Thursday, 6 April 2017

Ministry in-between times

I drove to St John's to celebrate the Eucharist this morning, once again having left it too late to walk there in time. There were nine of us present. I've noticed how numbers tail off somewhat through Lent and pick up again for Holy Week and Easter. What I believe happens is that warmer longer days encourage some people to travel more than they have over the winter months. Palm Sunday weekend in Wales, is like All Saints tide in Europe. People visit graves of family members, tidy them up and leave flowers. These days fewer folk live so close to places they grew up in or still have relatives in. It's all part of the changing pattern of life today.

During Lent, Bishop David has been giving special Lent talks on Mission and Ministry at churches in various parts of the diocese. I believe they have been well attended, and well received. I've been most fortunate to receive copies of his addresses after they've been delivered, and much enjoyed reading them, as opportunity arose. His style is conversational, anecdotal and poetic, using stories with great effect to put his core points across, and is often laced with humour and incisive wit. I can well imagine hearing his Yorkshire voice when reading his text and often find myself laughing aloud, and moved to reflect on his deep spiritual insight.

Sadly on Easter Day Bishop David's ministry in the diocese ends. He has devoted himself to being a teacher and pastor during the episcopal vacancy, providing a focus and support for the faithful while ruling himself out of being promoted as a candidate for the role of diocesan Bishop. He has certainly fulfilled his role with great integrity, dignity and humility. How hard it must be for him, especially when people love the way he ministers, and maybe say. "Why can't you be our new Bishop?" That's not easy to handle, as I know from personal experience when ministering as an interim priest abroad, as people appreciative of being 'properly' looked after are prone to say "Why can't you stay?" And that's because many have no idea how much it takes to work full time, and don't seem to realise that I'm past retirement age, older than I seem to be. John the Baptist's words "He must increase while I must decrease" often come to mind, whoever the incoming pastor might be, eventually. 

It seems possible that there'll be no announcement of an appointment before he leaves unless there's a surprise awaiting us all next week. Then Llandaff diocese will truly be 'like sheep without a shepherd'. In the absence of a new leader to set the tone, unite and inspire everyone, all the routines of church will will continue, but not much by way of innovation or change can happen, because of the top-down nature of church leadership which Anglicans doggedly cling to.

I cooked supper for us early, then drove over to St German's for the Stations of the Cross at seven. There were just four of us, but I still felt it was worthwhile, praying with Church Wardens Richard and Peter plus Peter's wife Hilary, bringing the future of the Parish to God in prayer. Earlier in the day the whole of Tredegarville School had been in church for a special Passiontide/Easter celebration of Mass, at which Fr Phelim presided, at my suggestion, so that he could be introduced to the children, while I covered the usual Thursday service back in Canton Benefice. We're still awaiting a licensing date for him, and may have to wait until a new Bishop has been appointed for a date to be set in his/her diary. Things drag on painfully after such a long wait for the people of Splott and Adamsdown to have their new priest-in-charge.

Later in the evening I watched the first two episodes of the bilingual production of 'Hinterland' on BBC iPlayer. We watched the all-Welsh version on S4C six months ago. Now BBC Wales is showing the bilingual version, and in months to come it will appear on all networks. It was worth watching again, to see how skilfully the use of Welsh and English is interwoven in the script, reflecting real everyday life in mid and north Wales.

No walking today, so no litter picking.

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