Sunday, December 30, 2012

doorway to dreamland

I made a promise to Ken at a public meeting five years ago. He didn't think it would ever happen, and wanted to know if I would be around to walk him through the doors that would join St Catherine's Church to the Hall. So I looked him in the eye and assured him I would do it.

He nearly had a leg amputated last month. But it didn't happen, and today I kept my promise. I walked him through a door that didn't exist. Didn't exist.

It does now.

After the 2005 interior renovations in the church, I was grateful that we had finished and I had no more building projects. The next thing we had to do was employ a children's worker - not that we had any children; that's why we had to employ a children's worker. And I knew who I wanted, but they lived in the wrong part of Wales. No problem - her husband was duly put through the ordination machine & sorted for training at Llandaff, and Naomi needed a job.

All I needed was money, an agreeable PCC, and enough rope to hang myself.

And just after Naomi began working with us, I walked around the back of church one day, between the church and the hall (which at the time we never used - the main room was rented out full time to Social Services; and the top floor had been condemned and was unusable) at the point where the two buildings were closest together, suddenly I was standing in a foyer that joined the two together. I was actually standing in this thing. And I realised what I was going to do next...

Oh my poor church wardens.

It was an arduous journey. We wondered why we would join the two together: the benefit for the elderly and for children who used the church was obvious, in that it would create access to loos, but was that enough reason?

So we thought bigger.

What about renovating the hall. What about using the hall. Ourselves. Losing the rent from social services. Doing more for kids. Starting a work with older people. Needing more room.

Should we build new rooms into the vicarage garden? Should we build onto the west end of the church? Of course - we should bring the top floor into use, and make meeting rooms up there for people of different ages, create a parish office, put a lift in so the older members and people with kids in buggies could use it... And so the plans grew.

And the price grew too.

But whilst all that was happening, we didn't stop. Naomi left, and Kirsty took over - using the Hall now for the children's work & growing toddler groups and youth work. Kirsty was followed by Trish. And we started St Caths Plus for older people - outreach for the more mature, based on the model of our children's work, based on our concern that older people deserve better facilities and good places to meet and do interesting things together in our community. First Esther, then Anne headed it up.

There were weeks when we had 200 people coming to events put on by the community projects.

The plans grew. And the price. And the fundraising - that was part of my job, and Esther worked hard there too. There were successes, and failures. The timeline was not what I had hoped. In the end, I felt a tiny bit like King David looking at plans to build a temple in Jerusalem: I knew it was going to happen; I knew I'd done everything I could; it just wasn't going to be done in my time. The final major piece of fundraising news came through just after I left in summer 2011. Yet it came to pass...

And two became one. The church is on the left. The hall is the main structure you see. The bottom floor is a new corridor, joining church and the new loos. (A rather welcome change from the previous Victorian facilities!) The low double stained-glass window on the low jutting structure was previously in the church. That structure is the new foyer that makes the two buildings one.

Peter, the new vicar, has work to do on his garden, which is a right mess. Good job he's a botanist...

Of course, as well as seeing all that is, and that is still to do, I couldn't help but see all who were not there. David the architect, a dear friend to me and to the church for many years, was unable to come, but his work will bless many. There were members of the Hayward family present to recall Ken, and Hilda, who both inspired me along the way. John Murphy would have loved to see this. It would have thrilled his soul. I guess it does as he looks down at us. Seeing Sam, my heart was filled with Ian. Seeing Cherry, I could picture Heather. I was motivated by so many people whose names I am not mentioning and who have not seen this day; but their gift blesses people who come after. And that is how it should be. We are all forgotten eventually, and yet the blessing carries on.

Well. Indeed. For now, much remains to be done. The service this morning was an official blessing by the Archbishop of Wales, with many friends from the wider community present - Owen the MP, Malcolm the QS, Nicky the artist who designed the new stained glass above the door that joins church to foyer, far too many to mention. It was a privilege to be amongst them. The upstairs is almost done. The lift almost ready. The kitchen nearly there. The downstairs has a bit of work still to do. The foyer roof isn't quite finished. BUT - it looks amazing. Looking down from the upstairs office over Pontypridd, you are aware of how fine a building this is, and what a gift it will be to people across the community.

There has been a lot of very hard work done by a lot of dedicated people since I left!

And here's that door. The one I walked Ken through. The one that didn't exist. It used to be a wall & a window. Not any more. The view is from the church to the foyer. Nicola Hopwood's design is on the theme of worship & praise; the words are drawn from the hymn 'My Song is Love Unknown' - and I will claim a little credit for the suggestion, though Nicky then pared them down and put her own poetic take on the final selection.

Art doesn't need explanation. But here is my response - and you should have your own. I see in the swoop of the colours, arms of outstretched praise. Behind - the night; ahead - the day; above - the cross, the highest point of all worship. Flowing from the worship of the church into the day ahead, a seed: a word, a deed, a sharing of the love received in worship. A making real beyond of the realities sung within this place. And with it - an invitation to young and old, broken and joyful, men and women, those who have come long and those who have never heard before:

Here might I stay and sing
This is my friend
Sweet praise
Gladly spend

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!

It's been quite a year. And as we enter the final week, with Christmas beginning as the year ends, I've been enjoying the various round robin letters.

I'm tempted to join in. But frankly - if you're that interested, you've already read about my trek up Kilimanjaro, my semi-final defeat in the county tennis championships, and my latest concert tour as you've perused the blog during the year. Plus, you've been challenged by the odd sermon and thrilled by the academic breakthroughs I'm making at work.

What's left to add?


If we add a soupcon of honesty and the bare minimum of humility, I might say that on the whole I end the year as I begin most years. Christmas is a time for gratitude. Simply saying 'thank you'.

I'm grateful for friends and family who have been there for me through some difficult days. A small op which carried a lot of pain. A big loss which still hurts. And I'm delighted to be a part of a lovely church family in Calverley - a real joy; they have blessed me beyond words, in all kinds of ways.

I'm grateful for all kinds of people I've been fortunate to meet this year and all kinds of places I've been able to visit - sometimes quite by chance, and sometimes through work. Skiing with friends, finally doing the Schilthorn, being with Florida family & friends, St Emilion, a gospel choir in New York, a glorious day in DC, and (again) skiing - but this time as part of a wedding. The places - the people - how grateful could I be?

I'm grateful for the way my faith has been challenged and has grown and developed. It's more and more part of who I am that my thirst for a greater biblical understanding has to lie within the framework of grace. I mean, I disagree more than ever with doctrine I read which excludes people (for all sorts of reasons) but I want to remain in conversation with the people with whom I disagree. Somewhere on this blog this year the best sentence I wrote said - I'd rather be righteous than right. Which means - I'd rather be in good standing with you than beat you in an argument. Somehow, I'm finding more of Jesus here. And - listening to others means that I find really good ideas I can pinch and call my own.

Finally, Christmas. Tonight we had the Calverley Carol Service. The fantastic scratch choir worked really hard and sang amazingly. They did a couple of my carols (Christmas Song, and Mary's Song) and now I get to relax. For the first time in a million years I didn't need to stay up for Midnight Communion.

So I'm staying up. Well, why not? I'd feel guilty about missing it!

And in the morning I'm speaking at the Christmas Day service here. On John 1. Can't remember doing a John 1 sermon before...

I took Mum to see Matt's grave yesterday. Strange, Christmas wasn't a big thing for him. Charlie, his predecessor, loved Christmas. Matt enjoyed it, but he'd rather we had chicken. Yet over these days, the house has been full of him. I've felt him, thought of him, been aware of him. And (though there's been a tear or two) actually now the memories are filled with gladness. I smile. I miss him enormously. And yet he is here. My heart.

John 1. The Word become flesh: all those words from all those letters, all those highlights of all those years, all those moments for which to be thankful - and in the midst of every single one of them, Jesus. God is here. Every day. Not just as the year comes to an end. Each of those letters shows me hope and fear and dreams and loss and God everywhere.

Yes. I'm staying up. Can't help myself. Can't bear to miss.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

the greatest summer remembered

Remember when Murray won at Wimbledon? When Sir Chris got his sixth? When Bradley lounged on a throne of gold? When Queen Victoria blew kisses? When all the world did the Mobot? And Jess wept and so did we?

The greatest summer ever, wonderfully evoked in this brief BBC video. Ah, halcyon days.


So there we have it. The first teaser trailer for Star Trek: Into Darkness. And in 60 seconds we see a lot of action, fear, and disaster - and Benedict Cumberbatch as the latest Trek villain. And rather splendid he looks too. Home from Holmes.

I enjoyed JJ's first foray into the Trek universe enormously; everything I see here has me Pining for more.