Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Green first steps

A meeting this afternoon at church, with representatives of the Diocesan Advisory Committee, the Church in Wales Representative Body Properties Officer, and three of us from St John's looked for the first time at the proposal we have in mind to spend some of the revenue form the sale of St James on geothermal heating for the church. It's been an idea buzzing around in my mind for a couple of years at least, but with another steep rise in prices calling into question the economic sustainability of the church's presence at the heart of the city, and the sad if providential legacy of available funding, there is an opportunity to be explored.

Thankfully, an internet trawl came up with several companies with expertise in this area, so I emailed them on Monday. By this morning, one of them had responded with interest and a degree of cautious optimism about taking this a few steps forward with a preliminary feasibility study. I was pleased to have a reply in hand to share with the meeting, as it ensured the response wasn't just theoretical, although initially, the matter of church general policy on this matter is important, since we're wanting to spend money held in trust for the Parish, and have to make a sound case to support our proposal. Also we need support in relation to CADW, whose conservation opinions are important, since they have put money into the building before. Even though we're not asking them for funding, support from them will assist any match funding bids we may need to make.

Fortunately, the Bishops are giving a lead in encouraging green projects in relation to churches, and considerations of sustainability are becoming part of the thinking, albeit late in the day. How much better off we'd be now with fewer buildings to manage if this had happened before the 19th century rash of church building took place! If I can move St John's along the route towards being a zero carbon footprint building by the time I retire, I'll depart with a degree ofcontentment.

Our friend Artie arrived at tea time, and I met her at the station. As I had a meeting of the Council Planning committe's conservation consultative group straight after, we agreed to eat when I returned afterwards. However, the meeting went on for twice as long as usual, so Clare and Artie had eaten by the time I eventually arrived. The meeting agenda was of particular interesting due to the presentation of a building application by the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama on North Road. Since their link-up with the University of Glamorgan the College has secured funding to build its own concert auditorium and another performance space, on the existing site and enclosing the existing buildings.

The design phase has now produced model of the site, which is available for inspection in City Hall. Unlike earlier auditorium plans this design does not intrude into Bute Park but stays entirely on this side of the Dock Feeder Canal. That should make a lot of people happy. It's also a good use of the existing site. All consultative group members thought favourably about the design. It promises to enhance the site in a way the present buildings fail to. One can drive past and hardly notice they're there. When it's built, it will be a truly eye catching addition to Cathays Park complex of pubic buildings.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Back on wheels again

Thanks to the kindness of Dr Percy, one of St John's long standing members, I am mobile again. He has 'loaned' me a good serviceable bike which he no longer think he'll be riding. It's a lighter ride than my recent purchase, actually better sprung, as well as lighter in weight. I had half an hour's ride back from his place to home to get used to it, and arrived feeling blessed, if a little breathless, descending from The Heath along the bus route. I'm amazed and grateful to feel as fit and well as I do, given the lack of closure after my kidney stone 'incident' a couple of months ago. I should have gone in for a kidney exploratory on Friday, but in the absence of any bodily tribulation or pain over the past several weeks, I took the risk of postponing the op on account of the wedding the day after. I just didn't want to feel groggy and struggle to keep a grip of the occasion, as this would have detracted from their celebration. When you get to know people, the few who dare to buck the trend and pledge their lives to each other publicly in a church ceremony, you only want the best for them. And, so far so good, I'm none the worse for having put off the evil day.....

Ministry without borders

On such a beautiful summer morning, it wasn't much of a penance to miss ten minutes worth of the BCC's 'Sunday' religious news programme in order to walk into church, rather than take the car, in the absence of my bike. Such a pleasure to celebrate the Eucharist with the sun pouring into church and making the most of the newly white-washed walls. We had more than half a dozen visitors at the 9.30, including three young Indian christian women from Bangalore, all training over here to work in Human Resources for Tesco, back at home, and about to return.

After they'd taken photos of them with me, another young women approached me, clutching one of the Italian language visitor guides (green colour coded - I'd only reprinted a batch yesterday before the wedding, as all leaflet stocks had been virtually eliminated by the steady stream of summer visitors. With her limited English, all she wanted to ask was if I could give her communion from the reserved sacrament, as she'd arrived in church near the end of the service. It's not uncommon for latecomers to present themselves at the altar for communion just as I'm tidying up afterwards.

Rather than refuse, I slip out to the aumbry in the Herbert chapel, and respond to their request. Invariably these late communicants are Spanish or Italian, and they are obviously glad to find a church. They are not familiar enough with different customs and language to realise that ours is not a Roman Catholic Church, and would they understand Christian hospitality if I were to refuse and issue directions to the Cathedral? I live with the memory of black parishioners in my early days in Bristol telling me how the had been in churches where they'd been 'welcomed' with the suggestion there they go elsewhere to a place for 'people just like you'. A partcular insult for a dyed in the wool Anglican from Barbados, Gyuana, Trindiad or Jamaica, for whom ethnic diversity is nromlity. So, I never refuse if someone asks for communion. On this occasion, I asked the young lass to say the 'Padre Nostro' in Italian, gave her a blessing in English and managed to remember to say 'Andate in pace', which elicited the surprised but normal Italian response from her. Her young smile was as good as the sunshine.

On my way home I popped into Central Police Station with the details of my stolen bike - I found the receip after much burrowing through files, and it contained the frame number. Julian was on duty. He brings his mum to church alternate Sundays. It was good to see him. Hearing of my woes, he took me down to the basement where I was astonised to see two car parking bays full of abandoned bicycles, and another open parking area, the size of a minubus filled with more bikes. At a guess there were a couple of hundred of them, retrieved from different ports of the city, mostly in good repair, some of them quite new, most of the discarded. That's the other side of the coin, from absent stolen bikes, which only exist in reports. If only it were possible to match up thieves with discarded bikes - that might help reduce crime a bit.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Thieving again at St John's

Last week half the lead on the low lying boiler house roof disappeared overnight. The church architect inspecting work being done elsewhere on the building, reported it by email later in the day. The roof in question is close to the railings, at the place where Working Street meets with St John Street (aka in Cardiff demotic, St John 'square'). There's been a lot of upheaveal here of late because of the repaving of the area in stages, with work going on from eight till eight most nights when the supply of materials is sufficient, and in place. Somehow, between eight at night and eight next morning, someone must have parked a van close to the spot - it's not easy to leg it with a hundredweight of lead in a sack - and started stripping the roof. Possibly the culprit was disturbed in the act, as not all the lead was taken. This is within range of two CCTV cameras, if they are pointed in the right direction, AND .... the new street lighting is still on 24/24. But there's just such chaos around the place at the moment that it's not surprising nobody noticed and reported any suspicious activity.

Today, I had a wedding. I cycled in early, to do the registers and get the place ready. It was a happy occasion. The sun shone, the tea room tables chairs were out in the churchyard and well used across lunchtime and into the afternoon. When it was time to return home, I discovered that my bike, double locked to the inside of the church railing close to the sacristy, had been stolen. My new three month old Giant Rock mountain bike! New because I'd worn out a previous bike, a cheap one, only three years old. Discarded on the ground where the bike had stood were the two security cables, sheared through with bolt cutters. Whoever did it had entered the church yard, passing through tables where people were eating, drinking and talking, cut the bike free and wheeled it out in the same way as they'd entered, as bold as brass.

I ride back and forth twice a day from home to church and further afield, twenty odd miles a week and it keeps me fit. Being a Vicar on a bike makes me visible enough to those who work or hang out in the center, no doubt. So it's more than likley the thief knew whose bike was being stolen. It looks as if, spotting there was a wedding on, they took the risk of liberating the bike at a time when it would be certain that I would be otherwise occupied. Tracking down witnesses, past whom the bike would have been wheeled, is just about impossible, as so many people pass by for a cuppa and a sit down, especially when the weather is good.

I still have the receipt for it, frame number C77P8613, if anyone gets the offer of a nearly new Giant Rock mountain bike in metallic blue and silver. The receptionist at Central Police Station who took the details when I reported it asked me if it was chained to a bike rack. Bike rack? We've been promised them in the area around the church for the past four years. but what's a promise worth? The existing bike racks up by Nye Bevan's statue, and down the Hayes are overcrowded. The churchyard railings serve as bike rack for half a dozen or more bikes at any time, making such a mess of the paintwork that it's hardly worth repainting them until there is an alternative. Of course I could have put my bike in the sacristy, as I often do when it's wet, but it's still in a state of disarray, making it a bit of a deterrent to use as a secure bike park - more fool me for not making the effort.

I guess the bike will be traded for cash fairly soon, at a fraction of its value, and the cash used to feed someone's addicition around the block somewhere nearby. Around here, theft and drugs go hand in hand in robbing people of life and dignity, and not nearly enough is being done to prevent drugs circulating as freely as they do on the streets. The thing that makes me really fed up tonight is my discovery that the in three months since I bought it, the price of the bike has risen by 10%. What a rotten conclusion to an otherwise lovely day.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Spiritual Capital - the next steps

After lunch, I popped in to City URC's bookshop, to wish the staff well. It's thankfully re-opening today, following its forced closure three months ago by the Americans who bought out the SPCK bookshop chain. Tom Arthur and others at City URC and across the city have re-branded and launched the bookshop as the 'Churches Together Bookshop' - a real act of faith in serving a city which cannot manage to sustain a Borough-wide Churches together organisation. On the CTB website 'What's New' tells the story.

Then, back to church for an afternoon wedding rehearsal, and then home to meet the members of the Spiritual Capital research steering group and discuss last Wednesday's conference, and what might happen as a result of this. The conference has been the subject of widespread appreciation and positive comment having achieved an exceptional cross-section of people of different faiths as well as a significant number present (75). It's something to build upon, but in a new and different way. Exactly how is hard to see at the moment.

Funding opportunities and advice need to be sought. Some sort of sponsoring body- city wide, representative of all faith communities needs to be developed specifically to undertake a new initiative, and appoint someone who can serve the process of bridge building between faith groups and civil society. Monica Mills, who works with Cardiff's inter-faith forum is willing to work with her network of contacts in the autumn to convene a meeting at which such an initiative can be explored openly, while there's still momentum generated by the conference. Now that the project's defined objectives have been achieved, the Steering Group's role is ended, and my role as its director. Thank heavens. It's been a lot of worry. I'm glad it's over, and pleased with what we've achieved.

Press negative feedback received so far is, it appears, the tip of an iceberg of negativity on the part of some politicians and officers who have contributed to the dismissal or at least the concealment of the faith contribution in public life. There are those around who only want to see these things as their exclusive power game that religion is trying to muscle in on. We need the good will those in all political groups to maintain our assertion that fresh initiative to engage and involve citizens of faith groups is a cross-party affair, an issue of social inclusion and justice, in the same way as is the inclusion of disabled, black and asian, LGBT minorities in public life. Fortunately there are plenty of others apart from me who are able to take the cause further now that information is generating interest.

Yesterday afternoon I took a photo of a group of Hare Krishna monks chanting, dancing and smiling their way down St John Street, as they are wont to do from time to time. One of them handed me a leaflet promoting their big crowd stopping street procession. and Chariot Festival in Bute Park. There's free entertainment, talks, demonstrations and free vegetarian food on offer. The date is Saturday August 9th.

I wonder what that will cost them to put this on? I wonder what the economic benefit of such an event would be, if measurable - I must ask Gweini's John Martin Evans if this event last year featured in his economic survey of Cardiff's voluntary religious enterprise. I also wonder how much will be spent the previous Saturday, on the Big Weekend festival - spent on the entertainment, set up and public safety and litter clean up afterwards - and how much Joe Public will spend on booze and fast food, and what the net economic contribution of that event will be. And that's quite apart from the value of the events understood in terms of their deeper meaning.

St Mary street disruption looms

I went to the meeting of the Countdown 2009 supervisory board at County Hall this morning, and reported on what the Faith Focus Group had done in its four meetings so far in its efforts to improve communications with the Council and offer feedback on some of difficulties faced during the redevelopment. I was pleased to be able to give copies of the Spiritual Capital research report to the Leader of the Council, and one of his senior officers, Tom Morgan, who usually presides over ordinary Countdown board meetings.

During the meeting we learned that Wales and West Utilities, the distribution infrastructure providor for the gas companies has declared its intention of replacing the gas main that runs the entire length of St Mary Street - sometime towards the end of 2009 or early 2010 - just about or after the time when all the work on the city centre is due to be complete. There's been enough controversy about the 'experimental' changes to traffic and street furnishing in St Mary Street to last a lifetime, and consultation about the final arrangements is still going on. The thought of all this being resolved, the work being done, and then the street dug up again and subject to partial if not total closures to traffic doesn't bear thinking of.

The utility companies have powers that enable them to impose their presence and activity on the city. Fortunately, they have some obligation to give plenty of notice, so negotiations are going on at the moment with the aim of bringing forward the total disruption of St Mary Street by six to nine months. Planned work on the streetscape can then be deferred until after the piple laying and organised to follow through closely, and finish by the autumn deadline for getting everything straight again for the big re-launch of Cardiff, capital of shopping.

Many have protested about the closure of St Mary Street to traffic, and the impact this could have on businesses on top of that due to the recession/slowdown, or whatever else it is that is causing people to stop spending in town. Enforced closure will at least get people used to the idea and give everyone practice at work-arounds. Heaven know how it will affect people coming in to church.

Denunciation by posters

It was good to wake up this morning to the news that Radavan Karadzic has finally been arrested, and will soon be on trial for genocide and other war crimes at the Hague. It brought back for me the memory of our second year in Geneva, when it was the locus of attempts to bring the Bosnian war to an end. There'd been some pretty turbulent demonstrations, and suddenly there were barbed wire barricades and armed guards in battledress patrolling outside all U.N. offices across the city. It gave the city a very different feel from normal - from sober to sombre - a sense of brooding unease at this city of peace taking on the countenance of a war zone. The war was happening in reality just over an hour's flight away. There were many Yugoslavian refugees and well as diplomats and politicians from every faction.

What took me by surprise in that period was the appearance of Karadic's face on huge billboards attached to lamp posts lining several of the broad avenues of the UN campus. These usually advertised major cultural or sporting events. The legend on them read : "Criminal da la guerre" Someone with a lot of money to spare (advertising on that scale in that place is never cheap) had succeeded in hiring the space to denounce the man, at a time when the international community was not yet fully aware of what he and his cronies were up to politically. Everyone knew he was a hard man with lots of military muscle backing him and lots of blustering rhetoric. The siege of Sarajevo was happening but how much worse it would get all round was only slowly dawning.

It was a masterly piece of agenda setting publicity. I never found out who was responsible for it or how they got away with running the campaign in a country whose neutrality as well as its safety and discretion has long made it a desirable place to negotiate the things of peace. I wonder how they got away with it?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Engaging religion with civil society

Among the visitors to our 9.30am Eucharist today was a woman with whom I've recently been in conversation on behalf of the Magistrates Association. She's a parishioner in Lisvane, and is keen to arrange a Christmas Carol service for the Association. There hasn't been one, apparently for some years. She was surprised to learn that up until 40 years ago there had been regular Quarter Session services held in St John's for members of the judiciary, since the time when the City's court system had been set up (even I don't know what that was). The custom was abolished as part of some new reform. When she related this to other magistrates she was surprised at how few were aware of the custom and the historic links with the City Parish Church. It's indicative of how soon history fades from public recall, as generation pass. It brought to mind the scriptural story of the rediscovery of the scrolls of the Law in the Temple in the time of Josiah. Those most sacred objects - enshrined in the Holy of Holies - people had forgotten what they were and why they were kept there.

In the same way people raised in my life time, often with an impoverished cultural education, and weakened family life, tend to forget that traditional morality and values are rooted in the practice of Christian faith. This, as much as changing social and economic conditions that make for greater rootlessness, undermines social cohesion and integration, and exposes conditions in which violence insinuates itself into all areas of life, like a disease. Successive governments have declared themselves bothered by this, and sought to shape policy in ways that encourage community building and promote inclusive values, as a remedy against social fragmentation.

I was pleased to receive the following report from Roy Thomas, who so successfully managed our Spiritual Capital project, and doesn't look much like he's going to rest on his laurels!

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears MP has announced in Parliament that
she is preparing a charter for "faith-based" community groups.In her new
White Paper, Communities in Control - real people, real power Ms Blears
lays out the Government's plans to empower local communities by handing
more control to them over local facilities and services. In relation to "faith
groups" she writes:

"Among the voluntary organisations we want to help in different ways to
build stronger communities, there is a particular role for faith based
groups. Britain has a strong tradition of faith-based organisations working
to improve local communities. This reflects the importance placed on
charitable acts, social action and civic duty in all religions practised in
the UK. There are over 23,000 religious charities in the UK and many more
faith-based organisations, involving tens of thousands of people motivated
by their faith, working at a local and national level to provide support and
services to communities. At times there has been reluctance on the part of
local authorities and agencies to commission services from faith-based
groups, in part because of some confusion about the propriety of doing so.
Building on the Faithworks Charter, we intend to work with faith communities
to clarify the issues and to remove the barriers to commissioning services
from faith-based groups."

It says that the contribution voluntary faith based organisations make are being taken seriously, but we're reminded that high standards are set. In some areas of religious life this will indeed be perceived as daunting and discouraging. Question is, can we rise to the challenge? Are we strong enough, or have we been so weakened by decades of decline and inability to keep up with the pace of change, that we no longer have the capacity to move beyond the maintenance of dwindling resources?

Gwil, our valued Spiritual Capital conference organiser reflects that some of the newer, emergent church communities - the post-denominational missionary church plants, our report mentioned honourably - are better equipped and possibly more favoured by government to meet their challenge. They have evolved around the mission of building new community and resourcing themselves appropriately for this task, without having any historical legacy to maintain, and that's good and necessary. But we still have the legacy stuff, not only to cope with, but optimise as a resource that all can benefit from. Where to start? Well, at St John's right now that means getting our heads around what's involved in installing geothermal heating. With a £4000 gas bill last quarter, bankruptcy will not be far away if we don't act quickly. Nobody is going to bale us out on this one.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Window on debate

Good to have an overnight stay in Kenilworth and spend time with our grand daughter. Watching her on the play equipment in the lush green Abbey Fields playground made me realise just how much her physical ability has developed in the three months since we last took her there for some fresh air and a work-out. The evening journey home through Warwickshire and Worcestershire countryside on the slow leg across county to the M5 was very pleasant. Going up on Friday evening the first day of the school holiday, traffic was heavy and slow, but tonight was very quiet, all the way. Having written my sermon last night, it meant I was able to relax a bit, and catch up on the Lambeth news reportage from Thinking Anglicans.

This news blog is one of the very best, with its breadth of coverage and links to background material around the current controversies besetting the church. The debates that issue from comments made on postings are a mixed bag of interesting, obscure, ridiculous and occasionally bordering on the unpleasant - though not nearly as unpleasant as some of the stuff that appears as comment on national newpaper blogs dominated by cynical secularists and militant atheists, with rarely a decent sensible comment from someone of a faith perspective. There's a lot of hostility out there towards people of faith, a lot of anger towards religion in general, which points to the failure of religious communities to meet modern people where they are and speak to their condition. It makes me think that maybe religous people spend too much time talking among themselves and not enough time reaching beyond their communities to reality test their ideas. We seem to be good at answering questions few are interested in, and either not understanding or not answering questions people are interested in. I wish I saw clearly what can be done about this.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Negative feedback

The only reportage on yesterday's conference was in the 'Echo', and didn't fail to disappoint.

It was based on the press release issued beforehand, and the only quote in it was from a member of the National Secular Society, dismissing our proposals. I wonder if their cohorts contribute as much as £10.8 million to the City's economy? Most annoyingly the idea of proposing an appointment of a member of the Council Diversities Team with a remit to develop more useful working relationships with all the city's faith communities, was labelled 'religious supremo' in the report - the vocabulary of power and confrontation replacing the vocabulary of participation and service - deliberate invention, sowing division and contention. Well, I guess all those who appear in the countless number of sports new pages have it a lot worse, and more often.

Building an idol in order to smash it seems to be the ambition most cherished by the press in a power game that is determined to exclude religion from the public domain any way it can, other than as a subject of old fears and prejudices. Religious faith and religious behaviour has a lot to answer for in its many failures to be true to itself. Whilst it's arguable that religion now gets all it deserves, this ignores the powerful good done in the past and present by people of faith, whose moral and social vision has long provided much of the backbone of society, whether noticed or ignored. Trouble is, when a culture turns its back on coherent sets of religious beliefs as a guiding light, it ends up believing all sorts of foolish ideas instead.

At least in this internet age, one has the possibility of searching for information, ideas, arguments in all their variety and complexity, and is less then ever dependent upon old news sources and their dedication to 'entertaining' people's fears, resentments and vanities.

Archbishop Rowan's response on Monday to the Muslim scholars who wrote the remarkable 'Common Word' open letter, addressed to Christians, was long considered and constructive, to my mind, not minimising the difficulties of dialogue, but setting the tone for warm and honest exchange based upon Christians and Muslims being people of faith and people of the book. Reports on his response mainly highlighted the necessary cautions which one would expect from an orthodox (though not in the GAFCON sense) Christian teacher and scholar, turning something positive into something less than positive. Perhaps the truth is just too hard, too complex to craft into readable news, which puts great responsibility on people of faith to keep up the task of telling the truth, and doing regardless of how others handle it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Spiritual Capital Conference day

Finally, the day arrives - after months of delay and postponement, the launch of the Spiritual Capital research project report and database, with an afternoon conference at the Future Inn Hotel opposite County Hall, where the event would have taken place if, it were not for an employees strike.

Over seventy people turned up of the ninety who booked in. A broad cross-section of members of the city's faith communities, and a handful of political leaders and civil servants. There would have been more of the latter if it hadn't been for the strike.

The Spiritual Capital-Cardiff website relays all that's necessary to know about the day. I was much relieved that it had happened at last, discharging fully all the commitments we'd made to the Community Development Foundation who funded the project, albeit four months late.

Despite the strike we got double the number of attendees we thought we would get at the outset which only goes to show how much interest was generated by the survey and follow-up. Where we go from here remains to be seen. The report proposes the appointment of a Council Officer for religious communities to enable closer partnership and participation.

Gwilym, whose outfit
'Pollenshops' organised the conference has expertise and interest in relating to 'hard to reach' groups, in current consultative jargon. I think that verifying the database was something of nightmare for him, as he discovered how difficult it can be to contact many religious groups for whom you have advertised public contact details. This is precisely why a fieldworker working on creating this kind of useable network would be an asset in community relationships across the Borough.

Still, who is going to fund such a post? A lot more work needs to be done to make a reasonable and attractive case for this kind of social investment, and there are plenty around who would deny this has any value at all. If only it were easier to mobilise invistment in such an initiative from faith communities themselves. We can't expect everything to be done 'on the Rates' as my mother would say. I can but dream .... anyway the follow through will be interesting, simply due to the satisfaction this afternoon provided. Well organised, well researched, encouraging and positive for a change - a minumum of moans regardless of the opportunity.

One moan. Where were the press? Conspicuous by their absence. Not surprising really given that their contribution to the process of social communication involving religious was widely criticised by many present. In my view this was a major editorial faux pas on the part of Media Wales. How the bosses can expect the collaboration and trust of citizens who often find they are mis-represented, whose good news stories are passed over for bad news more often than not beggars belief. The reporters all missed a great event, with a good story to tell about people interested in making Cardiff even better than it already is. Miserable lot!

Tredegarville farewells

This morning I attended the Year six leavers service at Tredegarville, during which the oldest class of children reminisced about their time in school, and performed a series of delightful songs, mostly written or with words adapted for the occasion.

This was also a farewell for Glenys Elston, a teacher in the school for nearly 32 years and Head Teacher for the past three. The children give tributes and gifts to her also, including a number of pictures providing a visual aid to their suggestion of what Mrs Elston might like to try out in her retirement - including rock climbing and bungee jumping, as well as resting in very sunny places.

It was a very touching occasion, followed by a lunch with the staff. I was much peeved by having to rush off early to celebrate the noon Eucharist, before catching the Bay Car to get to the Future Inn for the afternoon Spiritual Capital conference. A rotten diary clash.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Turkish delight

The monthly Retail Partnership Board meeting this morning. Always a great excuse to peer out of the ninth floor windows at the SD2 construction site in the middle distance. The change is visible, month after month. At the moment the apartment blocks are being erected on top of the steel framework that will contain the shopping centre, and the roof of the new library is visible, completed.

Despite all the recession doom and gloom in the newspapers, several people reported that their business had not been nearly as bad as they'd anticipated. Paul Williams, City Centre Manager talked us through the Countdown 2009 process with a slide show illustrating how many different aspects of the city's public face need to be smartened up and made effective to face the brave new era when construction sites in the city centre can be no more used as an excuse for filth and chaos that nobody in their right mind can tolerate. A worthwhile excercise, say I, from the viewpoint of a Board member grappling with these issues in three difference Focus groups tasked with getting things sorted.

I asked Paul why all the new street lights installed around the re-paved areas in the vicinity of St John's were on 24/24. With a bemused smile, he told me he'd been told by the engineers that they'd been wired up to make sure they work, but not wired up through the local time-switch. Did the engineers have an explanation ready for the Communications Focus Group, when a member of the public complained about waste of electricity and carbon footprint? ..... No. Oops!

On the subject of Cardiff's new buses, someone at the meeting said that each bus equipped with a video screen broadcasting BBC News 24 and an assortment of in house videos, when not displayingon-board security camera views, has to be furnished with a full TV license AND subscribe to a performing rights license to cover any music broadcasted.

You may say 'fair enough'. But it poses the question of whether we really need this for of 'service' wittering on the the background on our buses, maybe causing us to miss our stops. In a couple of weeks from now there'll be a giant TV screen making the facade of the St David's Hall look ugly - so say, to broadcast the Olympics (well probably the closure by the time it gets installed). That too will need a broadcast license - thankfully the cost is not related to screen size. Yet.

As if there wasn't already enough noise in the public domain!

Paul also recounted with pleasure the story of how a visitor to the tourist information centre had enthused about the fact that the stone masons working on re-paving the street outside were all speaking Welsh to one another.

Don't say a word. They're all Turkish.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Letting Bishops set the agenda

Driving in the celebrate the 8.00am this morning, I was encouraged to hear Archbishop Barry on the BBC 'Sunday' programme state plainly and straightforwardly that he would have no problem about ordaining someone in a stable gay parnership to the episcopate. Putting what he said in context is most important, given the press headlines generated by this interview.

Such a candidate would have to be in the frame of consideration by the Province's Electoral College. It would be his duty as Archbishop to be sure the College was appraised of the candidates personal circumstances and the possible implications. If the College discerns this is the right person to called to the task, then Barry would have no problems consecrating them. However, the real point is lost on the sensation-mongers.

Here we have a church leader who is not expressing personal feelings, or baring his conscience to the public, but exercising his true office - articulating the mind of the church, expressed through the consultations and deliberations of the Electoral College. Just because he's a Bishop and a successor of the Apostles doesn't mean that he's going to pull rank and say, all of a sudden, that he will / won't serve as consecrator of a gay Bishop, because he does / doesn't agree with this, or because he's a 'successor of the Apostles' he has to dig his heels in on the part of 'tradition', and pursue a line of action outside of the consultative process. That's a strong statement indeed.

As a bishop he is going to be true to his calling, reminding the church of its tradition and its moral and spiritual duties, calling the church make up its mind, and acting accordingly. This is not 'bishop as monarch/despot' as in so much Christian history, but bishop as 'servant of God's servants'. I think this could take the church a lot further in mission to contemporary culture than many other models. It's rather a pity that many aspects of the church's constitution still presume the monarchical model. Perhaps we need several generations of alternative exemplars before the business of constitutional change becomes imperative.

Either side of the weekend the Diocese of Llandaff has welcomed the Bishops of Rockhampton (in Queensland, Australia), Milwaukee and Los Angeles, (USA) and Western Mexico, for a visit prior to the Lambeth Conference. The diocesan mission committee hosted an open meeting for them tonight after Evensong at Christchurch Radyr, attended by about thirty people. Straight after Evensong at St John's, I drove out there, and arrived just after the first speaker, and was very glad I'd made the effort.

Despite the current obsession with sexual morality, the majority present and the epsicopal speakers showed they were more concerned with mission, with Anglican adoption of Millennium Development Goals, with renewal of pastoral ministry in the churches, with issues of justice, peace and environment.

The questions we didn't get around to tackling fully, which might have taken all night, were how we stop the media and disaffected Puritans setting the agenda of concerns, not to mention what we really understand as family whenever we want the church to uphold and secure the environment in which all family life in its rich variety can flourish.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Focus group frustrations

The 'Countdown 2009' Faith Focus Group met this afternoon. Its report to the executive body, made during my time on holiday seems to have been given short shrift when it came to spelling out its medium and long term objectives. Time constraints on the meeting, due to certain other Focus Groups hogging time, and, who knows, impatience in meeting management over any input that dares to look at a slightly bigger picture. On these occasions, there's barely enough time to log the immediate practicalities of making the city credibly safe clean, easy to navigate and open for business by Christmas 2009. The process is always too hurried, coped with by busy men (yes, men - the girls are still taking the notes rather than directing the listening in Local Government affairs. I'd like to think it would be better if they had a real equalities policy from top to bottom, as I'm not too sure men perform all that well in getting others to collaborate and consult.) What it tells me is that all any Focus Group is really being asked to do is to decorate policy for implementation with helpful suggestions, rather than asking questions that might enhance the whole enterprise.

The whole point of having a faith focus group, (apart from pandering to faith community ego), is to invite a contribution that adds value to the city, that helps create a social environment that feels natural, wholesome, richly diverse, local and not sterile, managed, pretentious, disconnected. We are paying the price now for decisions taken in a vacuum many years ago. Humanising our new city centre development is going to be a formidable challenge, with or without the contribution faith communities could make.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Multi-faith celebration

With the sacristy all upside down because of the builders and nothing easy to access, it was not a good day to be preparing for a wedding. I also arrived in plenty of time, but forgot my keys. Fortunately, I was able to get into the sacristy because of the workmen, and acquire spares to make me functional without having to return home for the full set I usually carry. By the time guests started arriving, I had everything prepared and was relaxed and ready.

Unusually, the bride arrived well ahead of the groom, who was still at home doing his hair, Beckham style. She busied herself briefing her brother, who gave her away, and other friends and family who were looking after music (from an iPod), and serving as ushers, bridesmaid, best man etc. She was radiant with anticipation, and although claiming nerves was confidently in charge of sorting everything out, before the man in her life showed up.

I made the mistake of not briefing the tiny young woman who was taking photos (with a hefty digital SLR with telephoto lens, which was an effort for her to handle) about being unobtrusive in taking photos. During the ceremony she wandered around, far too close, snapping away, her high heels clicking on the chancel tiles at every step she took. There were about thirty guests, and all just about managed to squeeze in to the choir, making for an intimate occasion, accompanied by the heels! Fortunately she'd forgotten to bring her flash gun. How I got through my homily without cracking and shouting at her I never know. To have stopped and ordered her to behave better would have destroyed the good atmosphere that had built up. During the vows both the groom and I fluffed our lines on one occasion. Blame it on the heels.

Apart from a few English friends from the Pentecostal church attended by the groom's mother, most of the congregation were young Malaysian ex-patriates. I heard several people arriving say that they'd never been to a wedding before or in a church before. The best man, however, declared himself to be a Catholic. The majority, however, were Muslim or Buddhist. What an amazing gift and privilege to address such a diverse faith congregation. I felt supremely happy, and apart from the heels from hell, greatly enjoyed blessing this union of young people feeling their way into an experience and a life in which faith matters, and pleased to show it to all their friends.

The groom said he'd like to come and join us for worship on Sunday. He works to support himself through University, often on Sundays. I wonder if they will come when opportunity arises?

Monday, July 07, 2008

Interpretation and dialogue across cultures

I started Monday sluggishly with an early wedding rehearsal for tomorrow, prolonged by the need to search for relevant books and sound playback equipment which was buried under plastic in the midst of heaps of books and files assembled by the building workers for protection in the middle of the room. Fortunately I was successful and the rehearsal concluded in time for me to move on to a meeting at school. The young couple are so excited, and delighted to be getting married, albeit far from home with just their local friends. There will be other celebrations for them with their families when they return home to Malaysia.

The meeting called this morning at school reported growing concerns arising from the fact that there is no longer an on-site caretaker. The house in the playground that was occupied by the previous caretaker wasn't really meant for this. It wasn't owned by the school, but by the Diocesan Board of Finance, which sought an unsubsidised rent considerably higher than what would be payable if the house had belonged to the local authority. With nobody to oversee the place out of hours the play area is now being used by druggies and prostitutes, requiring a meticulous clean up each day before the children arrive. This has only begun to happen over the past few months since the caretaker moved out, after decades trouble free.

Some of the city's homeless drug taking population has been displaced from the city centre by the redevelopment building work, and is making use of empty houses near the school We're now concerned that that house in the school yard doesn't become the the target of drug abusers, or others, as happened to St James' church after it was closed and before it was properly secured. The school site is anything but secure for an unsupervised property, and it's meant to be a zone safe for children, free from prying eyes. It's already several months since we first raised these concerns. Response has been slow so far, dominated not by the question of what needs to be done to restore security, but how whatever needs to be done can be afforded?

Tackling the problem requires involvement by the WAG the LEA and the DBF, and extensive expertise to know what can be asked of these three bodies. The Diocesan Education Officer, two community policemen, the outgoing and incoming head teachers and three of us governors were present, trying to tackle the question of how best to make progress. I fear that now the silly season of school vacation time is upon us, it will be difficult to make any progress at all, and that these issues will be there to welcome the new head teacher when he arrives in September.

A strange co-incidence arrived in my email after lunch. It was a message from a young woman who had been in an inter-religious relationship, happy and in love. Just like the couple I shall be marrying tomorrow, though not the same religious mix. The common element was that one of the couple was a 'non-denominational' Christian. In this case doubt had set in about the future of a married relationship, which both wanted, because of the differences in beliefs, but the other had withdrawn from the relationship, causing deep hurt. I was, at the end of her story telling, simply being asked if the church condemned inter-faith marriages.

All I could do was repeat what I had said to the young Malaysians about the teaching of St Paul who went to the trouble to defend the right of believers to marry outside their faith community, recognising that, as the Prayer Book later said "Marriage is a gift of God in creation", and in that sense a human covenant of love which existed before there were distinct confessing communities of faith. God doesn't discriminate among those on whom the gift of mutual love is outpoured. It's God's business God's calling, a challenge to all involved - couple, families and communities of faith, to learn to live together with their differences, and show what love is made of.

It appalls me that Christian groups ignore or neglect this 'difficult' biblical teaching but it doesn't surprise me. Not even the Revd Alan with his Hindu spouse to be Usha has yet stood up for his own position by citing the teaching of the New Testament. An unusual BBC omission.

Jesus was more inclusive and egalitarian than any of us in any generation since, and Christians have played all sorts of games down the centuries, often cruel and violent ones, in order to avoid keeping full faith with the Master's teaching. Scripture often seems to reveal our blind spots, and challenges us to examine our prejudices and priorities because of the diversity of ways in which it sheds light upon human experience. The CofE has only just, sixteen years on from agreeing to women priests, agreed a process that will make it possible to ordain women to the episcopate, in the face of considered resistance from those who cannot accept deviation from the classical model of apostolic church leadership. To me this seems inevitable.

There is still no universal consensus among Christians in which questions about how scripture can be faithfully interpreted and implemented can resolved, and that leads to differences in ideas about social roles and gender. It has given us critical problems of communication over the century of unrelenting change in every aspect of society. There hasn't been a single common mind among Christians on the nature of scriptural interpretation since early times. May be there never will be. Perhaps it's providential, a permanent challenge from God to people to think, to engage with scripture as faithfully as they can, and expect to be challenged in the search for the truth that sets each other free.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Back to work 'in progress'

I used the bike to get to church this morning having been warned by Philip in an email that more of Trinity Street was dug up for re-paving, thereby restricting the parking possibilities - so why make it worse? A good deal more paving has been done during my week away, on the Working Street side mainly.
I found all the sacristy furnishing piled up and sheathed in plastic. While I was readying myself for the Parish Eucharist, I could hear the sound of scaffolders at work outside, erecting a structure to give access to the east wall and window of the sacristy, now that it's time for the builders to work on attempting the stabilise foundations and sort out cracking masonry and tracery. Soon the oldest window in the building (c 1840) will be extracted for reconstruction - sections of stained glass have been pulled apart by movement in the structure of the tracery. Vital conservation work. Thank heavens we can still afford it, due to monies received from the liquidation of the assets of the old Rectorial Benefice.
We had a PCC meeting after the Eucharist, and discussed the how the cost of the redecoration and refurbishment work done so far needed to be managed. Such a complex business, I'm glad there are others who are more on the ball about this than I am.
After Evensong I had a visit from the young Malaysian couple who are due to marry at St John's on Tuesday. They are both students and live in Landmark House next to St James'. She is of a Buddhist background and he is in a process of Christian conversion. As foreigners with permits to reside for their studies, a civil wedding is not open to them, but under Church law they can still marry after banns, and civil society accepts this, since Church law regulating marriage pre-dates the Marriage Act of 1832.
For once both live in the Parish, unlike a couple wanting to marry next year in their 'favourite church', neither of whom are resident but are prepared to apply for an Archbishop's license to qualify. It's a pity anyone has to jump through such hoops to marry at the church of their choice.
The church is not going to surrender its concept of parochial territory any time soon, and its rights to marry are unfortunately tied to that, while the whole of modern culture is in the business of dispensing with traditional ideas of place because of the ease of ability with which people live, work, play and celebrate in different places. Added to the impact of easy travel is that of the internet, which is often referred to as abolishing distance because of the efficiency and ease of communication no matter where people are in physical reality. It's quite difficult to meet people 'where they are', and respond to them pastorally, given the restrictions tradition imposes upon us today.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Holiday return

Spent a lazy morning, reading papers and relaxing in sunshine, but by the time we'd lunched it started to rain intermittently. As we headed southwards home it gradually deterioriated to steady downpour by the time we hit the A470 fast stretch from Merthyr to Cardiff.
Not too much mail to answer when we arrived home, and the sermon got written in Llangollen during the morning, leaving us with a quiet evening to ease ourselves back into routine, and answer the inevitable stack of emails - easier to manage than all those envelopes.
One frustrating disappointment among the messages. County Hall will be picketed by strikers the day we propose to hold the Spiritual Capital report launch conference. It looks as if we shall need to arrange an alternative venue.
One big surprise among the messages, notification that I've won a digital SLR camera in a prize draw for new subscribers to the Linux Format computer magazine I receive monthly - a gift from John and Rachel for my birthday. And what was it I was wishing for in Caernarfon on Wednesday when I was watching birds along the tide-line? I'd quite forgotten I filled in the prize draw slip. I usually don't bother to fill in such things because, well, I never win anything do I? In fact, when I saw the notification email, I double checked it, suspecting it to be a scam, but the detail checked out and didn't ask for my bank details, only possible delivery times.

It was Archbishop John Sentamu's turn to have a go at the GAFCON pronouncements in his presidential address to General Synod today. A leading third world black missionary evangelical, and publicist who uses his position at the heart of the establishment to challenge anything that smacks of injustice or wickedness, he appreciates the gift of breadth and tolerance as a defining characteristic of Anglicanism. He can be quite conservative in his views but is committed to challenge in dialogue rather than confrontation. I hope that his contribution will give the self proclaimed schismatics (that's what I call them) reason to think deep and hard.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Holiday 7

Our last morning at Plas Baladeulyn, awakening to sunshine and exquisite birdsong - I've made several attempts to make digital recordings of the birds that sang to us this week, using the tiny Zen MP3 player with built-in microphone which I had for my last birthday but one. It's superbly sensitive for such a small piece of kit, and the WAV files it produces easily editable. The trick is to stand very still holding it by the lanyard attached. Often it seems that the birds go shy when I start recording, but with a little patience and editing, some lovely small sound clips result.

Having paid the bill and bought some organic veggies to take home with us, we headed for Bangor, stopping only to get some food and fuel for the journey to Llangollen. It was here that a glance at the Western Mail on the news stand confirmed something that I had learned from the church prayer list I looked at in Beddgelert yesterday. Bishop Tony Crockett died on Monday after and eighteen month battle with cancer. He's the same age as me. We were at St Mike's together training for ministry. Our paths didn't cross often in forty years. The last time was when he was Archdeacon of Carmarthen, invited to share in a Partners in Mission consultation for the Diocese in Europe. Knowing me to be a 'returnee', he rang for some inside information. He served the Church in Wales very well, and is a great loss to us all. By the time the round of episcopal elections are over, during the course of just one year the Province will have changed four of its Diocesan Bishops. That's something of an upheaval nobody could have envisaged.

Pondering on these things we headed down the A5 towards Llangollen, taking a detour to eat our picnic lunch at the top of the Horseshoe Pass, up the track beyond the famous Ponderosa bar/restaurant, beloved of bikers from far and wide for as long as I can remember. There must have been a score of them in the car park when we arrived, many of them fifty-something. It's a sign of how such a hilltop rendezvous, with its striking panorama of Denbighshire moorland and distant Snowdonia peaks has become a place of pilgrimage for them over the years.

In an empty piece of grassland behind the buildings there is shrine of a different kind, a plot set aside as a Garden of Remembrance with a plaque to recall three young children killed by their father's suicide in 2003 in this vicinity. It's the kind of tragedy that has been repeated several times since then in different places in Wales by parents in reaction to marital breakdown and legal separation. It's a most disturbing kind of domestic violence, and difficult to imagine how anyone could come to such a decision. It speaks volumes about the ideas and expectations which some people have of themselves, that leads to such cruel destructiveness. Is it mental or moral sickness? Or a mixture? So much we don't understand.

Early afternoon we reached a Llangollen, buzzing with activity in the run up to the International Eisteddfod next week. Our friend Anne welcomed us and took us to her new top floor flat overlooking the river Dee, just opposite and on a level St Collen's Parish Church in the town, a spectacular view of both the surrounding hills and townescape. A most pleasant place to stop overnight on our way home. Anne had recently taken delivery of a new iTouch MID (mobile internet device) and laptop, and asked me if I would set them up for her and show her how to work the iTouch. Not that she couldn't, but that the learning curve and hassle zone of set up would be much shorter if someone else could help. I'd never seen an iTouch before, and had the pleasure of unpacking and charging it, and learning from its minimal instruction sheet how to get it to divulge its main secrets. More fun than angst I must say, and we were rewarded with a very nice supper and comfy bed for my efforts.

Good to get on-line again, and check all the news blogs about the GAFCON affair - interesting to see some forthright criticism, not only from the usual mainstream and liberal religious commentators, but also from secular journos openly expressing appreciation and value for the Established Church, its volunteers and its public professional ministry in all sorts of places nobody else wants to work - the church that's there for the unbelieving and the alienated as much as it is for the faithful committed. They sense there's a genuine threat to liberal democracy if there isn't such a broadband religious institution at the service of tolerance and social cohesion.

Wow, they're getting the message. Anglicans appreciated and not mocked for a change. Is this a bit like save the whale I wonder?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Holiday 6

Uncertain weather today led us to drive down to the coast, first to Porthmadog, where we looked at the narrow gague Welsh Highland Railway terminus, which will be where trains departing from Caernarfon will arrive when the final parts of the rail link are completed in the next nine months. That 25 mile journey will be well worth taking when the time comes. We went then to the other narrow gague terminus for the Porthmadog Harbour to Blaunau Ffestiniog mountain railway, the grandaddy of them all. The car park was full, and there was terrible traffic congestion due to BT engineering works just outside. It was just impossible. We watched one train chuff out along the causeway alongside the toll road from a traffic queue, then headed out of town to Cricceith, where we had lunch, and a walk around before heading up towards Snowdon on the road that took us to Beddgelert, a delightfully clean and neat village at the conjunction of three valleys and their incredibly clear mountain streams. A visit to Gelert's grave in the water meadows beyond the ancient church and churchyard was essential. Eglwys Santes Mair was kept open and welcoming to visitors. The ministries of the Parish Priest, the local Catholic Priest and an Evangelical Pastor with the Snowdon Christian Fellowship were all advertised on the church noticeboard. Most gratifying to see, as was the conversion of a Victorian extra north aise to provide a meeting space and kitchen screened off from the nave. We stopped at a tea room in Rhydd Du on the way back to Dyffryn Nantlle. Clare asked for herb tea in Welsh and met with a look of puzzlement and switched to English. She hadn't realised from his accent that the proprietor was Dutch! I'd noticed that some of the ornaments around the room, not to mention tea room cake specialities, were Dutch rather than Welsh. It makes a change from ubiquitous Asian and Chinese eating houses in the National Park.

World at One gave us the other CofE Bishop Tom today. Tom Wright of Durham. An evangelical biblical scholar and teacher of renown, who has remained a loyal member of the episcopal establishment, unlike some others who won't be going to Lambeth. He was also strongly critical of the GAFCON statements, saying it cannot work and has no respect for existing agreed working processes in the Communion. No olive branches from him. The Guardian yesterday reported on a packed meeting at All Souls Langham Place at which GAFCON leaders were reporting back to British evangelical dissenters, and enlisting additional supporters to its declared cause. And still nobody is using the 'S' word.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Holiday 5

We drove over to Llanberis to see if what it offered matched the tourist publicity. It certainly did. The village sits surrounded by mountains, next to a lake along the valley floor. At the southern end of Llyn Peris is not one but two complete narrow gague rail systems. On the West side of the main road the Snowdon Mountain railway terminus is sited. It began life in 1894, and has expanded tastefully to include new facilites for visitors, a film intepretation centre, a restaurant and tourist shop, all liveried the same as the station. Of the three trains we saw running, one was diesel and two were steam powered, pushing a carriage for about fifty people at a time up to the summit. At present the trip only goes as far as the half way station. The summit station is undergoing a much publicised rebuild, so there is no place for people to get out and walk around at the top.
We walked up the summit path that runs alongside the railway line, but turned back when the weather began to look threatening, on the ' quit while you're ahead' principle. On the return leg, the heavens began to open just as we reached the 18th century cottage of Pen Ceunant which has been restored with period furniture and is run as an extraordinary tearoom, with tables in three small front room parlours, serving just tea (normal or a herb home-brew). You can eat your own sandwiches, enter with muddy boots, bring in your dog and be welcomed by Steffan, who lives there with his aged mother and collection of Kyffin Williams drawings and prints. A truly uplifting experience of a 'Welsh welcome', adding to the sense of there being something very special about this small corner of the world.
On the opposite side of the road from the mountain railwway station runs the Llanberis Lakeside railway. It runs from there around the east side of the lake, past the National Slate Museum. It has a blue locomotive called Tomas Bach! The rail track on this side of the lake would at one time have served the transport of slate from the quarries down towards Port Dinorwic in the Menai Straights. The quarries closed down just weeks after Prince Charles was invested as Prince of Wales down the road in Caernarfon in 1969. What a disaster for the local economy with several hundred people put out of work. However, the desire of a few to triumph over adversity, led to the preservation of the industrial buildings of the site and its gradual transformation into a world class museum of which Wales can be justly proud. Even more so because, like other National Museum sites in Wales, entrance is free, by Senedd policy. We spent the remainder of a wet afternoon marvelling at what had be achieved in this powerhouse fo slate mining, so much so that we didn't have time to visit the Dinorwick hydo electric interpretation centre just down the road, celebrating one of the earliest developments of hydro-electric power.
Whether you visit St Fagans or the artistic, cultural and archaeological treasures of the Cathays Park site in Cardiff, or the National Library in Aber, or Llanberis, it's impossible not to be impressed by high quality of presentation and intepretation, let alone the priceless value of our national treasures. You feel you ought to pay something as you feel indebted by what you've learned, but 'free' is a deep political and spiritual statement.
These are the stories of our land and peoples, to be learned and transmitted. They make us who and what we are, whether we know it, or like it, or not. It's not that they're priceless in any emotional or monetary sense, but that our Welsh government believes such heritage cannot be commoditised and traded with. It is for sharing, for mutual benefit.
There are inevitably positive economic spin-offs from such a policy. Llanberis looks reasonably prosperous as a result of its regeneration through cultural tourism, and that's infinitely better than being a desolate backwater, like some of the South Wales Valleys, post-mining. In a way, making history and heritage free and 'open source' (like the emergent strain of computer software and design) is the best way to counter the ill-effects of industrial innovation and enterprise, led by the few for the benefit of the few, exploiting the many without a care for their welfare or future.

Bishop Tom Butler is interviewed on World at One and is in attacking mode - nothing personal, but again exposing the inconsistencies in the GAFCON understanding of authority, questioning how it can work without consultation or agreement from existing Bishops on the ground. The 'S' word he does not use. But that's what it amounts to.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Holiday 4

We spent the day in and around Caernarfon, enjoying its streets and waterfront. I found a chapel in a side street called En-gedi with a plaque outside commemorating the departure of the first migrants from Wales to Patagonia 150 years ago. The main Plas is a triangle with the Castle at its apex and rows of shops and public buildings along the sides. Along the base of the triangle is the Post Office, a bank and a church with a spire and facade which wouldn't look out of place in a northern French village. What's different about this scene is that the Church is not the Parish Church, but belongs to the Presybterian Church of Wales, dating back around 150 years, possibly around the time when the Plas was developed in its present form. It illustrates ther social prominance that non-conformist religion had in a town dominated by the Castle - bastion of the British establishment.
The most ancient Anglican building is a large mediaeval chantry chapel, built into the town wall at its north eastern end. There appears to be at least one other Anglican building in the town, built on higher ground and outside its ancient heart. Now there's a statement in stone for you. I wonder if the PCW has suffered as drastic a down turn in fortunes in the Welsh speaking heartland as in the South. And where stands Anglicanism in this part of the world today?
The Plas is in the throes of 'public realm enhancement' entailing re-paving and pedestrianisation as far as I could gather. Just like being back in Cardiff. It will look good when finished. Many of the shops and houses of the town have been given bright coats of paint in vivid colours, without any obvious master colour scheme in mind. The effect is uplifting in an eccentric sort of way, and certainly an improvement on the drab grey facades of yester-year.
After a picnic lunch overlooking the harbour entry we went for a walk out of town along the coastal road past the golf club. The foreshore was a birdwatchers paradise, with oystercatchers, curlews, egrets and herons to add to run-of-the-mill seagulls and crows. I wished I had a camera with a decent telephoto lens to do justice the photo opportunity presented by the afternoon.

Lambeth issues an official statement, strongly critical of GAFCON's plans and proposals, and questions the legitimacy of the claim to institute an alternative authority within Anglicanism. Funny way to put it, when the tradition of Anglican concensus is not exactly based upon on a body of Canon Law, but upon tradition and convention.