Thursday, 31 December 2009

Mother of God

Anglican Churches dedicated to the Mother of God are so numerous that St. Mary's....(wherever) is the most common dedication of parish churches in the land. Lady chapels and statues and stained glass happily may be found everywhere. There are stories however of parishes that desire to restore a missing statue desecrated and broken up at the reformation or when that beast Oliver Cromwell ( yes the one who made the celebration of Christmas illegal) was in power; have found the Diocesan Advisory Committee less than helpful. One day I hope some committee in the public works department might get on and remove that incestuous statue of the tyrant Cromwell from in front of Parliament which is an affront to British democracy let alone to Ecclesia Anglicana. We had a tiff with the DAC when we installed a statue of the Mother of God here in the Lady Chapel at St. Arvans over 20 years ago. However, a lovely and persistent former parish priest persevered and the benefactor who gave it under a commission to the talented artist Siegfried Pietz refused to accept defeat as well!  This is a photo of it. The only enforced concession was that the crown was refused point blank. If anyone knows where we can get one we may return to the original design by the artist and arrange a coronation! Perhaps in the New year in May! A very Happy New Year to one and all.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Feast of the Holy Family

If many find it hard to get all the family together on Christmas Day itself, there are still many days of the season of Christmas to arrange to meet. The liturgies of today, the Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord are all good ways to re-unite and to bury differences and broken-ness. May the Holy Family at Bethlehem be our example and our inspiration to love and live together in harmony and peace.

Boxing Day

One of the fine traditions which endures in this country is the Boxing Day meet of foxhounds. Many church wardens, parishoners and not a few clergy continue to support this least cruel of all methods of controlling the vermin fox who has no natural predator and therefore support the repeal of the ban which prevents it. I recall only last spring when seven lambs were killed by the fox in the field in front of our house. He waited for the ewe to lamb the second of twins so that she being preoccupied with the second birth was unable to protect the first born who was dragged away and eaten alive during the second birth. This continued for a number of days. I have also seen the preferred culling method of the labour government who to it's shame supports the shooting and by extension therefore the maiming of foxes, rather than hunting them dead. This as every true countryman knows is a foul way of trying to control them. With foxhunting before the ban the fox was either caught and died instantly (no he is not alive when destroyed by hounds, the leading hound kills it first with a swift bite to the neck) or gets clean away which was the norm. The number of foxes that are wounded by taking shot and then who crawl away to die a cruel death of gangrene over days and weeks is a disgrace also, not to mention the thosands that are trapped, poisoned and hit on the roads by motorists.  The animal 'rights' groups who have forced the unworkable ban which is currently in place are perhaps mainly of good intent but many driven by a lack of understanding of man's relationship to animals and some by an idea that the are 'toff bashing'. They should see the huge social array of followers who include many labour supporters; doctors, nurses, policemen, vets, teachers, mechanics, builders, farm workers, children, grandmothers to name but a few . Most anti hunters are quite happy to eat meat as long as it comes in cellophane wrappers without a thought to the hundreds of thousands of animals killed for the table who were walking and breathing happily one minute and slaughtered with blood and guts everywhere the next. The above photo is of a churchwarden in one of our parishes with the Bishop of Monmouth. This was NOT a meeting of the hunt but a celebration in the summer out of season by parishoners of the centenery of the death of the local squire and benefactor of the church whose name was given to the local Curre Hunt. But it makes a nice seasonal photo all the same don't you think!

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Deacon Murdered

St Stephen as the first martyr was stoned to death, and watched by Paul (Saul) before his conversion, he is my patron as a fellow Deacon. He and Lawrence give me much encouragement in the church and vocation of service one tries to follow however badly. We need more vocational and permanent deacons! We began to recover their importance but with all the turmoil within the church things seem to have slowed down again. The liturgical role is the only thing that makes sense to me of the ordination of deacons. How those of a less traditonalist background cope with being treated as second class priests or servers in their parishes without this essential role beats me! Luckily my colleague and parish priest shares the same perspective and that of the Universal church. It is a specific and valuable ministry in it's own right. It is surely right in my mind that as with priests and bishops this ordained ministry is for men alone in the tradition of the church. of paramount importance is that we proclaim with confidence at every Mass the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world. The ministry  encompasses celebrating at baptisms, funerals, marriages, preparation for confirmation, preaching the word, benediction, Eucharistic rites of holy communion(always from the reserved sacrament), helping to run the parish, sick visiting and anointing, leading prayer and assisting with the distribution of the Holy Communion, Sunday school and catechist work and sharing in the cure of souls with the priest and as a servant of the Bishop in whose full sacramental and pastoral care one hopes to be part of, sharing in his college of priests and deacons made visible at the Chrism Mas in Holy Week. That is if you are allowed to have one, which we have been denied so unjustly here in Wales. Stephen was stoned to death and persecuted for his faith praying to God to be merciful to his murderers whilst being stoned. Today it is in joy that we share St. Stephens day with all the Christians of the West and East (their feast is actually the day after), may the continued prayers of the protomartyr and Deacon St. Stephen help us to serve Christ's church through the ministry of all deacons, supporting us in the heavy responsibility to which we have been called to share in with the Apostles and their successors. Amen

Christmas Day

After the midnight Mass I managed to get home by 1.30am and asleep by two. Up at 6am and up the hill to St. James' by 8.30 for the 9am Holy Communion from the reserved sacrament consecrated at midnight. The car door was frozen and took some getting into. A late start as people made their way to the church. All my words during the liturgy and sermon came out in clouds of condensation breath, it was so cold. I remember one Easter here when the flower vases were frozen for weeks inside the church! Good to be with them and a quick getaway and down to St. Arvans for the family service with Holy Communion from the tabernacle. About 50 present for the service and a lovely rendering of Away in a Manger with 12 children out front for the solo first verse and after the sermon they came to kneel at the crib for the prayers before the new born Christ and enthusiastic Hail Mary's. A wonderful and joyful day and festivities with the family and friends at home to follow.

Friday, 25 December 2009

God is made Man !

How can this be ? God is made man through the Holy Incarnation of His son Jesus Christ, son of God and son of Mary. Heaven and earth are joined together in a holy mystery, the heart of our Christian faith. A truth that makes sense of life itself and which triumphs over earthly and mortal death in an instant, in a flash. As the cries of the new born babe are muffled in a humble stable they in fact echo throughout the world and bless it with those cries and sounds of new life new birth. We rejoice and laugh and cry and welcome and pray and worship and adore. Allelluia! Christ is born of Mary a virgin most pure. All innocence is guaranteed, all sins are forgiven, all hope is the gift which is more precious than gold!!. Happy Christmas to all !!. Here are some photos of the four services in our small parishes in the last 24 hrs. See how my colleague Fr. Michael braved his broken arm sustained at 6pm last night and after three hours in the A&E managed in plaster cast to celebrate the great Holy Mass of the dawn......

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Christmas Eve Mass in the Morning

This is the quiet before the joy of new birth and before Fr. Michael our parish priest unfortunately fell on the ice and has just returned home from hospital with fractured arm in a plaster. Tonight's midnight Mass may have to be a Communion from the reserved sacrament but I hope not. I must say it was difficult to get to our outlying daughter church of St. Mary's Penterry(of Cistercian foundation from Tintern Abbey just down the hill). There is no electricity to the church and mo metalled road to it either which adds to the charm (in summer!)The ice has been far worse than expected freezing and re-freezing the snow. However, I managed to take the Carol service as planned having a lift from Bob in his four wheel drive. Penny our lay reader stepped in to take the Carol service at Devauden for Michael (we are four parishes with five churches). So off to the midnight at St. Arvans now home by 1am and up to de-ice the car and hope it gets me away by 8.30 in the morning for the 9am at Devauden and then back down to take the 10am family communion from the reserved sacrament as planned but Michael's 10.30 at St. Deiniols won't be on. Not as a Communion anyway and they won't be happy but I can't be in two places at the same time. When the diocese reduces the stipendiary clergy as it plans to the rural parishes although faithful are going to be ditched good and proper. Anyway back to joyful mode and to welcome God made man and pray that He will provide.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Incarnation Awaited

And so our Lord is coming to us, we wait patiently... the time of his coming is now nearly upon us. How will we receive him? In penitence and humbly but alive to the utter joy of this great mystery, born of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Setting aside now all our failings, unworthiness and faults we join with Christians everywhere to welcome, worship and adore. Not only a welcome with our words but in our actions, liturgies and in our very hearts and souls. We welcome the smiling Christ child, marvelling at his tiny human form as with little fingers raised in blessing he acknowledges our uncertainty and wonder and confirming that, yes, this mystery of his incarnation is true and the centre of our faith. This challenge will change us and hearten, strengthen and affirm us and the very meaning of life itself...if we let him (unlike at the Inn) into our hearts now and find room there . May we never say there is no room in our hearts for Him or his blessed mother Mary, mother of Jesus, mother of God, mother of the church, mother to all Christians.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Be Prepared!

As every good scout knows this 'Be Prepared' is the motto from General Baden Powell to his scouts, a profoundly Christian movement at it's conception. One that many of us will recall from our youth with gratitude and a smile! It certainly taught us how to get on with all sorts of different people and the outdoors as a preparation for responsible living and for respect and service of others. The uniform far from being just military was like a school uniform in this country (France wishes it had them to avoid materialism gone mad with fashion trainers, tee shirts etc.). I know that this is a time of reception, prayer and discernment regarding Anglicanorum coetibus but as there will be those accepting the Catechism of the Catholic Church without much hesitation, ought we not to be looking to set up, funds, seeking endowments, grants and trusts whose articles of trust might be favourable to the new Ordinariate. Members of SSC, Credo Cymru and Forward in Faith might be able to advise on the wording for legacies now. After all there will surely be a need to support those families and others who will be left off the payroll of their former churches. A couple of good legacies could leave £1 million or so to get things started, there will be other catholic Anglican trusts where the wording needs to be looked at for potential help. Even with the constructive dismissal cases that will surely begin (as they should if no proper provision is offered), these funds won't be enough to meet the immediate needs on their own. Any suggestions for a central fund that could be set up now with legacy invitations might be a good way to 'Be Prepared!' Buildings are another issue for another day.

Summer Fun and Pilgrimage

As it's nearly mid winter a post to warm us up! Have you been to Glastonbury Pilgrimage recently? When was your last time? Get the New Year diary out and make a note of the date NOW! It's June 19th. 2010. We've been going for the last fourteen years or so and it's always worth it. You are in the company of all the PEV's and the Welsh PAB, although the Welsh bench of Bishops have now decided not to appoint one despite the public promises made at the time of the vote on women priests. That's what they call giving us an honoured place and ensuring their pastoral care for us! How you can say you're giving  pastoral care and stabbing in the back at the same time seems what shall we say...strange?! I'm now not on the GPA (Glastonbury Pilgrimage Association) Council any more but I wonder whether the future of it might lie with the joining together of the Roman and Anglican pilgrimages together instead of separately as now. It ought to be possible even for those Anglo Catholics who won't yet have written out their RSVP's to the charming and timely invitation of the Holy Father and Bishop of Rome to join him in the RC church but as Anglicans (amazing isn't it!). I can never resist a polite invitation to a party and what an eternal one it could turn out to be!! We hope to be taking our picnic and the 16 members of the Sunday School this year..see you there!!

Monday, 14 December 2009

Advent 3

A big apology to my few but faithful readers of this post that it's been so long since the last! I suppose everyone can say they are extra busy at this time of the year. I have however found some really quiet moments (and I mean moments) through not blogging,  but through secular working ( I am non-stipendiary i.e. self- supporting), ministering as deacon, preparing the Sunday school or with the family, to be able to try and meditate on the coming events of the Holy Incarnation of God made man. Music has been the saving grace and medium. We as the clergy here at St. Arvans were able to kick-start our observances on Advent Sunday in November with a quiet hour of prayer with music before the Blessed Sacrament of the Lord exposed in the monstrance on the altar.This has been a reservoir of belief and grace on which to build for the season.  Our church is soaked with the prayers of the faithful since the ninth century which is very helpful too. The Advent hymns, organ chorales of Bach and various chants have helped me to steady the mad rush and to hold on to the real mystery and enormous importance of what will occur in a few days time. No I have not been particularly well organised. I'm behind with rehearsals for the Carol service, the fewer Christmas cards are still in their packets (we are donating to charity in the parish this year, not giving cards to those we see regularly), the Crib is not out of it's wrappers from last year, presents will be last. Then I have been writing the texts for the liturgy before the offertory at Mass next week when the younger one's will be celebrating the Stations of the Incarnation around the church with readings, lighting of candles, prayers, meditations and procession with an early blessing of the crib. All accompanied by Angels and Shepherds. I think the choice of Mary and Joseph has been done without too many tears!!  Then there was the Sunday Worship from our parish to prepare for last week. We have been on Radio Wales a few times but this was national BBC Radio 4!! When I was told it was going out to 1.8 MILLION listeners live, anxiety or vanity more like rather kicked in. Oh Dear. However, the Cardiff Polyphonic Choir ( music director Neil Ferris) , organist David Thomas, Fr. Michael Gollop parish priest, readers and Kate Price cellist and everyone else did magnificently. A small parish like ours of 880 souls was ministering the Gospel to the World through the Word, liturgy and music of God. Well done to Sian Baker the producer and her colleagues in the BBC. Long may this Christian witness through national media continue. The Advent Hymns and music speak to us profoundly through all the turmoil.  Through these wonderful words and this music the tradition of the Church makes Jesus expected and real and about to be born....but not yet. We wait alongside Mary Mother of God with pregnant expectation for the saving glory of the birth of Christ to be proclaimed...but not yet."Pour down O heavens  from above and let the skies rain down righteousness!" This was the broadcast...