Sunday, 1 April 2012

Up country Palm Sunday

Yesterday I took Clare to the train to start her journey to Dornach near Basel in Switzerland, where she is taking part in a world conference of Steiner kindergarten workers, interpreting for her friend Marlies, who  is speaking about her book on babies and electronic communications devices, whose English edition Clare has been working on recently, and I've been assisting with print layout. So, I'm  home alone, in retreat for most of Holy Week.

It was again this morning, a bright and early sunny Spring Sunday drive out into the Vale to take two Palm Sunday services. First for a dozen people at Llandough, and then for another dozen at Llansannor about four miles away. It was my first visit to the latter, and although it was well signposted, I had little idea of where it actually was, enfolded by wooded hills, a few miles west of the Llantrisant-Cowbridge Road. It wasn't easy to see from above before descending to the Ddaw valley floor, as it is surrounded by large old trees set in the middle of farmland next to an old manor house up a  tree lined rough metalled track away from the road.
To my delight I've discovered the second church in this Benefice with an intact circular walled churchyard that  justifies this domain being called the 'Llan' of Saint Sennwr, an obscure Celtic Saint first mentioned in the twelfth century. And what a well cared for gem of a church building it is. This was possibly a sacred site long before the first church was recorded in the annals of Tewkesbury Abbey, along with Llanbleddian a few miles away and my former church of St John's in Cardiff.

Set into the floor of the sanctuary is the thirteenth century stone effigy of a knight in repose, with legs crossed in the 'Crusader' fashion. It's not clear who it represents or how it came to be there, except that it may have been brought from elsewhere, possibly St John's Priory in Carmarthenshire. Or, may even be parts of two similar effigies joined together when it was installed.
The congregation was very welcoming and obviously shared my delight in their place of worship. Both here and at Llandough, people took part in reading the Passion, and I preached a brief extempore homily about participating in Christ's story, and in the life of the Gospel. I don't usually preach on Palm Sunday as the service is usually elongated by the procession with palms, but on this occasion, neither congregation wished to venture outdoors, weather notwithstanding - something to do with the age of the congregations and uneven terrain away from the churchyard paths outside. We sang 'All glory laud and honour' uncomfortably from Mission Praise - not a happy experience as it doesn't correspond with the traditional rendering with repeated chorus most are accustomed to from other hymnals. It was a bit of an April Fool joke to my mind.

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