‘God on Mondays’ Part two
Last week at St James' church we re-launched our informal worship and teaching session for Tredegarville school children, their parents and staff. It’s pleasing that post-Christmas, people still want to come along. Jenny and I are encouraged to plan now for a further series, throughout Lent. It’s a slow task, getting to know those who come, and building up relationships. We’ve got members of the regular congregation supporting us with gifts of food for the refreshments with which we welcome the congregation after school finishes, and one or two of the parents are bringing things as well. Though we haven’t included the ritual of taking a collection in the service, we get asked about it, and now a styrofoam cup has appeared with Donations scribbled on the side, and money is given. The only hassle we have is arriving to find the church car park blocked up with unauthorised vehicles from the building site next door. So, we block them in and go about our business, only to see a worried face in work clothes appear when we are in full flow, anxious to get out. We make them wait until we’ve finished. There’s plenty of alternative parking 200 yards away they can pay for, and those creating the jam in our parking lot aren’t paying either. Serves them right for taking advantage.
A community remembers
Another community remembers
Our second memorial service, at noon on Sunday, was for the Royal British Legion (of which I am county chaplain) to honour the memory of Major Bernard Schwartz, an outstanding Cardiffian in every sense, who had led the Armistice Day veterans’ parade annually for over 50 years, immaculate always in pinstripe suit, bow tie and a characteristic brown bowler hat, with furled umbrella. I was delighted to see his successor as parade marshal turn up in Bernard’s bowler hat – a bequest from the family. His hat goes marching on. He had been a succesful local businessman, and president of the Synagogue, as well as being active in the RBL’s fundraising. He ended his war as the only Jewish officer serving in the Arab league in the
Yet another community remembers
The week ended with the funeral of Doug Langley who had been prominent and active as a member of the Welsh Football Association, and also former organist of St Michael’s in our Parish. So this time it was the footballing fraternity gathering in remembrance, 150 of them. David Collins, General Secretary, of W.F.A gave a eulogy, which again described one of these towering energetic characters who touch so many different lives with their inspiration and leadership. He began his speech ‘In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen’ which surprised me. I’d never heard that before in a eulogy. He ended saying : ‘May he rest in peace and rise in glory.’ and was very confident in his use of these words – confident in his own faith, I suspect, as he was confident in speaking about the deceased’s faith in young people.
Reflecting on these three different events, I was struck yet again by how few people attending I recognised, with the exception of British Legion officials and members that I see at a variety of different events throughout the year. The role of a city church is to be a gathering point for celebrations that bring people together from far and wide. It could easily be as impersonal as a crematorium, but it isn’t because, at least in our era, a great many people have some thread of their personal histories that connects with this particular church, from the days when the centre was populous,and huge numbers of people came for weddings, baptisms and funerals. In another generation, those links will have mostly withered away, and people’s sense of identification and belonging will be far weaker, if it exists at all. I get calls from researchers into family history, keen to piece together the story of those who’ve before them, in their own attempt to work out where they fit in the scheme of human existence. The pattern of data will look very different in the future, much more complex, now that family life is far less stable and more fragmented, people are more mobile and the record of their presence in the community, of which the church has been a custodian for five centuries or so, growing more patchy as religious identity ceases to be a connecting feature of the heart of our culture