Er Cof

In memory of Frances Ann Davies who first inspired this idea in me and who shared her wild welsh poppy seeds.

basket poppy packetHave you seen the seed selection
packets with pictures of prize
winning marrows and flowers
in bloom like a thousand prisoners
those seeds hang on death rows
awaiting release sow by date
stamped on each packet a life
sentence without parole starving
inside foil for freshness the irony
a seed is fresh when born.
I too have held them prisoner,
captive since last summer in a
jar among the spices and packets
of unknown contents on a shelf.
Poppy seeds with a potential to
grow into golden patches of sunlight
pushing up anywhere they might fall.

I got them from Anne’s farm garden who said these are welsh poppies – so it must be true.  I scattered them and forgot for a time and a season or two later they came pushing their way through a crack in concrete between shrubs under the log pile where the sun’s warmth barely registers.  Hardy.  Reliable.  Resilient.  and so I’m told, Welsh.  With their bright yellow and orange heads these are peacemaker poppies – not for sale but for sowing.  Wild and free they make no political statement just a flower grown like their cousins were once in the fields after battle was done.  As they come up I remember to be as resilient as them for they offer seeds of hope, joy and peace in dark places.  A symbol of humility and faith.  I’ll sow these seeds again to feed that joy as I watch them grow against all the odds.  I know that as each one flowers more seeds will be born.  Flower by flower we can take away that which drives our fears and begin to be lead towards a path of peace.  So I offer you a packet of seeds for remembrance to feed the hope that germination might bring.

Offered as a reflection on ‘Remembrance’ to the Bangor Clergy Cadfan group of Ministry Area Leaders.

Lle Gorffwys – a resting place

IMG_0122I have for some time given worth to the idea of a shared common task.  A task other than maintaining a building or a pattern of worship as these things ought to serve the central task rather than the other way around.  Be that common task a community project, or supporting a local charity or at its simplest raising funds in order to send others out.  The truth is that we always have had a shared common task.  We, as followers in the way of Jesus have the shared common task to follow the commandments that Jesus taught which are summed up in the simple command – to love one another.  Even this is not new, as such a command is to be found in the Hebrew Scriptures too.  I’m sorry if you find that disappointing, if you were expecting something more dramatic, but I have to say, isn’t that more than enough to be going on with?  I find it quite telling that this so called ‘simple task’ is not yet done.  It reminds me of the rich young man who comes to Jesus asking what more he might do.  Jesus asks him to give away all he has to the poor and he goes away sad.  As has been shown by the European campaigning loving one another does not come easily to some of us.  Especially when the other is one who can be easily labelled, blamed or stigmatised.  So when I am presented with the idea of yet another project, I’m rather tempted to say:  Really, don’t we have enough to be getting on with?  And in many ways we do.  I’m still drawn to the phrase – that we ought to be seeking: ‘new ways to touch the hearts of all’.  It is relatively easy to love those who we see week by week.  Less easy is it to love those we rarely meet and harder still to love the whole of the world as a place in which God’s love is shown, offered and held.  There is only a certain amount you can hide from engaging with that task.  At our recent Easter Vestry Meeting I spoke about a vision for ministry which will enable us here to extend our reach in order to love one another more.  This vision began to be expressed some 10 years ago.  Seven years ago, the Bishop of St. Asaph asked me where I wanted to be in ten years time, I replied, ‘oh that’s easy’ at which point he reminded me he didn’t want to hear the name of a particular parish or other!  The vision I expressed to him is the same, by and large, that I expressed at the recent Vestry meeting and do again today.  That we create in our community a place which enables us to strengthen our ties to each other and to the land that sustains us.  It would be a place of Sabbath rest, for the living and for those who have died.  A place where stories can be exchanged.  A place where vulnerability becomes a strength.  A place of hospitality which draws people to stay, rather than just to visit.  A place which begins to grow within itself and within those who gather.  A community which invests time and energy into learning from and using natural processes.  A place for reflection and learning from the natural environment, but ultimately of inspiration that every place might become as inspired.  Those who grew together would share stories, would celebrate, give thanks, and offer opportunities for others to experience the same.  Such a place might become a real presence in a community and could: by its very nature be visible and active, of skilled and learning, providing a service, food and fuel to those living locally, fulfil a primary role of church, to ‘be there in the midst of the people.’  Offer space for reflection. Opportunities to meet and discuss.  For hospitality.  For education, work and sanctuary.  Opportunities to celebrate and give thanks.  Ultimately to establish a place on earth which speaks of heaven in order that we might love one another.  I have struggled with this vision for as long as I have held it with many questions such as:  Why direct resources away from the traditional models of church?  Should not every parish be encouraged to be such a place?  In answer to the first, ideally it should be self sustaining.  In answer to the second, yes, absolutely, but one place must be first to inspire others.  Seven years into +Gregory’s ten years I believe, I have found somewhere which could be such a place.  Though to say ‘I have found somewhere’, is not quite right for really the place found me.  I was not looking.  It is a place which is already established, already a part of and known by many in the community, a place which offers a great deal to those who know it and visit it.  It is already a Sabbath place or in welsh lle gorffwys, a resting place.  There have been too many coincidences, serendipity moments and pure chance meetings for this to be overlooked, it is a moment as Moses before the lit bush, a moment to turn aside and listen for the next steps to take on the path.

A Sanctuary and a Light

header_47Church Hostel Bangor is up for sale.  aka The Anglican Chaplaincy, more affectionately: AngChap or simply for those of us who lived and worked there ‘home from home’.

We were always walking a tightrope whilst juggling the twin identities of this place, Hostel and Chaplaincy.  Whether doing the accounts and applying for money, or justifying the existence of either to churches and dioceses.  We created an intentional community taking 25 or so students, throwing them together in a building attempting to create some form of community for a year.  Some years it worked better than others.

I’ve never been fond of church buildings in general because once established it is very difficult to let them go when they are no longer needed!  Hence the title of the book “Beyond these walls”. Though it is useful to have a place from which to come and go.  AngChap served that purpose well.  I was, however, surprised at the level of emotion welling up when I heard the news that Church Hostel was up for sale.  Hostel and Chaplaincy have for a number of years taken separate journeys in Bangor.  So as Hostel it was Sanctuary.  A home, a place of welcome and of hospitality.  Often with rather wild parties, gatherings and events.  Much like any other student accommodation I imagine.  This was met with Chaplaincy, which offered the Light (to lighten the gentiles).  It was indeed a place to come and go from.  A Sanctuary and a Light.  This twin purpose is perhaps the reason for the emotion.  For it is always in the relationships with others that such memories are formed.  The building for a time was, perhaps, a thin place.  But it was those who gathered there who made it so.  Gathered and scattered, more often than not scattered.  Though we often began at AngChap, we found ourselves around the world in that community.  Sent out to far and near for new experiences and challenges.  To discover new places and meet new folk.  To gather stories and return to tell others.  Every memory comes with people in mind, for it was the folk who gathered who made it what it was, who marked it out as special.  It was a place which spoke of, as the plaque in peace garden testifies, “The Love which moves the Sun and the other stars.”

bbq008I always remember one line from my dissertation written on Chaplaincy.  It was from another chaplain who did not have a building to work from.  He wrote that chaplaincy for them was ‘Abramic’.  One pitches ones tent wherever it is needed.  Perhaps then the tent will be re-pitched and one hopes that there will continue to be opportunities to offer both the Sanctuary and Light that so many of us enjoyed, revelled in and were moulded by in years past.