Letters from the Diocese
Lent is a time for reading…
In my ‘day job’ as an editor for the Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF), I have to publish an annual book of readings for Lent and Easter. Over the years I have worked with a wide range of authors, and enjoyed helping them find a theme for their book so that it will have a different ‘feel’ from the previous year’s volume. The 2015 BRF Lent book, Reflecting the Glory, is by Tom Wright, the former Bishop of Durham, who is now Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of St Andrews.
Over the years, Tom Wright has written hugely significant books of New Testament scholarship and also many titles aimed at a wide audience, including his ‘For Everyone’ series of Bible commentaries. It was a great privilege to be his editor for Reflecting the Glory, which provides a Bible reading, comment and prayer for every day from Ash Wednesday to Easter (including each day in Easter Week). Focusing on the New Testament epistles of 1 and 2 Corinthians, the book shows how through God’s Holy Spirit, we can reveal something of Jesus even at the lowest and weakest points of our lives. No matter how feeble we may feel our faith to be, we can reflect the glory of God’s own Son.
Even though Lent is now well underway, it isn’t too late to pick up a Lent book (or some other book of spiritual reading) and take a bit of time to ponder what our faith means to us - and how it can be used to touch the lives of others. In the words of Tom Wright: ‘The relevance of knowing God in Jesus is that when we love God in Jesus, we discover how that love, that personal love, is given to us in order that it may be given through us.’
As you continue to read this month’s magazine you will notice a few changes to the services and church meetings that are a traditional and important part of Lent. Firstly you will notice that our United Mothering Sunday Service will be held at Llanwrin this year, transport will be available for those who need it but please let me or the Church Wardens know.
Secondly each Church has to have a Congregation meeting prior to the Ministry Area AGM in April. I cannot stress enough how important these meetings are to the mission and ministry of each Church and our Ministry Area as a whole and I urge you all to attend the meeting in your Church and make your views known, bring along new ideas, show support for your Ministry Team and the Team Leaders and for all those who are already working very hard.
The Clergy Retreat this year was in Nant Gwrtheyrn on the Llŷn Peninsula – a beautiful place. The theme was “Transforming Landscapes – knowing your place”. We were able to reflect on the changing landscape of this former mining village and the people who lived and worked there. How people were changed by the landscape and how the landscape was changed by people. How our own personal landscapes, both physically and spiritually, change and what we do with that. Isn’t it lovely to watch the season’s change – to watch the signs of spring greet us every morning – we know our place in this familiar landscape. But what about the changing landscape of our Church, our worship, how we “do church”? Do we know our place in this landscape? Our wonderful Creator God continues over and over again to make all things new. As our relationship with God deepens so the landscapes of our souls and minds change. But God is constant, His love is constant, the Good News is the same, our mission as Christians is the same – proclaiming the Good News.
I pray that this Lent God will guide you to discern your place in the story that is evolving around us, that we may all become more aware of His Eternal Presence reaching out to us in love.
With every blessing to you and yours
I hope you all had a happy and peaceful Christmas. December was very busy in our churches with festivities starting early in Machynlleth with the lighting of the town Christmas tree on November 30th, Carol singing around the Town Clock, mulled wine and mince pies, followed by a candlelit walk down to St Peter’s for more mulled wine, mince pies, singing and lots of Advent crafts for the children. It was a lovely evening enjoyed by all and we finished off the mulled wine after the 11am service the following day. On the 18th December we welcomed the Honourable Mrs Shân Legge-Bourke, Lord-Lieutenant of Powys, and her deputy, Mrs Tia Jones, to our Carol Service at St Peter’s. There were plenty of children to make up the Nativity scene at the Crib Service on Christmas Eve and the Midnight Communion service was also well attended. It has been a joy to come together to celebrate the most wonderful event that changed the course of human history forever – CHRISTMAS.
But sadly December also brought tragedy to many people – to the families of the 132 children and 13 adults murdered in a school in Peshawar, Pakistan; the six Christmas shoppers killed and many injured in the road accident in Glasgow; the loss of loved ones in our own communities. These losses are devastating whenever they happen but it always seems worse at this time of the year but if the miraculous events at Bethlehem 2000 years ago show us one thing it is this – God became human; God is here, in this fractured, hurting world. God is with us in the dark nights and the hopeless situations, in the midst of the light and the darkness giving us strength and hope for the long haul of life. So look up and walk forward into 2015 with the good news ringing in your ears – a Saviour has been born for us – Glory to God in the highest!
With every blessing to you and yours for 2015
I’m including two short reflections on “remembering” in this month’s magazine – I found them interesting, I hope you do too.
I’m sure most of us have seen the amazing sight in London of the 888,246 ceramic poppies filling the moat of The Tower of London. Each poppy representing a British or Colonial soldier killed in the First World War. This year is the centenary of the beginning of that most awful war and on the 9th November we will come together to pay our respects and to remember those who have sacrificed their lives in war. So why do we remember?
“They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore”.
Micah lived in a world of war and violence about 700 years before Christ, but he prophesied a future of hope, a world where nations come together in peace instead of war. His vision saw a time when the arms of war would be turned into farming tools and people would live in peaceful community.
Our understanding of peace is more than the avoidance of war or the absence of conflict. It’s about building relationships between people, communities and nations, which positively creates a love and care for others founded on justice for all. As we remember the sacrifice of those who died in the First World War, our response must be to look practically at how we can build relationships of peace and justice in our world, starting with our own families, colleagues and neighbourhoods. As Micah says, “we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever” (4:5). We always need God’s presence and power to change us into the people who have a passion for peace and justice, and compassion for everyone.
“They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them”
The peace of God to you and yours
(adapted from a meditation on what Peace might look like - The Rev Paul Hardingham)
I hope you’ve all had a pleasant summer and are refreshed by the warm sunshine we’ve had – maybe not quite so warm in the last couple of weeks!
In July I was fortunate enough to spend the day on Ynys Enlli – Bardsey Island. It’s a place that’s been on my “to visit” list for some time and it certainly didn’t disappoint. I love to watch and listen to the sea but to travel on the sea is not a favourite of mine and it looked a little choppy on that Monday morning! I had no need to worry, though, in the capable hands of Colin who has navigated Bardsey Sound for many years and my return trip caused far less anxiety.
Our boat was escorted into the Quay on the Island by an inquisitive seal checking out the first visitors of the day. As I got off the boat making my way up the quay, I stopped to look back at the sea – I don’t know what I expected but what I experienced at that moment is hard to describe – a feeling I was part of something good and much bigger than I have words to express. As we walked, mostly in silence, on our pilgrimage around the Island, we stopped at places along the way– the lighthouse, Maen Duw, the birdwatchers hide, the Abby ruins – taking time to pray for ourselves and others and to feel God’s presence in the wonder of creation all around us. Our pilgrimage took about two hours but there are more places on this beautiful island that “invite us to join the prayers of those Christians who have sought God here for almost 1500 years and to join in what we might think of as the island’s own prayer – the wordless, indefinable link between creation and Creator” (Pilgrimage, Andrew Jones p186)
Ynys Enlli has been a place of pilgrimage for centuries with 20,000 saints buried on the island, I had read and been told that the accumulation of prayer over this time is almost tangible and now I know that it is.
With every blessing to you and yours