Saturday, 23 January 2021

Bishop Gregory's Pastoral letter

We’re familiar, I suspect, with the story of the twelve disciples, who are an integral part of the story of Jesus in the Gospels.  As sure as Snow White belongs with the Seven Dwarfs, so Jesus belongs with the twelve, if that isn’t too trivialising a thing to say.  What is so fascinating in the Gospels is what a motley band the disciples are.  They make a mess of things, they misunderstand, they question, they fail to believe and to follow.  Over the course of the ministry of Jesus, however, they are forged into apostles, and Jesus is not afraid at his ascension to put the whole business of the Gospel of Salvation and the Church into their hands.

I was challenged before Christmas when someone said to me that they didn’t think that Christians today thought of themselves as disciples, and that people didn’t understand what a disciple was.  It was a name which belonged in the Bible, but was hardly a contemporary description of faith, they said.

For me, the fundamental question of faith is whether I am a disciple.   Faith is not an abstract exercise of the mind, it is how it affects my daily life.  A disciple is one who learns: it is clearer in the Welsh, where disciple and pupil are the same word: disgybl.  To be a Christian is to lay one’s life on the line, and to follow Jesus.  We see the “crisis” of discipleship when Jesus calls the twelve – peremptorily – from their fishing or their tax collection or their political activism.  He just turns up, it appears, and issues the invitation (we might be better saying “command”.) And they go with him, they leave their work, they leave their families, they set out on a journey from which, to tell the truth, they never return, and yet they come truly home.  The gospels even tell us about one occasion when someone said “no”:  a rich young aristocrat, who just couldn’t tear himself away from the privileges of his wealth (Mark. 10.17-27).

Jesus, I’m afraid, doesn’t call us to stay where we are, in the sense of saying our creeds with meaning, but otherwise going about our lives.  He calls us to set out on a journey, away from the familiar, to become larger than we are, greater in spirit, holier in life, loving in service.  Nor does he make it easy, “If anyone does want to come after me,” he says in Luke 9.23, “they must deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and so follow me.”

Are we frightened by this?  Was it enough to be baptised or confirmed in the past, so that we need not heed the call that comes today or tomorrow, to go somewhere we don’t expect and to learn something new about the real meaning of life?  This is what it is to be a Christian: to learn what God has in store for us and to follow it, to be a disciple.  The disciples didn’t find following Jesus easy, and indeed, the Gospel according to John tells us that on one occasion Jesus’ teaching was so demanding that a lot of people gave up, and left.  (John chapter 6, particularly v.66 ff)  Jesus has to turn to the twelve, and say:  “Are you lot off as well?”  It is good old Simon Peter who replies on this occasion:  “Where else could we go?”, he says, “You are the one who has the words which give eternal life.”

And that’s the promise – to follow Jesus, to go on the unexpected journey, is to discover the riches of a life beyond compare, beyond blessing.  “He who would true valour see, let him come hither,” wrote John Bunyan in the seventeenth century.  “One here will constant be, come wind, come weather.  There’s no discouragement shall make him once relent his first avowed intent: to be a pilgrim.”  Pilgrim follower, disciple.  Are you a disciple?  I can think of no better vocation, no more exciting journey in 2021 than to get up, shake off the lethargy or the disgruntlement, and to go through the door of life, and look to Jesus, who stretches his hand towards us, and for us to say to him: “Here I am, and where you lead, I will follow.”

Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Bishop Gregory’s Advent Message 2020

When I spoke to you in my Advent message last year, my message was one based upon hope; the idea that Jesus says to us that when things are going wrong or are difficult we should lift up our heads and look to see where God is at work amongst us.

I couldn’t have imaged then, none of us could have imagined, what was ahead of us in 2020 and the fact that this year has been dominated by the virus almost to the exclusion of everything else.  It’s amazing even Brexit has taken a back seat to the way in which we have responded to the virus.

My first thoughts go to all those who have suffered because of the virus. Those who have died or those who have lost family members. Those who have found themselves almost imprisoned in their own homes or through fear because none of us can truthfully know what is around the corner. And yet, our diocese has survived, has been resilient in the face of this crisis. Mission Areas have rallied around. The different levels of the church, Mission Area Diocese and Province have worked together to overcome the difficulties set before us. Clergy have been amazingly inventive on online worship and finding new ways with their congregations to look after those who need care or those who are needy of a good meal or friendly support at a time like this. I am proud of what the Teulu Asaph has achieved and thank you for the part you have played.

Now we come to Advent and then to Christmas. It’s almost certain this Christmas will be a Christmas like no other when all the usual plans have to be set aside. Maybe our family won’t be joining us this year; maybe we won’t be able to do what we usually do and keep those family traditions. And church will be very different as well. We won’t be able to fill the church for the midnight mass or for the carol service or Christingle this year. And that may make you very sad indeed.

I want to return to the theme of hope, and I want to return to the good news that Christmas gives us; of a God who loves us and a God who is on our side. I want to return to the message of Christmas, that says when the baby was born in Bethlehem God came to live amongst us and that He promised that He would remain amongst us to encourage, to inspire, to build a future. And that means that as a church, as the people of God, as those who believe and follow Jesus, that we want to be this Christmas, people of light. People who in the midst of the darkness will bring hope and love and joy and peace to those whom we encounter. And yes, we won’t be able to do it in the usual way. We won’t just be able to invite people in and sing with them or preach to them. We shall have to find new ways of getting our message across, of going out of way to deliver goodness to people’s homes even those we can’t spend time with them. We shall have to find new ways of passing on the gift of peace that comes at Christmas.

I know from the conversations I have had with many of the clergy and with many of the Mission Areas that there are a host of creative ideas out there, new ways of planting the message of Christmas. And I think that’s the challenge of us for this Advent: Not to do as we’ve always done but to think about how by gesture, by action, by online worship, by passing the message on, we can impart the message that God is on our side, that God has been born in the world for us, in a new way.

And it will be my prayer for you in our churches that that the spirit of God may touch you, may speak to you, may inspire you. may support you so that as we go through Christmas and face 2021 (and goodness knows what challenges that year may bring), so as go through Christmas and come to that new year we will know that we carry with us the hope of a saviour who loves us and the love of a God who serves us. 

May God be with you this Advent and Christmas.


+ Gregory Llanelwy

Saturday, 22 August 2020

from Val

 Dear Friends

The Jesse Tree window in Llanrhaeadr traces the genealogy of Jesus right back to Jesse.  Genealogy was very important to the people of Israel.  At the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus’ line is traced back as far as David, thus fulfilling one of the Old Testament Prophecies concerning the Messiah. Jesus ‘born of David’s line’ as we sing in the Christmas Carol. 

When Jesus asks the question ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ Jesus is not about his own personal search for identity, he knows who he is and where he comes from and he knows where he is going. He received the expected answers, ‘Some say John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets,’ but he wants them to answer for themselves. Jesus asks them directly ‘Who do you say that I am?’ Peter replies ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.’ 

Peter suddenly realises that Jesus is the one they have been waiting for, the Messiah. This is the answer Jesus is looking for, an answer from the heart. For Peter the realisation of who Jesus really is, is something that has grown over time, it has taken a while to register but finally, Peter sees the light and Jesus is delighted. And Jesus gives him a new name, he is no longer to be called Simon, but Peter, meaning rock and he will be the rock on which Jesus builds his Church. This is the first mention of what is to follow, that there will be an expectation on the disciples to continue Jesus’ ministry, to form a community and carry on his work.

Yet what an unlikely choice, Simon Peter who continually says and does the wrong thing, Peter who is uneducated, Peter who in a very short space of time would deny Jesus 3 times, Peter would be the rock on which Jesus would build his church? But somehow Jesus knows that Peter is the man for the job. I wonder how Peter felt, did he think who me? Or was it so far fetched that he simply dismissed it. Peter was a fisherman, he would have known plenty about tides and seasons, about boats and nets, but not about building a Church. But the sort of Church Jesus has in mind is not a building but a community, a community of believers, a Church built on people.   

This is the important lesson we have learnt during lockdown. How to be Church, not in a building, but Church as a community of people who believe in Christ. And Jesus asks the same question of us today ‘who do you say I am?’  We need to think about our answer and then respond. Peter was given a new name and a new purpose. Our names may not change but Jesus has a role for us, a role which will hold both challenges and blessings.  

With Every Blessing…Val

Saturday, 25 July 2020

from Val

Dear Friends
This week’s readings focus on the Kingdom of God.Two of today’s Kingdom parables have growing images, the tiny mustard seeds become great trees, the dough added to the flour grows and increases to make the loaf.  But they are also waiting images, the dough of course rises far quicker than the tree grows, but patience is still required. Throughout lockdown we have been waiting for life to return to normal. It has taught us patience and allowed us time to pause and reflect.
We have learnt what is important in life and now we ask God to show us how to use that wisdom as the world gradually unlocks.Wisdom is a great gift.
In the story of Solomon, we have a young man used to a privileged lifestyle who could have requested anything he wanted, yet when God says ‘Ask what I should give you’, Solomon asks not for wealth, or privilege but for wisdom. God is pleased with Solomon’s reply.  And because Solomon had not requested riches or some other selfish gain, God blessed Solomon as a ruler.
Wisdom is something that we can’t learn from a text book, we can’t buy in a shop, more often than not wisdom is gained over many years of careful consideration of the situations around us. Wisdom is gained by the ability to see to the heart of the matter and to discern a way forward. 
A wise old owl sat on an oak,
The more he saw the less he spoke;
The less he spoke the more he heard;
Why aren’t we like that wise old bird?
Written by Edward Henry Richards

We are now in the ‘new normal’, things aren’t quite the same but we are grateful for every step forward. As life picks up once again may we take the time to pause, to seek God, to know that he walks with us every step of the way. God knows the prayers of hearts and he hears us when we call.
Continue to take care and stay safe.
With Every Blessing…Val

Sunday, 12 July 2020

from Val

Dear Friends

I hope you have been able to be out and about this week as restrictions on travel have lifted. The joy of being able to drive more than five miles is something we can now treasure after the limitations. Most cars need a good run and the sense of freedom is a joy.

The parable of the sower is well known, we often use it in our schools at Harvest time.  Sometimes when a story is familiar, we need to pause and read it afresh in order to seek out the deeper meaning. The heart of the parable is the coming of God’s Kingdom and how people will receive it.

Jesus is asking us to hear his word, to listen carefully in order to understand.  Just as a seed needs good soil to grow, so we need to allow God to deepen the seeds of faith in our hearts. 

‘Let anyone who has ears hear’ says Jesus. Are you a good listener? Most of us are not that good at listening, we listen with one ear on the television or maybe we are also doing something else. We may get the gist of what is being said, but taking on board the deeper meaning requires us to be attentive, to listen and to respond. There is a quote that says ‘the first duty of love is to listen’ and if that is true of our human relationships how much more is it true of our relationship with God. 

In the parable of the sower some listened but did not want to know, some listened but did not understand, some listened and heard but didn’t feel strong enough to respond, but some listened, heard and responded and their harvest was good. 

In the absence of Church Services we have missed that precious time on a Sunday to be still, to focus and listen. Many of us have found a quiet place within our home and garden to be still and spend time with God. I hope that even when we are able to return to public worship, we will still use that quiet place to be still before God. To be attentive to his word, to listen and then to respond.

As everyday life begins to open up once again, we give thanks for all who have sustained and cared for us in these difficult times.

Keep safe and well.

With every blessing…Val

Friday, 26 June 2020


Readings for Sunday June 28th are now available to download from the NEWS page. Please remember to RIGHT-MOUSE to view or download!

Saturday, 20 June 2020

from Val

Dear Friends

I hope you all continue to be safe and well. 

The past few weeks have seen the lifting of a number of the restrictions of lockdown.  It has been reassuring to know our efforts to Stay Home have made a difference and we pray that things will continue to improve.  You will be aware it was announced yesterday that Places of Worship can now re-open for private prayer from Monday 22nd June.  This is very short notice and it is not intended that we will open any of our Churches on Monday.  There are a large number of precautions that will need to be put in place if we do decide to reopen.  Please find attached information received from the Diocese.
One of the gifts of lockdown has been listening to the birdsong.  Hearing the birdsong with such clarity has been a great blessing as the birds enjoy the peace that lockdown has brought.
Singing is a great gift and the sad passing this week of Dame Vera Lynn has reminded us that a song can mean so much in even the most trying of times.  The songs of Vera Lynn speak of hope and unity in times of separation and danger.  HM the Queen used ‘We will meet again’ as the closing line of her lockdown speech as we faced the prospect of weeks or months of separation from our families.
In a tribute to Vera Lynn it was said it was not just her immaculate voice that made her one of Britain’s greatest singers, but the warmth and sincerity she was able to put into every song.  She was pivotal in the generation we have recently paid tribute to though the 75th Anniversary of VE Day.  But she didn’t forget those who would serve until VJ Day when she visited Burma to entertain the troops in 1944. 
We may not all be able to sing with wonderful dulcet tones, but singing is a joy and something to be treasured.  Thank you to all who took part in our Favourite Pentecost and Trinity hymns poll. 
The result of the Llanrhaeadr congregation is:
  1. Breathe on me breath of God
  2. Love Divine
  3. Holy, holy, holy & Lead us heavenly Father lead us 

May I wish a very Happy Fathers’ Day to all Fathers, Grandfathers, Uncles, Godfathers and all who have the care and welfare of our children at heart.  The care of our children and young people in these difficult days is of paramount importance and I thank you for your care and support for each and every one of them as we look to the future.
Keep Singing!
With Every Blessing…Val