David Wilbourne preached thoughtfully, and conducted proceedings with a good deal of humour, as is his habit. As part of his sermon he recited George Herbert's 'Love bade me welcome' with such vigor, that it was a few sentences before I realised that he wasn't just quoting a line, but delivering the poem in the same relaxed Yorkshire accent with which he preaches. He reminded me of Ian McMillan performing on BBC Radio Three's poetry programme 'The Verb'. It was good to be there, to meet former colleagues, free to sit right at the back praying. A colleague nearing retirement asked me what retirement was like for me. Great to feel so free from everyday anxiety, I said. That would be nice. He replied, knowingly. St Paul spoke of his 'daily concern for the churches'. Did he experience this too?

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