Thursday, March 29, 2007

Different kinds of ground-breaking

Palm Sunday arrived early for us today at Tredegarville School, where Fr Roy Doxsey, Chris and I shared in an end of term Eucharist with distribution of palm branches in the school hall. Roy had already been up to St Teilo's Church Comprehensive school to do an assembly there, in the rush hour traffic, and dashed back to Adamsdown, joining us ten minutes behind schedule. It's a good three miles journey either way, and the driving is very stressful. Unfortunately, a sense of duty isn't always good for the health.

For Chris, this was her last service with us in the Parish, before moving on to Radyr. She was clearly moved by the children's cheery singing and shouting Hosannas. I'm sorry to see her go, and won't enjoy working solo as an ordained pastor in our setting. Being on the 'edge of the centre' is one thing, but being on the edge of the church is rather different. And that's what it feels like when your colleagues are all somewhere else ploughing their own furrows, too busy to down tools and catch up on life, or make plans together.

Anyway, I got back to St John's well before the midday Eucharist, as I had an appointment with Danny McGee, the site foreman for the southern churchyard work, to bury the bits and pieces of bone which had been carefully sifted out of the earth moved and set aside for re-burial. Apparently in one corner of the area excavated for the path, a concentration of disconnected bones had been unearthed, probably buried there last time work was done to create an entrance to the Old Library cellar. At that time headstones were all placed in a unnatural straight line in from of the boundary fence, and concreted in.

A small plastic sachet was unearthed with notes on it giving the reference numbers of the plots from which the bones had been gathered. This was re-buried in the metre square pit the men had dug to re-house the bones - about 15 kilos worth in all. This time they were re-buried in the middle of a bed containing shrubs, with a mark incised on the nearby path to record the spot. I said some appropriate prayers of thanksgiving and committal over them before the hole was filled in. It was really good to see that this small team of construction workers were conscientious about doing this, as a duty to our Cardiffian forebears. One sometimes gets the impression that very little is sacred any more, especially when you come into church to find one of the city centre's 'street people' puffing away at a cigarette in a side chapel.

Tonight I joined a small working group assembled by Fr Peter Collins, administrator of the Roman Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral of St David, is preparing for a major development funding appeal, to enable their strategically sited building to be able to play a fuller role in the life of both the city and the Archdiocese of Cardiff. The Cathedral's congregation is growing significantly, not least because of the number of new foreign nationals, among the students and workers of the city. The Cathedral Council has started exploring how it may be possible to make more of the responses of the prime site building, right next to the new SDII development.

What I was able to share with them was some of the experience I've accumulated in the past three years of doing city centre mission, and learning about how much all our churches need to do in order to get the recognition they deserve and play a full part in shaping the future of the city. If was comforting to hear other people echoing my discoveries from their own experience ... at least we know what we have to work at together. Not least learning how to dialogue with people who belong to the foreign culture of local government and civil service.

Yesterday lunchtime I attended a ground breaking ceremony to inaugurate formally the construction work for the new city library on the site of the old Marriott hotel car park. My friend Denzil John, Pastor of Tabernacl Baptist church was there with his organist and a couple of deacons. I often find myself in this kind of 'social?' event the only cleric among the politicians and executive 'suits', so it was good to be able to share the moment with a colleague. I may be the lone Anglican in the city, centre, but I am consoled by having fine ecumenical colleagues.

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