This evening, I visited Calvary Baptist church in Canton for the first time, to give a talk to over thirty people, in an ecumenical Lent course on prayer. I arrived three quarters of an hour early, which gave me time to relax and enjoy the building before people arrived. It's interesting in being one of the few 1930s church buildings in Cardiff, a plain, well proportioned oblong box with some high level clerestory windows - long slits. Not at all a 'churchy' building. It could have been a cinema or an auditorium. The orginal raked pews and pulpit had been removed and replaced by chairs, carpet and two low movable platforms. With its simple décor, a few large plants, and a cross on the 'east' wall, it worked very well as a flexible worship space and was thus being used to good effect. An enjoyable contrast to the majesty of St John's.
My address, on Christ's anointing at Bethany seemed to result in a fair amount of small group discussion, but in the plenary session afterwards only a few people contributed. The atmosphere was quiet, and maybe people were already gearing themselves up for prayer, I don't know, as there was almost no feedback after the session. I wonder if they'd made any sense of what I said? Most people who stopped for a cuppa in the church hall spoke with people they already knew, and no longer seemed interested in me. As I'd promised to return by 9.30pm to take a phone call, I slipped away, only to discover when I reached the car (in the rain) that I'd left my bible behind, so I had to return annoyed and embarrassed to fetch it. The awaited phone call didn't materialise either.
Among the day's correspondence was a letter confirming the departure of Chris, my deacon colleague, at the end of this month. This is a great disappointment because she has been so well received in the community, and was showing promise as a valuable contributor to city centre mission, as well as the pastoral life of school and parish. No doubt she'll be valued even more in the busy demanding suburban parish to which she'll be sent. I listen to the arguments put forward by the bosses in defence of their decision. They make no sense to me.
Working on my own is not what I want, nor what I signed up for here. I came to lead a team, to encourage collaborative ministry and do mission in the urban context. Those I was given at the outset to work with were taken away and not replaced, the formal team was broken up in January, with good intention - although I didn't agree with it. I don't seem to have the same vision or perspective as my superiors. Perhaps there's something wrong with me. Whether there is or isn't, I'll just have to get used to working on my own as a priest again. If I didn't have such a wonderful core community working with me, and belonging together, I'd be sore tempted to pack up and move on.
Nevertheless, for the moment, there's plenty of movement going on all around the centre, as the pace of both demolition and construction work picks up. Plenty to contemplate, reflect upon and interpret to the wider church, for better or for worse.