Thursday, March 01, 2007

Dydd Gwyl Dewi

It's St David's Day. We celebrated at St John's this morning by hosting the annual Lord Mayor's service, to which the Lord Mayor of Cardiff invites his counterparts from all over the Principality, plus other civic and military dignitories. Last night a small crew decorated the church with a hundred bunches of daffodils, obtained from the Riverside Farmers' Market on Sunday morning, so the church smelt fragrant and looked beautiful with bright sunlight pouring in. There were over four hundred people there. Aled Edwards the new General Secretary of Churches Together in Wales preached a thoughtful sermon, and we sang all the expected traditional Welsh Hymns. There were so many bright eyes and smiling faces to greet at the door afterwards.

We were pleased to have shared in such a prestigious event, and given it that homely welcoming touch. We were especially delighted that the Catholic Archbishop of Cardiff turned up. He was pleased to conclude the service with a blessing. Our home team plus the people from the City protocol office were all so well organised that all I had to do was make sure the microphone system was on and properly adjusted beforehand, and receive the collection at the altar at the end. Most enjoyable.

The occasion generated such a lot of extrovert energy in me, that it wasn't quite so easy re-focussing inwardly for the Eucharist with half a dozen people which followed on once all our guests had departed. It's part of the challenge of living with great diversity in everyday ministerial life to be able to make the switch and do it well. It's a lot easier when well rested - and that's not always the case.

Afterwards, on my way over to Tredegarville on foot to be present for the afternoon session of the school eisteddfod, I took a walk around the demolition site with my camera and found some new picture angles. I arrived in good time to share the Head Teacher's worries about budgetary cuts that will be hitting the school in the year ahead, then it was into the assembly hall, giving out competition certificates, listening to delightful winning performances of song and poetry recitations by eisteddfod participants, and then praying a blessing before we all sang 'Mae hen wlad fyn hadau' - Land of my Fathers, the Welsh National Anthem. School is such a delight.

On the way back to St John's to pick up my bicycle, it was pleasing to hear the band of the Queen's Dragoon Guards (aka, 'The Welsh Cavalry'), some musicians in their scarlet uniforms, wearing their fine plumed helmets in style, performing outside of Marks and Spencers. They had one of their light armoured vehicles on display (two more outside the church was well), and young soldiers helping up mums and kids to climb inside or have a photo taken. Someone gave me a leaflet, reminding me that the regiment is marching through the city on parade tomorrow, the 21st anniversary of them being granted the Freedom of the City. There were lots of soldiers in fatigues scattered among the shoppers, evidently off duty, clutching shopping bags from the big stores, and wandering around with their mates. All very peaceful and easy on a sunny afternoon.

They've not long returned from duty the Gulf, where will they go next? Their list of active service duties all over the world's trouble spots is long and impressive. I bet they like being able to dress up and parade in a welcoming place. But having said that their very presence as a highly visible group of service men and women makes them a potential target for terrorists determined to make a public statement. So, a public high profile occasion of this kind is a nightmare for policing and security services. As many as a third of our neighbours around Queen Anne Square are service families. There's quite a turnover, as is common with military personnel, but I confess I'm still not entirely sure who is military and who isn't, as it's quite rare to see anyone going to and from work in uniform. Soldiers off-duty don't want to draw attention to themselves these days.

This evening, Gill and Manel arrived from Geneva to spend a few days with us and attend the opera at the Millennium Centre on Saturday night. So good to see two old friends. Quite troubling to hear them speak of the insecurities they experience from opportunistic street crime of their home city, so long considered safe and well policed, but suffering from new waves of criminal activities that sadly seem to accompany movements of people from abroad, whether displaced by war or economic ambition. To judge by headlines in the local papers, one would be tempted to think that Cardiff is similarly afflicted. However, fear of crime in any context is not the same as actual crime and crime detected or reported. One way or another the world seems to be as fearful as it ever was. Our material securities seem to have made no difference whatsoever to our anxiety levels. What would Dewi Sant have made of it?

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