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Rev Adam Pawley

The Rector Writes
(See also, below, Bishop Gregory’s Advent Message)

Happy New Year everyone! I hope that you’ve enjoyed the Christmas Season. It has been great to welcome so many again through our doors to celebrate the reason for the season and Christmas Starts with Christ.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to making our Christmas services and events such a success. You are very much appreciated.

As we move into 2017, it’s great that our Autumn Alpha Group want to keep meeting together, and we now look forward to reading the New Testament together over the next 8 weeks following the ‘Community Bible Experience’. I will explain more on what the CBE is in a future magazine too because I know some of you have been asking me what it is and asking if you can join in! I suspect there will have more than one opportunity to join in before too long.

Following on from the success of Alpha in the Autumn, I intend to host another another Alpha Group beginning this month and to conclude before Easter (16th April). We begin with soup and puddings before watching a 25 minute film that leads into a good discussion. We explore topics that help us think through why Christianity is relevant, true and worthwhile. You can say as much or as little as you like. Please tell me directly if you’d like to come along. In my opinion, the more sceptical you are about the Christian faith the better. Even an atheist reached a point of faith in our last course.

Lastly to say, it was great to have Pam Attree with us to preach her first sermon last month in Emmanuel and Hope. Pam also comes to us with the Bishop’s Faculty Permission to officiate at funerals. Having seen Pam’s training prospectus I suspect she is better trained than myself (!) and Ralph Williams, our local undertaker in the Cymau, speaks well of Pam. Pam’s official licensing on behalf of the Bishop will be by the warden of Readers, Rev Steve Green (from Shotton) at 6pm on Sunday 8th January in Hope Parish Church. Please do come along to support Pam. This will be as part of a service of Holy Communion and our Mission Area Leader, Rev Martin Batchelor, is coming to preach. Refreshments will be served in the church afterwards too.

In Christ,

Bishop-elect of St Asaph - Gregory CameronBishop Gregory’s Advent Message, 2016

Christian Missionaries brought the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Isles of Britain probably within a hundred years of the death and resurrection of Jesus but the whole period is hidden in myths and legends. The beginnings of our own diocese are lost to history but there is a commonly told story about how St Kentigern, The Bishop of Strathclyde in what is now Scotland, was exiled from his Kingdom. He came to Wales and was sent by St David to build the Church of Jesus Christ in this part of the world.

It is said that St Kentigern founded his monastery at the place where the two rivers, the Elwy and the Clwyd flow together and that place may well have been at the Parish Church of St Asaph with its circular enclosure or Llan.

Not only did St Kentigern literally build a church in this place, but he also built up the community of the Body of Christian believers, the Body of Jesus Christ, establishing Christian witness and worship in this place. In fact, so successful was he that later years believed he’d recruited a community of 900 monks so the worship of God could continue in this place without ceasing.
It must have been very difficult for Kentigern and for his successor Asaph to begin establishing the Christian faith in this place to preach the gospel to people who had never heard of Jesus Christ before. And yet they persisted; they kept on witnessing to a community of love and worship which established an enduring community that survives in the Teulu Asaph to this day.

Just up the hill from the Parish Church of St Kentigern and St Asaph is the Cathedral, the mother church of our diocese, built centuries later by the Normans and this also has many stories it could tell. The medieval period was a time of war between the English and the Welsh as they struggled for control of this part of the world. And if you showed favour to one side you were almost certain to be condemned by the other. Many of the bishops of the medieval world fell foul either of English kings or Welsh princes. And it’s said that the Cathedral itself was burnt down no less than three times – twice by the English and once by the welsh under Owain Glwydŵr. Again the Christian community persevered – it rebuilt the cathedral and continued to be preaching reconciliation in Jesus Christ and the history records passing on of the gospel to the present day.

One of the greatest treasures of the Cathedral is the William Morgan Bible. The great work of the priest and writer of Llanrhaeadr ym Mochnant, who translated the bible into Welsh so that people might be able to read the bible in their own tongue. William was made by a bishop by Queen Elizabeth because of this great work and indeed was bishop of this place and of this same Cathedral. But his work not only saved the Welsh language but also enabled a new generation of people to hear the teaching of Jesus Christ for themselves; to receive that teaching, to become disciples and to be proclaimers of the gospels in their own generation.

Then there were others whose stories we can tell – people who built up the church, not just building the physical places of worship but building up the life of the community, teaching people to love the Lord, to follow in his ways to worship God and to live out lives of service. There were people like Isaac Barrow, the great 18th century Bishop of St Asaph whose overriding passion was the care of the poor and who founded the alms-houses in St Asaph that still bear his name. Or we can think of Alfred Edwards the great Archbishop of Wales who was bishop of this diocese for no less than 45 years and who held the church in Wales together through the upheavals of disestablishment.
Then there are the women of faith. Saints like Winifred whose life is wrapped up in legend or the nun at Llangullan who bore witness to Christian love and service in Montgomeryshire down through the medieval period. Then there are women like Ann Griffiths or Mary Jones not Anglicans perhaps but fellow Christians bearing witness to Jesus Christ: Ann, with her poetry and hymn writing leading the worship of the people of God, Mary Jones displaying a great love for the scriptures and the need for God’s people to read the teaching of Jesus.

We are heirs to all this history a story which has as its heart, the building up of a community of people who respond to God’s love who seek to be witness to his kingdom values in the world. Christians have sought to bring forgiveness mercy and wellbeing into the societies in which they lived in different generations and in different places but always with this refrain: God loves you and in Jesus Christ he seeks to bring you new life and wholeness.
At the Diocesan Conference this year I talked about the example of St Francis. St Francis was a great saint in the twelfth century who by his very simplicity of life called the church back to live a life more like that of Jesus Christ to build the church by breathing a new spirit of spirituality into it.

In the Wales of today, a modern, democratic, multi-cultural, multi-faith society we still need the witness of Christian faith and we still need a dynamic witness by the Christian church if we’re to build a society in which love and service and the other values of the Christian faith can play their part.

So like Francis, like Asaph and Kentigern, like William Morgan and Isaac Barrow, like Ann Griffiths and Mary Jones, we are called to build the church in our own way by our own witness.
I believe that God gives each one of us a charism, a gift, a talent that we are able to use to build up the life of the church, to witness to the gospel. It may be the gift of hospitality, the git of patient listening, or of encouragement. It might be a great gift like organising or leadership, communicating a vision, stirring people up into action. But the truth is that the life of our church is so broad, so diverse that whatever your gift you do have a part to play.

As I look around the life of the Teulu Asaph I see much which is good going on. I see acts of quiet worship and services of exuberant praise. I see the celebration of the sacraments, people reaching out in love and service to the community. Work with children, reaching out to the homeless and the refugee. We are building up the life of the church in our own day and in our way. It is a movement that I want to see take root and develop.
In the end all this talk about 2020 vision, Unlocking our Potential and Mission Areas is designed to release us for the work of building up the life of the church; renewing our church so that we bear witness in a lively and real way to the love of God, exhibited in Jesus and calling us to serve the world.

In Advent we prepare to celebrate the Lord’s coming, we prepare to remember the occasion when God was born into our world and the light of Christ came to free us from our darkness. As it was then so is it now and in our own day following the history of so many generations before us we are called to kindle the light of Christ in our communities to bear witness to God’s love and to build up the life of the church, so the world may discover God’s truth through our own communities and our life together.
“Build my church”, says the Lord. “Amen, so we will”, has to be our reply.
A video recording of Bishop Gregory’s Advent Message can also be found at: http://stasaph.churchinwales.org.uk/people/bishop/advent-message-2016/

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