Sunday reflection

Reflection for All Saints’ Day
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth…….” – Jesus, in St Matthew 5:1-12, NIV.

Santa Claus travels all around the world. Is he at risk of transmitting the virus and is there a risk for Santa Claus himself? He’s not exactly thin – if he were having a medical exam he would be considered to be clinically obese. That puts him at higher risk of Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure so if he were to catch Covid then he would be at risk of getting a very serious version of it.” 
Prof. Emer Shelly, Faculty of Public Health Medicine, Ireland. 

“Just for the record, I don’t have Type 2 diabetes. Neither can I catch or pass Coronavirus during my delivery.” Statement from Santa Claus.
A lot of people think that Santa Claus is a fictional character but he’s actually based on the real Bishop of Myra who died in 343 AD and was known for leaving anonymous gifts for the poor and giving bags of money to the father of three girls so that he could pay the dowry then necessary for each of them. The custom of giving presents and chocolate coins developed from this as well as his name, which came from the Dutch Sinterklaas and the German Sankt Niklaus. His day is December 6th and his originally green outfit became red and white when a certain fizzy drink manufacturer changed it to fit with the colours of their cans. Clement Moore’s poem “‘Twas the night before Christmas” introduced reindeer as the means of transport and nowadays Santa is big business with comments such as those above receiving serious feedback in the social and economic repercussions of the pandemic. The grain of initial truth in the life of an actual saint became a legend as fact became entwined with fiction – and this didn’t only happen with Santa Claus but with many saints, Melangell amongst them.
When the eighteenth century traveller Thomas Pennant visited her valley, he added to Melangell’s story the suggestion that the horn of the huntsman would not sound when he tried to blow it to encourage the hounds and that the horn stuck to his lips. A saint by public acclaim due to her life of prayer, healing and compassion for those around her, the details of Melangell’s life are scarce but the oral tradition was strong and she has become one of those shadowy figures whose lives and examples have become foundation stones of the faith that has been passed on to us now.
Today, All Saints’ Day in the time to remember all those, known and unknown, seen and unseen, who have witnessed to the reality of the love of God and the power of hope in times of trial. That is so much needed as the pandemic continues and Jesus speaks of this reality in today’s Gospel, known as the Beatitudes and sometimes called the attitudes for being. In the face of so much suffering, death and grief being caused by Coronavirus, it almost sounds callous to suggest that those who mourn will be comforted. As yet another family of refugees so recently drowned in the channel, how can it be said that the meek will inherit the earth? 
However, the Beatitudes don’t deny the pain of human tragedy – rather, Jesus lives out the truth of what he proclaims during his life by bringing comfort to those who need it, showing mercy, being a peacemaker rather than responding with violence when he meets it and as death is overcome through the resurrection. In this way, human life here on earth becomes irradiated with heaven now – it becomes real and not just anticipated when seen in the lives of those also choosing to live in this way. The Beatitudes are complicated and hard to live out but Jesus’ own life and attitudes to what was happening around him shows that it is possible. The saints have shown us down the years that his example can inspire us to live in that hopeful way too and, in the face of Covid-19, now is the time for showing and practising the faith they have passed on to us so that we can also know the reality of its truth and power – demanding though that is. 
Through the example of Jesus, the actual lives of the saints and the courage we need to show in the ongoing challenges before us all, may God’s kingdom come and God’s will be done here on earth as it is in heaven. 
With my prayers,
Guardian of St Melangell’s Shrine Church.

November Services

November services at St Melangell’s Shrine Church

Sunday 1st November, 3pmService cancelled due to church closure in lockdown.
Sunday 8th November, 3pmService cancelled due to church closure in lockdown. 
Sunday 15th November, 3pmService of reflection in church 
Sunday 22nd November, 3pmvirtual service online 
Sunday 29th November, 3pm: Service of reflection in church – first Sunday of Advent.       
All services will take place according to the advice issued by the Welsh Government or the Church in Wales. As this may change, up to date information is available from, or 01691 860408.
The new broadband and equipment which has recently been installed at the centre mean that it’s now possible to develop online services and activities and these will be appearing in due course when technical difficulties have been overcome. The weekly reflections will continue to be posted. 
In his poem No! the American poet Thomas Hood wrote  
‘No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member –
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds,
This seems appropriate as the pandemic continues to spread amongst us, with many folk understandably becoming increasingly negative about its consequences and restrictions. Actually, November can be a positive and active month of remembering, with All Saints’ Day on 1st, All Souls’ on 2nd, Bonfire Night on 5th and Remembrance Day on 11th. The days may be drawing in, but the autumnal colours all around are stunning and the countryside looks particularly beautiful at the moment. Things may be very different this year, but we can still be thankful for the good things that are also happening amongst the negativity and find ways of marking important days and events or developing new ways of doing so. Instead of an automatic response of “No!” during the pandemic, why not look for a different, safe way of finding a possible ”Yes!” instead?!
Guardian, St Melangell’s Shrine Church

Bible Sunday Reflection

Dear all,
“You shall love the  Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind….. You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Jesus, in Matthew 22:34-46, NIV.

“It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” Mark Twain.
Today is Bible Sunday, which many people think of as one book and one annual event. Actually, the Bible is a library which contains 66 different works of history, theology, poetry, law and much more. Written at various times and in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, its name comes from the Greek word biblios, meaning scrolls, on which its contents would originally have been written. Its contributors were from many backgrounds such as kings, shepherds, poets, scribes, prophets, farmers, a doctor, fishermen and a tentmaker but its authors also included cheats, murderers, adulterers, traitors and a tax collector, one of those hated at the time as a collaborator with the occupying power. The Bible tells of rulers who did good but also terrible things to their people, of nations fighting and conquering each other in their struggle to survive, of people affected by jealousy, national disasters and fear but also hope, of men and women loving as well as hating those around them. The world in which they lived is very different from ours but within its pages are recognisable patterns of human behaviour, the murkier depths of the human heart and people trying to cope with huge challenges, much like us today – as the motto of The News of the World proclaimed, all human life is there!
It’s perhaps surprising  that, with all the scientific and technological advances since, a compilation with its earliest texts put together four or five centuries before Homer wrote the Odyssey is still read so widely. With over 100 million copies sold every year, the Bible is still the world’s best selling book – and, being so widely available, it’s also the one most frequently stolen! But, as well as the recounting of human history and development, within that library of books is the history of a very particular relationship and conversation between God and God’s people reflecting hope, faith and truth. That story is still being told and we have the choice today whether or not to explore and testify to its reality too.
That was a choice also faced by Jesus and, as the Pharisees try to trick him in today’s Gospel, he speaks of love for God, neighbour and self as being the greatest of the many commands – 161 in Leviticus alone! – that the Bible lists. It’s not love in the romantic sense but tough love which speaks of truth, hope and its cost. What that means and how to live it takes a lifetime and the learning of many generations to understand – as this week’s collect, originally written by Archbishop Cranmer for the first Book of Common Prayer, reminds us it’s not just a matter of reading but marking, learning and inwardly digesting the Bible that’s important. For that to happen, Bible Sunday can be a weekly and not just annual event and every day a Bible day as we hear and interpret God’s word to us in our day as we face the challenges before us. All these are available for free from the Church in Wales website or in lectionaries and publications which can be accessed online or by phone – though, as books have been classified as inessential purchases, they are not currently available from a shop during the national pandemic lockdown in Wales!
Collect for the week

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:
help us so to hear them, to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them
that, through patience and the comfort of your holy word,
we may embrace and for ever hold fast
the hope of everlasting life,
which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen. Archbishop Cranmer.

Coronavirus update: Church closed from 23rd October to 9th November.

St Melangell’s Church and Centre will be closed from Friday 23rd October until Monday 9th November during the Welsh circuit break lockdown.

More information can be found on the Church in Wales website by clicking here, and Welsh Government here.

Please note: Welsh Government has also imposed travel restrictions preventing anyone visiting from tier 2 or 3 areas. More details can be found here.

We will keep you updated on the situation as things change and look forward to welcoming you back when we are allowed to do so.

Sunday reflection

Dear all,

 “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves….. When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there.” 

Jesus, in Luke 10:1-9, NIV.
”We have to protect the health of the nation but let’s do it as one nation and not make the North of England the sacrificial lamb.” Andy Burnham, Metro Mayor of Manchester.

Today is the feast day of St  Luke, the Evangelist and ‘beloved Physician’ (Col. 4: 14) who was probably a Gentile and the author of both the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Without Luke’s Gospel, there would not be the detailed description of events surrounding the birth of Jesus nor the oldest Christian hymns, the Benedictus, Magnificat and the Nunc Dimittis. The parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son would be unknown without Luke’s writing and he’s often symbolised by an ox with wings holding the Gospel because that book begins with Zechariah sacrificing animals in the Temple, anticipating Jesus’ own later sacrifice. Luke also went with Paul on his second and third missionary journeys to Philippi and Jerusalem – his role as a doctor also means that many hospitals bear his name today as the work of healing goes on.
Healing, wellbeing and mental health are controversial matters at the moment, as the numbers of those developing Covid-19 or affected by it continue to rise the world over and opinions vary so much about how this should be handled. The individual, social and economic cost is also having a huge impact with the Manchester Evening News referring this week to the “melodrama, melancholy and madness” being caused by the divisions being created by it. How can healing and health prevail in these circumstances when so much has to be sacrificed by so many and resources may be scarce?
The reading from Luke’s Gospel today shows that this was so in the time of Jesus, too. Jesus says that “the harvest is great but the workers are few” and commissions 72 followers to go ahead of him without purse, bag or sandals. That may be controversial for us today when so much is costed but then, Pharisees and other religious people would take with them their own provisions and money so that their food could be ritually pure. Caring more for their own welfare than those around them created division, whereas Jesus suggests that his followers should bring peace with them and stay with those who offer them hospitality, eating and drinking the same things. They are not to move around but remain in the same house, so that they can heal the sick and tell them of God’s kingdom as well as worldly priorities. 
That’s amazing! The followers are to heal the sick themselves, not wait for Jesus or someone else to do it. In those days, leprosy and other infectious diseases would be feared as much as Covid-19 and those infected would have to be isolated from their families and friends just as today. Healing the sick is difficult and possibly dangerous work to do and Jesus recognises that when he tells them that he’s sending them out as lambs – not yet even fully grown sheep – amongst wolves. In the face of so much personal challenge, it’s perhaps surprising that 72 people can be found for this work – and yet, they go. 
Today, doing what we can ourselves to bring about healing may sound like folly when the risk and consequences of Coronavirus can be so severe and professional treatment of it is essential. But there’s much else being overlooked too and, in the face of so much criticism, division and expense, perhaps there are things we can safely do that might enable peace of mind, provide some mental health support or help to bring healing to those around us as well as ourselves. That may be something as simple as ringing someone up for a chat, writing a letter or fetching a prescription. It’s also said that laughter is the best medicine – why not share a joke, recommend a humourous film on TV or even sparkle with Strictly’s return! 
If we’ve a mind to, there’s a lot that could be done as well as much to concern us. Compared to those places in the world battling Covid-19 in situations where even food, clean water or medicines can’t be guaranteed, aren’t we more fortunate than we sometimes realise? If we can find the will, is there a safe way of showing that? 
With my prayers,
Guardian of St.Melangell’s Shrine Church
Diocesan prayer of the week 
Healing God, in these difficult times you have brought to the forefront of our minds and hearts all those who work in medicine and healthcare. May our praise and thanks to those on whom we depend not remain mere words and gestures, but inspire us to be generous in resourcing the protection of the frail, the loving care of the sick, the support of the distressed, and the advancement of life-saving knowledge; for all that builds up wholeness of mind and body, as well as spirit, is part of your work in the world. Amen. 

Canon Carol Wardman 

Sunday Reflection

Dear all,

“Many are invited but few are chosen.” Jesus, in St Matthew 22:1-14, NIV.

“The current regulations allow…….for Covid-19 safe wedding receptions to take place for up to 30 people………attendance must be by invitation only.” Welsh Government guidance.

When Prince Harry married Meghan Markle, there was speculation for a long time beforehand about the guest list. As the ‘spare to the heir’, the constraints affecting Prince William’s invitations to his own nuptials due to his future role as king didn’t apply. So, the royal wedding invitations for Harry and Meghan saw Hollywood stars invited as well as members of the royal family and there was much speculation and excitement beforehand about The Dress and other wedding garments as well as the service and reception. At the time, it all seemed to herald a new beginning but, now, the Sussexes have left the UK to live abroad and there is much speculation about their future and place within the royal family. Weddings and receptions are complicated matters requiring careful planning and good organisation.

That’s the case in the story Jesus tells in the Gospel today of a much earlier royal wedding reception, where the invitations have been sent out and the guests are now summoned to the feast as all is ready. However, those invited are busy with other things and they mistreat and even kill the messengers sent to remind them. So angry is the king that, perhaps fearing a rebellion, he sends his army to kill their murderers and destroy their property – this is a king who takes action in the face of refusal. The king’s messengers are then sent out to invite those they find, good and bad, to the wedding feast and the banqueting hall is filled. The guests wear appropriate wedding garments to honour the king’s invitation – but one of the guests hasn’t made an effort and, although he calls him ‘Friend’, the king is clearly angry when he has no answer when asked why. He is then thrown out into the darkness with his hands and feet bound – the king judges him unworthy to be present, despite having been invited, as he seems not to appreciate the honour done to him.

This may seem harsh, but a wedding banquet is one of the ways of understanding the kingdom of heaven, of which Holy Eucharist is a foretaste. The story Jesus tells indicates that it’s Gentiles as well as Jews who are invited and that an invitation alone should not taken as sufficient. The parable reminds us that judgement as well as grace will be within the king’s gift and that guests need to remember that the invitation is not just about simply turning up at the banquet but also honouring his son as well as the king. Many are invited but not all will respond or be chosen to remain.

There’s an irony today in hearing these words of Jesus during the ongoing pandemic. The current Covid-19 restrictions mean that many family members and friends who would usually expect to be invited to the wedding receptions being organised may find that is not the case – only thirty people are able to be present and at a social distance. Some couples have decided to postpone the occasion until the restrictions are eased whilst others have gone ahead hoping to have a larger “do” later on, but making choices in these heightened circumstances is not easy. 

Whatever choices are before each of us, the words of Jesus remind us that this parable is about the invitation to be part of God’s kingdom and our response and accountability to his call. Not all of those invited will respond or be chosen, but when the call comes that all is ready, it’s now or never. Some of the guests let other things get in the way of their commitment to the king’s invitation – do we, too?

With my prayers, Christine.

Sunday reflection

Dear all,

“Consider the ravens: they do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn yet God feeds them……. Do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it….. Seek God’s kingdom and these things will be given to you as well.”

Jesus, from St Luke 12-30, NIV.

Remember the poor when you look into your barn, at the abundance of your harvest.
Remember the poor when the wind howls and the rain falls, 
As you sit warm and dry in your house.
Remember the poor when you eat fine meat and drink fine ale at your fine carved table.
The cows have grass to eat; the rabbits have burrows for shelter, 
The birds have warm nests;
But the poor have no food except what you feed them…….
Author unknown
The words of Jesus in the Gospel reading for today may sound simplistic in the face of the ongoing concerns as Covid-19 continues to spread amongst so many families, communities and nations. Of course folk are going to be anxious about what they can eat and drink if they’re not able easily to get out shopping and the empty shelves of some supermarkets bear testimony to the renewed anxiety being experienced as lockdown becomes necessary once more in some areas. Yet, ironically, stockpiling can bring about the very thing being feared and deprive the vulnerable and those at work of what they need too, when there is sufficient for all if it’s shared fairly.
In the time of Jesus, his words would have an even greater significance: many of those who flocked to him would probably have only just enough to live on or perhaps one change of clothing, unlike many who have so much today. Then, if the family breadwinner experienced illness or injury, it could lead to destitution – and, as the furlough scheme ends and loss of jobs may result as well as the consequences for the economy, some may hear these words of Jesus and think them strange when there is now so much to be worried about.
But that is part of the difficulty – we can make our lives so complicated with the amount of belongings we have and the standard of living we’ve come to expect. The first Advent calendars are already in the shops, Christmas food and hampers are being ordered early so that people can be sure of getting them and some charity shops can’t cope with the amount of goods now being donated with so many folk having a clear out during lockdown. Others, though, are leading lives of loneliness and worry, with the unanticipated loss of income and security through lockdown during the pandemic having profound consequences. One recent visitor to St Melangell’s, a photographer, said that he had lost the anticipated fees from 22 weddings which had been cancelled and that it had affected his whole family. The effect of sudden adversity on the breadwinner can still be as profound today as in the time of Jesus – whether or not we remember the original use of that word, for “There is no such thing as ‘my’ bread. All bread is ours and is given to me, to others through me, and to me through others. For not only bread, but all things necessary for sustenance in this life, are given on loan to us with others, and because of others and for others, and to others through us. Meister Eckhart (1290-1329)
At Harvest Festival today, along with many others, we’ll be giving donations to the local Food Bank to support the increasing numbers of those who need its help at this challenging time. Those who want to will also be asked to take an acorn to plant in a suitable place as a sign of future hope. It will take a long time to grow, if it does, but it will provide a reminder that creation will live on long after we and our current concerns are gone. And, if the squirrels get it, food will have been provided not just by God’s creation, as Jesus suggests, but by the bounty entrusted to us all. 
So, if concern about the pandemic seems overwhelming and with many other issues being overlooked because of it, why not find an acorn or sapling and plant it as a sign of future hope in a suitable place where it may grow? Hope springs eternal – but we have to make it happen too!
With my prayers,

We can now received donations through Gift Direct

Dear all,

I am happy to announce that it is now possible to make donations to ‘the Shrine Church of Saint Melangell’, through the Church in Wales Gift Direct scheme. 

These payments can be made by Direct Debit and Gift aid can be claimed if you so wish, (it is also possible to join the scheme if you are not a UK taxpayer, you simply instruct us not to claim the tax back).

More information and links to the scheme are available on our Donations page.

Sunday reflection

Dear all,

“I will also ask you one question; if you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. Jesus, in St Matthew 21:23-32, NIV.

“The truth is the responsibility for defeating Coronavirus cannot be held by government alone. It is a collective responsibility, shared by all……we must learn to live with it and live without fear.” Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Winter Economy Plan speech, 24.9.20 

One of the challenges about Coronavirus is the issue of authority, with the national and devolved governments having sometimes differing approaches to the handling of the pandemic. People living in Wales and working in England – and vice versa –  have had different restrictions imposed at times and some confusion has resulted. National and local variations mean that those in authority have been subject to much criticism at times and it’s right that scrutiny and accountability are applied – but this virus and the pandemic is a situation new to us all, whether or not we hold authority or responsibility during it. The impact has been profound and as Cardiff, Swansea and Llanelli go into local lockdowns tonight, almost half the people in Wales, as well as others in various places throughout the UK, will be subject to this loss of liberty, necessary because some have not used that liberty wisely. 

The impact on individuals, communities, nations and the economy is clear as Covid-19 continues to take its toll in ways both anticipated and unexpected. It seems that even the death of Sergeant Matt Ratana at Croydon Police Station may be a consequence of it as awareness of  governmental guidance to keep a distance may have meant that the suspect had not initially been very closely checked while an arrest was being made. As enquiries and statements continue, there is much to consider – for us all.

Jesus faces an attack on his authority in the Gospel reading for today, the sixteenth Sunday after Trinity. Having driven out the money changers in the Temple and then healed those who came to him, the chief priests and elders try to trick him with a question about authority but Jesus answers with a clever response about John the Baptist – instead of talking about himself, he probes his questioners and catches them out. He also tells them a story about two brothers and the exercise of their responsibility in carrying out their father’s instructions – one refuses and then changes his mind, the other agrees but doesn’t do so. We may face the same choice in the months ahead as we are asked to follow the restrictions imposed by those in authority over us and to show responsibility for others as well as ourselves. Will that happen and what will be the consequences if we do or don’t? Who is in control in our lives and on what authority do we base our decisions as hard choices are faced?

This leaves us with much to ponder as we consider our individual and collective responsibility when we are told that we must share it and learn to live with it without fear. How can that be done in the face of such criticism and change, with anxiety as well as care being shown at a time when such mixed emotions and responsibilities are being experienced by so many? 

Perhaps the example of Jesus when under attack by people in authority in his day will give some guidance. He faces the situation head on and engages in a debate with them about authority, but also asks a question of those who challenge him – did any of them later change their minds, like the two sons in the story? It’s clear from what he says that Jesus is acting on God’s authority and each of us must decide for ourselves whether or not we want that to be a part of our daily lives today. But if you were questioned, like Jesus, about your own authority to do and be who you are today, what one question would you ask of those who challenge you?

With my prayers,

Christine, priest Guardian of St Melangell’s Shrine Church.