One man and his Tedi

Tedi absconds with Bishop June!

Tedi absconds with Bishop June!

Fr Mark shares his experiences of the Diocescan pilgrimage to Santiago.

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The old song went ‘One man and his dog went to mow a meadow’ but the new song is ‘One man and his Tedi went to Santiago’. That is where the newly christened Tedi Pererin (Teddy Pilgrim) and I went in the middle of May. We did not go alone but went with the diocese of Llandaff. It was amazing to walk up to our residence and find that we were facing Santiago Cathedral.

The following afternoon after a picnic lunch we set out on our first walk along the Cameno trail from Portugal. One aspect amongst many of Pilgrimage is to walk alongside and it was a delight to walk alongside and talk with three people I had not met before. There is also the times of walking along in silence. (Usually when it was uphill for me!). This does give time for reflection and a conversation with God and self.

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Tedi enjoyed meeting Bishop June and, seeing an opportunity to move in the higher echelons of Diocesan life, I was summarily abandoned and he took to her staff like a pro. I hear that he was a great attraction whilst walking with her and upon our return to Santiago he decided to move in permanently. I haven’t had a postcard yet but I’m sure he will be back to visit sometime in 2020. I’m currently looking out for a brother or sister to replace him with.

Being on my own now I met up with one person who I had not seen for 32 years, the Revd Nick Sandford, with whom I used to play squash every week in college. So, pilgrimage enables you to meet new people and renew old friendships.

The local food was excellent and with a group of people including the previous Rector of this parish and the Swedish diocesan link person, Nina, I enjoyed some of the local sea delights as well as more traditional tapas food. Pilgrimage enables you to experience new things at all levels.

We celebrated the eucharist outside, learnt a pilgrim dance and had a banquet in the most historically illustrious and breathtaking surroundings. And again, I met new people and had challenging, interesting conversations.

It is said that the difference between a pilgrim and a tourist is that a tourist passes through a place and that the place passes through a pilgrim. In more ways than I can count Santiago has certainly passed through me. It has taken away some things and has left behind others. A true pilgrimage worthy of the name.

One man – tediless

Do we have the courage?

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Resurrection 

Last Sunday (5th May) was the third Sunday of Easter and in church we heard the stories of the disciples, in various ways, meeting with the resurrected Jesus. I am hugely heartened by the fact that they hadn’t understood the message of the Kingdom of God even though they had walked side by side with Jesus for three years. In John 21.3, even having met with the risen Lord, Peter says ‘I’m going fishing.’ And the others agree to join him. In other words – ‘great while it lasted now back to the day job.’  

Of course, it was going fishing that set Peter up for the encounter which changed his life forever. I suspect he had a great weight of guilt following his foretold triple denial of Jesus and couldn’t conceive of a God who would forgive. Now he meets Jesus face to face, the guilt is washed away by the Blood of the Lamb, the weight of the sin is removed, the relationship is renewed.  

Through Good Friday and Easter Day our risen Lord wants to do the same work with each and every one of us. He wants to forgive us, we only need ask, He wants to have a renewed relationship with us, we only have to turn to Him and He wants us, with Him, to change our lives forever. Do we, like Peter, have the courage? 

Past, Present and Pilgrimage...

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The beginning of a new year is often a time when we reflect on the past and plan for the future. Fr Mark finds elements of past, present and future in his review of January 2019.

“It was a privilege to be involved in Merthyr Tydfil’s Holocaust Memorial Day on Sunday 27th January. In the week leading up to this commemoration, the Leisure Trust put on displays and talks in the Redhouse and I was fortunate to give a talk in the theatre on the Rwandan Genocide and the people of Rwanda, and afterwards enjoy wonderful refreshments and conversations.

Fr Mark at the Redhouse

Fr Mark at the Redhouse

The theme for Holocaust Week this year was ‘Torn from home…’ and at the Memorial Day service Dawn Bowden AM reflected on her experiences visting Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau and particularly the poignancy of a shoe, or a doll or a piece of clothing. The service concluded in the Memorial Garden with the laying of a wreath by Superintendent Phillip Ashby. Many thanks to all who enabled, participated or attended this service and the week’s events.

Holocaust Memorial Day

Holocaust Memorial Day

On January 27th we enjoyed a service of celebration and welcome as John Fenton was licensed to the Parishes of Merthyr Tydfil Christ Church & Merthyr Tydfil St David and Abercanaid. Due to the priest-in-charge (oops!) giving the wrong readings to the Area Dean, Fr Stephen Kirk, we heard the wonderful story of Abraham being called out from his home town and moving to a new place. Fr Stephen spoke to us about faith and promise, hope and resilience in times when the vision is not clear. It was great to have John’s family with us to share in this new beginning. John spoke to us about his journey to this place and about being with us in the future, and he joined Ken and I at the Quar church the following Sunday where we played some lovely worship music together.

John Fenton introduces himself

John Fenton introduces himself

Looking to the future, Bishop June has designated 2020 as a Year of Pilgrimage for the Diocese of Llandaff. In response we, in this parish, would like to make three pilgrimages. One spiritual, one local and one not local - there will be something for everyone. Although not everyone will be able to physically journey with the ‘not local’ pilgrimage, there will be two destinations on offer - The Holy Land and Rwanda. We look forward to a number of people joining with either Charlotte (Holy Land) or myself (Rwanda) in 2020. More details will follow in the not too distant future.”

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Clothe yourselves with Love...

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A New Year message from Fr Mark

Colossians 3. 12 & 14. ‘As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.’

The challenge of the New Year, for Christians, is to grow closer to what God would have us be. During the last year we have, undoubtedly, clothed ourselves from time to time with the attributes mentioned in the above writing from Colossians. Practising them will help build community in this place and they are, individually, so different to much in modern culture that they will mark us out as different – in a good way. Here’s hoping that your and my practising goes well.

We wish you all a Blessed and Peaceful 2019.

Homelessness - how can we help?

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Fr Mark, Judy Hopkins and Jacqui Nutt-Davies share news and thoughts about the shocking and saddening situation of homeless people in our communities. If you can, please donate your time, food or money to help. Find out more by clicking on the organisations’ names to go to their Facebook pages.

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Fr Mark - Nearly 600 homeless people died in England and Wales last year - a stark reminder of the misery of homelessness. Being homeless is something that, fortunately, I know nothing about. To know that you are going to live the day and the night without the security of a roof and a front door is something most of us don’t understand. However, we are being made acutely aware in the press both locally and nationally that this is life for a growing number of individuals. There seems to be no one single cause on which to focus in order to help. It is therefore with thankful prayer that we have partnered with Shalom Ministries who work with and for those who find themselves homeless in this place. They are using our redundant gallery at St David’s (photos above) to provide food, shelter, warmth and engagement with the homeless for two hours on a Monday and a Thursday. They provide, literally, an oasis in a fairly barren landscape. We thank them for their ministries and pray for the future. Other organisations providing vital support include Merthyr Homeless Outreach, Merthyr Tydfil Night Shelter and Providing Help to Merthyr Tydfil Homeless & Less Fortunate. Grateful thanks to all.


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Judy Hopkins tells us about her night as a rough sleeper which raised sponsorship of over £600 to help the homeless. This has been donated to Sharon Hellard at the Bus Station Cafe. Sharon works 364 days a year from 5.30am till about 4.00pm. Sharon receives some donations but if there is not enough money she will gladly give the homeless something to eat and drink; "I can`t not give them anything when they are hungry and cold.”

Judy - Most people have an idea what it would be like to be a ‘rough sleeper’, that is, someone who has no place to spend the night and finds a place to ‘bed down’ night after night. I decided to experience a night in the open after talking with some of Merthyr Tydfil`s homeless people and getting bitterly cold and being told the Night Shelter would not be available until January.

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On Sunday, 3rd December at 10.00pm I was ready with my bed of cardboard, a blanket and sleeping bag to spend the night in the grounds of St David`s Church. I had plenty of warm clothes which would keep me warm. Ian was spending the night in the car, nearby, but was not to help me except in an emergency. Paul Hughes came to help me set up and Viv and Lynda Price came down with chocolate bars and crisps. Councillor Geraint Thomas, too, came along to give his support. It was very kind and thoughtful of  these friends and others who telephoned me beforehand to wish me well. Most of the goodies which Lynda brought had to be declined as I didn’t want to have things that the homeless wouldn’t have.

It was a mild night with showers of rain; I was grateful for this, probably I would settle down quite easily. At about 11.00pm, I was wishing I had a bottle of sherry to numb my wandering thoughts and help me to fall asleep. No such luck; nothing to eat, nothing to drink. After all, where would a homeless person get a drink after closing time? The lights from the library carpark gave me some comfort but I couldn`t get comfortable and the thoughts going through my head were keeping me from sleeping. I was also concerned for Ian – after all, he didn’t choose this idea but he wouldn`t let me be out on my own. What if someone approached the car? What if someone came along and asked me for something – who knows what? Would Ian be alright? What would I do? I had my whistle, torch and phone at my side, would they be enough? Occasionally I got up to check that Ian was alright, sometimes he was dozing (he didn`t see me at the window of the car) while other times he was reading a book.

As time went by, it started to rain heavily and the wind rose, causing my cover to blow and make the rain come into my space. Now there were strange unidentifiable sounds, sounds of voices still heard a little way away, coming nearer and then disappearing – will they come near me? They didn`t but I was very glad I hadn`t chosen a Friday or Saturday night. Lots of shouting at this time, although it was well past midnight; were the pubs still open? Still some strange sounds and the wind was getting stronger. Were there any animals about? Fortunately I didn`t see any rats or mice nor even a stray cat.

My eyes were heavy now, perhaps sleep would come soon. The wind was still blowing the covers. The feeling of confidence that I had felt before leaving home had gone. I had a feeling of nervousness; it was scary and very eerie. I started to feel cold, but with all my warm layers, I’d probably get no colder. I wondered how many people were still about. Would there be any homeless people nearby? This was no fun, I was longing for a warm drink and something to eat. Wondering what sleep I would get – probably none with all the thoughts racing round inside my head. What about all the empty buildings in Merthyr Tydfil? Could suitable unemployed people be given an incentive to “man” the Night Shelter sometimes?                                                                                 

Until now I thought I could manage  this experience easily. How wrong I was. Did the homeless carry any food with them to keep hunger at bay? Perhaps they stole food. Could anyone blame them? It was horrible. I was so lucky to have Ian nearby; I looked through the window of the car; he may be dozing off occasionally but at this time he was reading. He looked ok but he didn’t notice me.

The rain had stopped and the wind had died down. There was a partially clear sky where three stars were visible. If Ian was with me he would have been giving me an astronomy lesson. The times he used to explain all the stars to me while I`d be freezing with teeth chattering when we`d been out for an evening before we were married.                          

People have been telling me for some time that I should give up some of the things I`d done for years. Hmmm. I`ve given up some things and what happens? God has moved me to undertake this experience – I would never have thought of doing it.

Thankfully  my faith must be strong because I knew He was watching over me and would keep Ian and me safe. A prayer I prayed: May the Holy Spirit guide all the volunteers, including Mothers’ Union and our parish to help the homeless in whatever way they are able and may the homeless be encouraged to seek the help they need to overcome their problems. May we be helped to understand the vulnerable and may trust grow between us all. Homelessness is a very complex issue and it will take ever so much to improve the lives of these vulnerable people.

How do these people get by? How much sleep do they get? By this time, this was about 2.30am, all these thoughts were in my head. I was getting colder and I was so uncomfortable, sore and aching. This must have been my lowest point. The rain had started again and the wind had risen. More strange noises around the place. I took some photos to do something and for proof that I was sticking it out. No way was sleep coming to me; some relaxing exercises and breathing exercises did not help.

Round about 4.00am (I kept looking at my watch to see how the time was going) traffic seemed to be moving again. So far I’d managed not to want the loo – I hoped I could last until 6.00am. Traffic and people`s voices resumed as the world was waking. I thought how strange similar noises can have different effects on me. These sounds now were a comfort to me although it was still dark. The end of my ordeal was in sight. Ian had been amazing, just being near me and not trying to persuade me to give it up. Please don’t let him suffer any ill effects. No need now for my whistle, torch and phone which I’d had in my hands or very close to me all night. I wonder if they would have saved me in an emergency.

It was approaching 6.00am when I hoped the rain would ease off so I could gather my things together, get them inside and go home to a hot bath, breakfast, a hot drink and a sleep in my lovely, warm, comfortable bed.

I want to thank everyone who called me mad but supported me in so many ways - the sponsorship which has raised over £600, thank you Jacqui for suggesting that; Paul for helping prepare my ‘bed’, Viv and Lynda for coming with some goodies. Sorry Lynda, I didn`t want to seem ungrateful not accepting all that you offered us. By the middle of the night I was wishing I had! Reverend Charlotte has been a strength to me. For the phone calls and texts before and after from friends. Thank you all so very much and most of all, Ian, who, once he knew I was serious about doing this did not try to stop me although I knew he  would have loved to have heard me say “I can’t do it”.

If only the vulnerable homeless people could have as much love as I have received this week “what a wonderful world this could be”.


Finally, a thought-provoking and heartfelt poem by Jacqui Nutt-Davies.

What would Jesus Say? A Poem for Christmas

As Christmas fast approaches,
And preparations are made,
I wonder what Jesus would say 
about the way we celebrate His special day.

Would he approve of the overindulgence,
of chocolate, wine and the like.
Or the vast amount of money we spend on gifts that are overpriced.

Would he laugh as the panic sets in to put up the Christmas tree.
And clean the house because you never know who might drop in for tea!

Or maybe He would be quite angry,
and think we had lost the plot,
After all we are celebrating His birthday.
Not trying to spend all we've got.

Maybe it's time to stop and think what Jesus would want us to do.
I'm sure he would want us to mark His day,
because of the wonderful things He can do.

But hasn’t he taught us to help those who are struggling in many different ways.
The sick, the injured, the lonely and those who have nowhere to stay.

So this year shouldn't we lower our spending on those who already have lots.
And give to those who have nothing,
and spend time with the lonely and lost.

Perhaps this would be the best Birthday gift we could give Jesus. To show that we really do care,
for all those who are struggling,
By giving some real Christmas cheer.

J.N.D. 2018

 

The History of the Ss Peter and Paul Windows

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Andrew Griffiths, a former chorister at Ss Peter & Paul Abercanaid, tells us the history of the stained glass windows now housed in the new Worship Centre. Thank you, Andrew. 

“The history of the two stained glass windows depicting St Peter and St Paul, and now installed in the rededicated church of Ss Peter & Paul in Abercanaid, goes back to the early 1960s. They have ties with my grandmother Gwyneth Symonds who lived in Cardiff Street, Abercanaid and who was a staunch member of the congregation. 

The windows were made by J Wippell & Co Ltd in Exeter and are of outstanding quality and craftsmanship. They were commissioned in 1964/5 by my American ancestors Forrest Williams Snr of Chicago and his sister Vera Riggs of California. Forrest’s parents William John Williams and Mary Ellen Williams lived in the parish, in Old Penyard, and when Forrest was just a baby, the family emigrated to the USA where Vera was born. William John Williams and Gwyneth Symonds’ father were, I understand, cousins. 

The window depicting St Paul was given by Forrest Snr and Vera in memory of their parents. 

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The window depicting St Peter was given in memory of my grandmother, Gwyneth, by my grandfather Leonard Symonds, a member of the choir of Ss Peter and Paul, and our family. 

Both windows were installed behind the font in the “old” church in 1965 and there is a photo of me, then a chorister, standing by them. 

The windows were removed from the “old” church after it was made redundant in 2009. They have been lovingly stored and subsequently prepared by Tim Lewis, Glantawe Studios, and are now presented in English oak backlit cases and feature in the sanctuary of the new Worship Centre. It was a privilege to be invited to stand at the altar at the rededication ceremony; the two pictures are taken 53 years apart.

If you ever visit the church of Ss Peter & Paul, take a close look at the quality and detailed craftsmanship of the windows and of the dedication inscriptions. The windows link Abercanaid with Chicago, California, and in more recent times Austin (Texas), Pensecola (Florida) and Stamford (Connecticut) where cousins of my generation now live.” 

Andrew Griffiths

A Joyful Licensing at Merthyr Tydfil Christ Church

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On the 9th October 2018 Reverend Mark Prevett was licensed by Bishop June as the Priest in Charge of Merthyr Tydfil Christ Church whilst remaining Priest in Charge of Merthyr Tydfil St David and Abercanaid. It was a very enjoyable service with a large number of the congregations from both parishes turning out to support this new beginning and to listen to Bishop June sharing her aspirations for a Diocese that is ‘up to something’. We pray, with her, that in this place we can; ‘Tell a Joyful Story’, “Grow the Kingdom of God’ and ‘Build our Capacity for Good’. 

Who said never work with children and animals?!

They say that you should never work with children or animals. I’ve just found out why - ‘cause if you do you have the best fun ever!!!

We have just had a weekend playing, worshipping and praying with children and animals and it has been an incredibly uplifting experience. St Tydfil’s has been full of many different sounds from singing and cheering, to food and drink being consumed, to a barked greeting and the silence of an ever watchful bearded dragon. It has been ALIVE and it has left those who participated feeling alive and thankful for all of God’s creation and His gifts to each and every one of us.

Special thanks to Rev Charlotte and her team who worked so hard to make this all come together, to Hayden at Nanty-y-Coed Farm and Alan from Owls 4 You for providing the icing on the cake.

See our Facebook page for lots more photos.

A Letter from Fr Mark

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Fr Mark writes an open letter about his appointment to Merthyr Tydfil Christ Church and the many opportunites and potential this brings to ministry in Merthyr Tydfil.

"Most of you are, I suspect, by now aware that a couple of weeks ago I was appointed as Priest-in-Charge of the above parish as well as remaining Priest-in-Charge of Merthyr Tydfil St David and Abercanaid. It will mean that I am half-time in both parishes for a while but will, hopefully, be enabled by some lovely colleagues in both parishes as well as our curate Charlotte. I need to be very honest with all concerned and say that I did seek this appointment in the genuine belief that it was the right solution at this time. I am anticipating that it will mean an increased work load for a period of time but I am very excited about the potential for us all to be working together for the future of God’s kingdom in this place. Each parish has a lot to offer and they can certainly receive from each other. The journey of learning and growing, accepting and embracing, challenging and adapting will be refreshing for us all. It is hoped that in the not too distant future we will be able to invite a colleague to join us working across the whole area bringing new insight and expertise to our ministry in Merthyr Tydfil and its surroundings. That is very much in God’s hands, but on earth the Area Dean, the Archdeacon and the Bishop are very much behind our thinking. They are very encouraging as well.

There are some adjustments that will have to take place in the very near future. Our Sunday Morning Service times will have to change for some. No one likes change but if we accept these things and think not of ourselves but of the future of the church, good things will be enabled to grow. There are two reasons that we need this change. One is purely practical; in order to cover clergy holidays / sickness one clergy person always needs to be able to cover two services on a Sunday morning. The best times for this seem to be 9.30am and 11.00am. The second is that when clergy are not on holidays or absent for other reasons it provides what I call ‘room for manoeuvre’. Clergy have time to do other things that help the church and us to grow. One example would be that a clergy person could go out with the Young Disciples at the Quar. Another would be to run a Café style church in the afternoon. And yet another would be to run some training initiative on a Sunday afternoon or evening. In Merthyr Tydfil St David and Abercanaid we have already experienced the change that having two clergy with lighter workloads can make; how we have been taken forward so far and so fast in Charlotte’s first year. Imagine what might be achievable with yet another person in full time ministry.

It will be just one month short of my having served here for five years when I am licensed to Merthyr Tydfil Christ Church and in those five years I have learnt a lot and made quite a number of mistakes. I shall continue on both those paths – learning and making mistakes, but in the long run, if we hold one another before God, forgiving, forgetting and seeking His will His Kingdom will grow. All I ask for is your patience and your prayers for all who are involved in doing their best to make this situation really work for the best.

Thank you."

Bishop June will license Fr Mark at Christ Church Cyfarthfa on Tuesday 9th October at 7.30pm. All are welcome.

Bishop June asks ‘Quo Vadis?’ - ‘Where are ‘we’ going?’

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‘Quo Vadis?’ Peter asks Jesus on the road as he flees Rome. ‘Where are you going?’ ‘I am going to Rome to be crucified again’ replies Jesus. And from that encounter Peter gains the courage to continue his ministry and returns to Rome.

‘Quo Vadis?’ is the question that Bishop June asked of us at the joyful rededication service at Ss Peter and Paul’s church in Abercanaid on July 11th 2018. We can certainly do no better than Peter following his encounter with Christ on the road from Rome. We can have the courage to continue our ministry to this area. The building itself is ‘fit for purpose’. Pretty well any purpose we choose for it. It is each one of us that must receive a fillip from the achievement of a long-held vision that gives us a multipurpose premises for the 21st Century. God can use this building, through us, to grow His Kingdom in the community.

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Our Open Day on 22nd September gives us an opportunity to show off and to share our vison for the future. This is a vision that can be seen in the practical, as in the car park we will have, but also in the development of the spiritual, with the building being used for groups that come to meet and then to pray. For me there is this lovely image of the worship space, the God space, being right alongside any and every activity in the community space.

This then, perhaps, answers the question that Bishop June asked of us. ‘Quo Vadis?’ - ‘Where are ‘we’ going?’ Walking, with courage, alongside our God in all he is doing in this place.