Sunday, December 03, 2017

Advent pause

As the sun gradually sinks towards setting on this Advent Sunday afternoon, I’m sitting in my cosy study in a completely silent house. DH is on one of his periodic visits to his mother and I am enjoying the peace after a busy and enjoyable morning at church.

Our bishop was with us for a special Advent Sunday service to mark the opening of communion to all baptised persons, whatever their age. All the congregations in our group had come together to celebrate the occasion and this being Wales, the singing at its peak threatened to raise the roof. After the service we gathered in the adjoining church hall for a bring and share lunch and a great deal of lively conversation.

As I drove home, I reflected on what we had just shared and it seemed to me to offer glimpses of hope and encouragement in what can so often seem to be our dark and divided world. The opening of communion to all is for me a symbol of the pulling down of barriers and healing of divisions. The sharing of food and fellowship was the perfect way to mark the church’s New Year and the beginning of the period of preparation for Christmas we call Advent.

The hymns we sang were carefully chosen to reflect the twin themes of Advent. We began with “O come, o come, Emmanuel”, that great hymn of longing for the coming of the Messiah, and ended with Charles Wesley’s magnificent hymn looking forward to the return of Christ in glory. Plenty of musical and spiritual sustenance there to see me through all the busyness of the next three weeks until we again celebrate the wonder of the Nativity.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

So many memories…

Yesterday, almost exactly 44 years since we first saw it, our old house up in the hills ceased to belong to us. New owners have moved in, with excited plans and hopes for their life there, and DH and I have been left with our memories of the many years it was our home.

I remember the day in 1973 when we went to view it for the first time and how we seemed to be travelling through a green tunnel as we drove from the village up the sunken road with its over-arching trees and high hedges, until we emerged at the top to a glorious view over the hills of Mid-Wales. 

I remember how we turned off the road and went down a rutted lane until we saw the sagging roof of the decrepit old farmhouse, which was all we could afford, and fell in love with it there and then.

I remember years of scrimping and saving until we had enough money to do the necessary renovations and how we still managed to have a very happy life with our two young children in its shabby rooms and lovely surroundings. 

I remember them playing outside in the summer and sledging down the big field in the snowy winters we had in the 70s and early 80s.

I remember the horrendous months of renovation work, during which we stored most of our possessions in the garage and camped in one room after another to let the builders get on with their work unhindered. It was during those months that one of the most indelible memories of all was formed, when early one morning I raced downstairs in my bare feet to the kitchen at the sound of the telephone and stood shivering on the rubble-strewn floor to hear the news that my mother had died.

I remember, indeed I will never forget, how the new bathroom created by the renovation work gave us one of the most wonderful views any house could have and how this ash tree through the seasons provided a leitmotif for our life there.

I remember our children growing up there, learning new skills, discovering their potential, until first one, then the other, left for university and a new life across Offa’s Dyke in England. I remember how they came to visit, first alone, then with partners and children, especially at Christmas when the dark old beams made a perfect backdrop for decorations and tree, but also in school holidays and half-terms.

I remember the bedroom I turned into a study and how I spent almost every free hour of three hard but rewarding years, studying for ordination alongside my full-time work in the library. I remember DH helping me by typing my essays on one of our earliest computers, stopping from time to time to suggest I rethink or reword sections which were unclear or badly-expressed.

I remember how, after my first diagnosis of cancer, DH suggested we could add a conservatory at the back of the house where we could sit and look across to the distant hills. I remember the fun of planning it and doing much of the work ourselves, and how it was there that we watched Grandson#1 take his first unsteady solo steps one holiday weekend. I remember sitting there a couple of years later with my youngest sister and her fiancé on a sunny summer afternoon, as we happily planned the wedding I would conduct for them.

I remember how we decided to turn the old cowshed across the farmyard into a holiday cottage, which I advertised in the church press, and how for several years a series of tired clergy came with their families to enjoy the peace and the glorious views.

Later, after our six years living elsewhere while I was in full-time parish ministry, I remember how we moved back there when I retired and realised that it had never really stopped being home.

But now it has. Now home is down in the valley, with a view of the hills above us and of the river at the edge of the garden, while a new family discovers the delights of living in that very special place, and we are content.

Sunday, April 16, 2017


He is risen and I know that my redeemer lives.

Wishing you all a very joyful Easter.

Image: The Empty Tomb by Hanna Varghese (1938 – 2007) 
Music: Handel‘Messiah’.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Love to the loveless shown

My song is love unknown

Image:  A Flemish high-relief of the Crucifixion, second half of C17th.
Hymn:  Words (1664) by Samuel Crossman (1623-1683) 
               Music: Love Unknown (1925) by John Ireland (1879-1962) 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The road to the Highlands

They say time passes more and more quickly the older we become, but I still can’t believe it’s two whole years since we were able to make more than a fleeting visit to our beloved north coast of Scotland. But the calendar doesn’t lie and two years it is. Thankfully the drought is about to break and on Thursday we shall finally be heading north again. So while the washing machine is churning with a final load, I’m taking a break from making lists and packing to bring you up-to-date.

Looking back to our brief trip early last year it’s hard to believe how much has happened since. Back then the referendum on EU membership was still in the future and the US presidential election was just moving into the primary contest season. I could never have imagined how strongly my attention would become monopolised by the unfolding drama that is politics on the other side of the Atlantic and here at home the unfolding disaster that is Brexit. Add to all this the huge amount of work involved in the clearing and sale of the old house and it's no wonder my poor blogging muse went AWOL.

But now spring is here, summer time has begun and it’s time to hit the road to the Highlands once again. The very small campervan is now distinctly ageing and has been retired from such long journeys, so it will be the very small car which will somehow absorb all the things we need for a month’s stay in one of the most beautiful places on earth. So it’s hey ho for the open road and I’ll see you in bonnie Scotland.