Unexpected Beauty

What is it that we seek? A brief moment of sublime beauty would be enough.  It might be in the reactions of others, it might simply be a reaction to the world around us doing what it does and the fact that we call it beautiful is to do with our reactions to it, whatever stirs our heart or warms our soul.  What then is it?  Definition is difficult, but there is something to be said about a moment of gentleness when what we see or feel or hear comes together in a special harmony as if the world itself is singing just for us.  Best of all these moments come upon us unexpectedly when we are not looking for them, all we can do  is stop and try to take them in.  Sometimes if we are very lucky we are just in  their path. A Narnian moment, out running in the hills. Running familiar paths, up a steep incline through the wooded hills. The sun was late to rise, as is it’s wont at this time of the year.  Solar powered, I rose with it, but today it was well timed.  I came out from under the trees into what seemed like a gateway to a different world.  No lamp-post, but a familiar clearing at the top of a waterfall cascading down. Somewhere I’ve been many times and been glad to arrive at the top of the steep incline, but today just high enough for the snow to begin to blend into the path ahead of me. The trees and rocks on the steep cliff above reflect back the glistening morning sun in their shroud of snow. I hadn’t noticed until now, there were no clouds in the sky at all, not one.  The low sun glows orange onto the blue-white, enough to make me stop in my tracks.  At these moments I always think about a camera, but somehow the moments are better without as you get them to yourself allowing time to reflect rather than to desperately capture the moment.  From then on the run changed from exercise into something else, magical, spiritual, special, whatever, it was shared with the rabbits, the squirrels and the birds following their ghosts in footsteps in the snow as they danced along the path. Rabbit footprints run ahead of me, tumble into each other, then chase off into the trees.  Fistfuls of snow at the end of high branches are lit up by the shining sun as if early blossom has burst its colour into the scene. I stopped to listen to the sound of silence, almost no sound, save for the occasional branch relieving itself of snow. The crisp white blanket insulating, soaking up the sounds so that everything was muted into a depth of quiet.  On the edge of hearing a low breath sound of nature itself.  At times like this, away from news, media, and the rest of the world it is easy to believe there is nothing wrong.  And I’d like to say, into that cacophony of noise that there isn’t anything wrong. It’s just that we – humans are finding it difficult to listen and pay attention in adapting to our new environment, be that with a pandemic, or more concerning climate change. We’re finding out what nature is like.  But nature too, can bring us back to ourselves, we only need to pay attention and look out for those moments around us.

William Morgan – Tŷ Mawr Wybrnant

Will Tŷ Mawr, not William Morgan but the former custodian of the house that saw William Morgan (Esgob) to birth: As we sat in his kitchen at Wybrnant he recalls ‘they keep bringing us bibles – what do we want with them here? And I’m, taken to the old parlor where a large cupboard stands; it is full of bibles.  Family bibles, and bibles in all languages.  When Will says he doesn’t want their old bible they often say “Well, what should I do with it then?” To which he would reply “Read it.”  And so it begins. 

“O Deuwch i’r dyfroedd, bob un y mae syched arno, ie, yr hwn nid oes arian ganddo; deuwch, prynwch, a bwytewch; ie, deuwch, prynwch win a llaeth, heb arian, ac heb werth.”  Eseia 55:1 yn ôl y BWM


William Morgan. Neither first nor last of his trade

Like a drop in the ocean, the one drop that starts 

the overflow from the Wybrnant to the sea

of the institution, the establishment and yet

Independent at heart.   Time to rise up.

Can any good come out of Penmachno?

Deuwch i’r dyfroedd a gweld.

And the waters continue to flow from the hills into the sea.


Those waters overflowed the bowl on our inauguration day – Bro Gwydyr Ministry Area of the forest, rivers, valleys and hills.  The waters we poured into a bowl, brought and poured by members of each community, overflowed and tumbled to the ground symbolic of the overflowing grace poured out for us, for our communities laid up by those on whose shoulders we stood that day at Tŷ Mawr Wybrnant reading from the book in the language of the common folk. A language set down creates a new beginning and a new place of departure.  A humble beginning. But what beginning is not.  And so we walk humbly in pilgrimage each year from St. Tudclud, sacred home of ancient stones to wybrnant, nestled in the quiet valley between Penmachno and Dolwyddelan a place of birth, of baptism for us for William Morgan whose name would become an icon behind which the people of Cymru would rally. Icon of independence, language, culture, society.  With the language they (the monarchy) tried to break and tame those difficult folk in the west, yet the poetic language of the William Morgan bible became the call to rise to stand apart, we will not conform. The establishment always underestimated, always, what a bible could do in the language finally understood of its hearers a book heady with dissent with liberation for those who are oppressed and the Cymru heard the voice of salvation in their mother tongue and rallied to its cry.  They say it began the revolution, but the real moment, the catalyst: a cross, generations before had waited out its revelation.  Morgan’s contribution of the saying of the sages and the wisdom of the prophets laid bare for all to read and hear.  No longer cloaked in a hidden language, now voiced as a new birth, as an overflowing of the waters.

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.