Sunday, 14 October 2007

Church of the Past and the Future

I squeezed into the side aisle of the newly opened Church of St Teilo at the Museum of Welsh Life, the walls subtly lit and alive with delicate colours of lined paintings and the beautifully crafted rood screen with intricate carvings and bright reds and greens and golds. The church had been handed over by the Church in Wales to the Museum to be rebuilt stone by stone and renovated as it would have looked in the early fifteenth century. Despite the several altars there was little clutter, unlike many of our old churches that have been 'Victorianised' or gathered up the left overs of previous parishioners! There were no chairs - apart from those ordered by the people who needed them. I was pleased and privileged to be present at the opening of the church and there was a medley of bishops there including the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of Wales and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cardiff, as well as a few other dignitaries who took a more prominent position, unlike me squeezed against the wall! It's been a long (20 year) journey since the parishioners of Pontardulais handed their church over to the museum - but it was worth it!

In the morning I had been at The Feel Good Factory! No it's not an exclusive gym or a Family Centre with bouncy castle and ball pit but a church in the Cynon Valley converted into a community facility. The church community there handed the building over to a local Community Project. They still have their Sunday and weekday Masses there, except now they celebrate it in a clean, uncluttered, well lit building - a far cry from a few years before when it was dark, damp and in a bad state of repair. I was so pleased for them! It's been a long journey since the parishioners handed their church building over to the Community - but it was worth it!

So today has been a journey through the past and the future. Yet the church of St Teilo's at the Museum can teach us so much about our present and who we are, as the Archbishop of Canterbury reminded us in his speech. The stories of both places are intertwined, part of the rich tapestry of tradition and faith that makes us who we are. Meanwhile, I finished the day off in the pub for a (very) late lunch. It's been a full and varied day - and all worth it!

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