supplementary Lent course on the theme of the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit. We will be meditating in a small group on the some of these: wisdom (week 1), courage (week 2), patience (week 3), and joy (week 4) How far can we hope to be invested with these in our lives?
When you are in Berlin you do feel that you are at the centre of world events. Germany’s Nazi past made it so in the early twentieth century; the Berlin Wall made it the centrepiece of the Cold War in the second half of the same century; and now the German Chancellor Merkel who is based in the capital holds the political cards for the survival of the European Union as we know it. It is a city that is used to being challenged, creative, unsettled, resilient, determined. It is above all a city that has reinvented itself as a standard-bearer of world peace. This message runs through all the museums and exhibitions I visited: a genuine plea that war should never happen again.
It is difficult to pinpoint what an Archbishop’s Chaplain actually does, because such a role is so varied. In my case I could be researching a piece on a Welsh saint one minute, and then driving the Archbishop to a churchwide meeting somewhere in Wales the next. When people ask me what I do I usually use the sporting analogy of curling. The Archbishop will guide the granite curling stone down the icy curling sheet towards its intended destination. I am like one of the sweepers, going ahead to ensure the Skip’s plans are well implemented, sometimes brushing ferociously with the sweeping brush to reduce any unforeseen icy bumps. The stone should land on its target. One of the privileges of the job was to carry the Primatial Cross, which is always carried in front of the Archbishop at major services. This was always an enjoyable manoeuvre, without any need to sweep. As the Archbishop’s last chaplain (he had five over 14 years) I wish Archbishop Barry a deserved and joyful rest following his distinguished service to the Church in Wales.
The Holocaust Memorial Day service in Cardiff yesterday was very moving, as it always is, each year. This year there was a Czech connection: Eva Clarke, a holocaust survivor, described her escape from Nazi-controlled Czechoslovakia. Then the Chair of the Ystradgynlais Heritage Forum described how a sole pear tree that survived the Gestapo’s razing to the ground of the village of Lidice near Prague now has a connection with the little village of Cwmgiedd in South Wales. A cutting of that tree was transferred to the Welsh village where a new pear tree is presently growing. It is a symbol of great hope out of terrible adversity.
It was a privilege being present at and involved in the consecration service of a new bishop. That it was the Church in Wales’ first woman bishop made it a little bit special. Bishop Joanna is now Bishop of St Davids. The special moment in Llandaff Cathedral was when Archbishop Barry along with a multititude of bishops laid their hands on Bishop Joanna, symbolising the continuation in the line of the historic episcopate going back centuries. Of course, I was a mere onlooker, but because I was the chaplain I had to hold the order of service for the Archbishop, which meant that I was right there in thick of the spiritual action.
The Archbishop of Wales, Barry Morgan, presided and preached at the 11am Christmas Day Service at Llandaff Cathedral today. The young choir sung sublimely, and yesterday too at the Nine Lessons and Carols service when over 900 attended. The Archbishop had a kind word to say to the choir boys before the service (see picture). This was his last Christmas in official capacity as Archbishop. While I have been his chaplain his central message of compassion has come across strongly and eloquently, and this morning’s sermon was no exception. God is among us all: we just need to share that news and encourage one another.
‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’. This quotation is lifted out of the Gospel of Matthew. I quote it because the Roman Catholic Church has bought and renovated a building opposite Cardiff’s cathedral, St David’s Metropolitan Cathedral, and transformed it into an amazing spot of calm amid the bustle of Cardiff’s shopping district. The place is called Cornerstone. Apart from the well decorated halls there is a lovely quiet ‘meditative’ space at the side of the church as well as a cafe in the basement for refreshment. Unexpectedly I bumped into Archbishop George Stack in the cafe and he took me on a personal tour of the place. It is a bonanza of curves, stonework, calligraphy, stained-glass, alcoves, buttresses and cusps.