Sunday, December 31, 2017

The new year begins

Just grabbing a few moments peace and quiet, while DH takes the rest of the family into the village to see the Christmas lights, to wish you all a very happy New Year. 2017 has been a difficult year for many, yet it is human nature to look forward at the year’s turning and trust that next year things will be different and better.

In that spirit may I wish you and yours health, contentment and peace of body and mind in 2018. 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Nadolig Llawen

This is the first Christmas for 11 years that we will spend at home in Wales, so it seems appropriate to wish you all a very happy Christmas in Welsh. As it’s so long since I hosted the family for Christmas instead of being hosted by them, I’d forgotten how much work is involved. That must be why it’s taken me until the morning of Christmas Eve to gather my thoughts sufficiently to write my Christmas blog post. But now the house is quiet, with some visitors out, the younger generation busy with their own affairs, and DH en route, bring his mother to spend Christmas with us.

Searching for music was, as always, intensely pleasurable and also fraught with memories, conjured up by a few notes or bars of this carol or that. The carol I’ve chosen has been one of my favourites ever since I sang it as a first-year undergraduate in 1965, discovering the joys of choral singing as a member of the college chapel choir. The carol setting was still new and not yet well-known and I was young, which may be why it embedded itself in my heart and is still so powerfully evocative. The glorious rendering also dates from that era and it comes to you with my warmest wishes for a very happy Christmas and a peaceful and healthy New Year.

Image:   The Adoration of the Shepherds by Matthias Stom (c. 1600 – 1652)

Carol:    There is no rose
               Words: English traditional, circa 1420
               Music: John Joubert – Opus 14, 1954

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.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Twenty years on – gratitude and hope

Five years ago today, I wrote a blog-post to mark the fifteenth anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. I was still pretty new to blogging and this seemed to me a good opportunity to capture some of the memories of that eventful and historic time and tell a story which deserves to be remembered. 

This year the Church in Wales decided to mark the twentieth anniversary of these first ordinations with simultaneous services in all six Welsh cathedrals. We live at the very southern tip of Bangor Diocese, so on Saturday morning DH and I set off bright and early to drive the 85 miles to our cathedral. Normally we would have revelled in the glorious scenery through which we were travelling, but sadly that morning it was almost completely shrouded in thick Welsh mist. Nevertheless we arrived in good time and at 11am the service began.

Of the original nine ordained in Bangor all those years ago, only I and three others were able to be there. One had died, one was ill, and two had moved out of the diocese, while the last was unavoidably absent. However we were strongly supported by the presence of many of the women ordained in the diocese since that momentous first ordination and we rejoiced in the fact that the new Dean of the cathedral, who presided at the Eucharist, was one of the original nine ordained in 1997.

Our bishop relinquished his normal position to act as deacon to the women who led the service and our preacher was an old friend from the campaigning days of the mid 1990s, who gave us a sermon by turns thoughtful, inspiring and amusing. The cathedral choir sang sublimely as always and the proceedings were filmed by BBC Wales who had also covered the service twenty years ago. As we met up with old friends after the service and exchanged reminiscences, it was hard to believe so many years had passed.

The following day I led the service at the same church where I had celebrated Holy Communion for the first time 20 years before and, thankfully, still with many of the same faces in the congregation. Now, as I reflect on the past weekend and the twenty years since the events it commemorated, I am filled with gratitude for the people I have known, the work I have been enabled to do and the deep enjoyment and satisfaction it has given me. And as I look forward to the consecration next week of the first woman to be elected bishop in the Church in Wales, I am filled with hope and encouragement for the future. Gratitude and hope – who could wish for more?

A memory of 20 years ago

Being welcomed by the Dean - one of us

Listening intently to the sermon

Celebrating the Eucharist together, led by the Dean - and yes, it's still the Christmas season.

The final procession - cathedrals love processions!

Together with our preacher, second from left

The Famous Four