Sunday, April 18, 2010

A feast to remember

Yesterday afternoon, Lynn and Pam took us in their car down to Llanbleddian, in the Vale, to meet up with other parishioners to sing Evensong in the Parish Church of St John the Baptist. It was a day of glorious sunshine, and all the flowers of spring were evident in the lanes as we travelled. Having charged up both cameras for the trip, I stupidly rushed out carrying neither. Fortunately Pam had a Nikon digital camera with her, which I was able to borrow and record something of the occasion for the parish website.

Llanbleddian has a tower of the same age (15th century) as our St John's, by the same Somerset architect, another gift of the wife of the Earl of Warwick (the Kingmaker). We were welcomed by our band of ringers who'd arrived ahead of us to ring before the service. I ad libed a sermon based on the couple of lessons, chosen after we arrived (one of those bits of planning we'd all forgotten), and it went down quite well. We were given tea and cake by some members of the congregation, and that gave us all a chance to socialise, and return an invitation to Llanbleddian to come up to Cardiff for a special Evensong of their own at some future date. Although Evensong is done less than ever these days, it is still a much loved act of worship for many people. I'm proud and glad that a relatively small number of people attending St John's regularly make it their habit to offer Evensong to the passing world every Sunday.

Then we drove on through the lanes to Llanmihangel y Bont Faen, a small hamlet a couple of miles to the south, situated in the Rectorial Parish of Llantwit Major. Apart from a few farms, there is a fourteenth century Parish Church, set in a grassy wooded hollow with a running stream nearby, and a beautiful well menatained sixteenth century mediaeval manor house, Plas Llanmihangel, where we were booked in for an evening meal, thirty nine of us! Pauline gave us a talk on the history of the church, which still uses oil lamps for illumination, and has a baptismal immersion font underneath the floor close to the pulpit. It can't have been much used, however, since it has pews astride its cover.

Plas Llanmihangel opened its door to us at seven, with an apéro while we found our places in the seating plan. All credit and thanks to Pauline who organised the whole event perfectly, and gave us an arrangement that provided an opportunity to sit down and eat together as a congregation, and enjoy several hours of company and conversation, while eating a superb meal. It's a rare occasion for none of us to be serving a meal to others. So much serving others is done regularly by members of the congregation, that this was a special treat for all. It was what I'd hoped might be possible as a farewell celebration, rather than a stand up 'do' with a cast of thousands. Just a gathering of many who have shared with me as incumbent in the journey the parish has taken through these years of change.

There were speeches, a most generous presentation and toasts afterwards, all full of warmth and affection. The ringers presented me with an inscribed tribute recalling the quarter peal rung in honour of my retirement at the end of last month. It is a most unusual honour and something of which I shall remain very proud indeed. It was gone eleven when we left for home. For some, it was the latest they'd stayed out for many a moon. A thoroughly good time was had by all. From every angle it was one of those unforgettable days, a memory to treasure in times to come.

When we got home, I uploaded the photos taken during the day. The results are here.

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