Bro Cybi’s Journey – 15


The Reverend Dr. Kevin Ellis joined the Diocese of Bangor as Team Leader of Bro Cybi Ministry Area (Holyhead and Holy Island) in the west of Anglesey in February this year.

He has agreed to prepare a blog (weekly if possible) to record and share the journey and reflect on the life of the new Ministry Area.

We thank Kevin and hand over to him. You can also follow him on Twitter @ holyislandvicar

 

 

15   28 August  2014

Here I am 6 months into my role as Vicar of Holy Island and Ministry Area Team Leader for Bro Cybi. I as a new incumbent in the Church in Wales and Bro Cybi in its movement from a Rectorial Benefice to Ministry Area have been on quite a journey.

First, there has been the saying goodbye. For me that is the most obvious. Anyone who leaves a post and geographical area will be able to relate to the fragmentary nature of saying farewell. However, the advent of Ministry Areas requires us to say goodbye to a particular way of working as we move into a pattern of more explicit collaborative ministry. The reality is that collaboration within church life has been going on for some time in a number of different places. Ministry Areas articulate this as part of our common life together perhaps a little more fully.

Second, there has been a period of saying hello. Again, for me that has been obvious and public as I have met people both within the church and those in the wider community. I have also had to get used to the fact that on Anglesey even those who do not attend church have a particular view and understanding of what the church is there for. For the four churches on Holy Island there has been a saying hello to not just a different way of working, but a different way of being the community of Christ in our area. For Bro Cybi this has been slightly strange, and perhaps harder, in that the Ministry Area is geographically the same as the old Rectorial Benefice. Thus there have been the continued developments of teams that go across the area (e.g., Messy Church, Open the Book and Home Communion)

Third, there has been a period of settling. Those who have moved house will know what I mean when I say that we have unpacked and everything has a place, but it might not as yet be the right place. In terms of ministry that has meant a getting used to a new set of colleagues for me, and in terms of the Ministry Area, the formation of the Ministry Area Council instead of the Parochial Church Council with its emphasis on mission rather than building has taken some getting used to. Indeed, as I observe, I think discussing drains and utility bills can be less challenging in some ways as asking how we engage with those around us, for whom the Christian faith is perhaps a little strange. Ministry Areas can ask us to move outside our comfort zone.

Four, there is a stage of wondering whether anything has changed. Bills need to be paid, the congregation numbers remain roughly the same and the church continues to appear on the edge of things. I think this is the stage we have reached together.

However, as I review the last few weeks it does seem that we are like the parabolic mustard seed, which was the smallest seed in the known word that blossomed into the tallest of trees. Over the last few months, we have held people in their darkest moments, celebrated with them in times of joy and provided a space for people to ask God-shaped questions. It is and is not the same. It should be the same. This is what the Church has always done. It is different, because we are now doing it more explicitly together and inviting others to join us on the journey.

14   2 August 2014

From 16 June to 4 July, I was on Wlpan Summer School (Ysgol Haf) at the University of Bangor. Wlpan is a Welsh Language Course. I have to admit I loved almost every minute of it. I love learning. When I was looking at the post of Team Leader of Bro Cybi, one of the attractions was the commitment of the Diocese of Bangor to be a Learning Church.

I was intrigued by the different methods used by the tutor: repetition of phrases (for example: s’mae, sut dach chi heddiw, iawn diolch), working as a group (making time for questions, yet pressing on with the task), in pairs, then switching who you were working with (ensuring that the pronunciation was correct), work in the language lab, as well as encouraging conversation with Welsh speakers (putting theory into practice). It is interesting for me as a Ministry Area Team Leader to ask how we nurture people in the faith across our four churches: how flexible are we in our approaches. I still love preparing, giving (and at times) listening to the traditional sermon. Not all though learn in the same way. How often do those of us who are charged with teaching the faith use interactive methods? Interaction rather than say a power-point presentation which sometimes is the preacher’s words in a visual format. The use of film clips, audio snippets and movement all contributed the Wlpan course.

Moreover, how often do those charged with teaching go over the same ground? Even as I type, I can hear the repetition of certain phrases from the course (examples include Lle dach chi’n byw? Sgen ti brawd?) that helped me to learn. Anglican worship does involve repetition, but how often do we pause and explain?

I recognise there is a difference between trying to learn a language and growing as a disciple or nurturing others as they seek to follow Christ; yet there is one obvious similarity. When you learn a language, you need to also begin to adopt a new mindset. I am slowly learning not to try to think in English when I am attempting to speak in Welsh. The sentence construction for one thing is different, not to mention the varied ways of saying ‘yes’. This mindset is more important than learning vocabulary, important though that is.

When I am seeking to be nurtured in my discipleship or indeed nurture others, I need to be mindful of the fact that the Christian and secular worlds collide, and that we are training people to stand out from the crowd. It is clear that we cannot expect to do this within the confines of a 20 minute sermon per week. In Bro Cybi, we have a significant Bible Study group each week.

In the Autumn, we going to be looking at the course of the Bible produced as part of the Living and Learning material by our diocesan training arm. I am aware though that meeting together to study does not usually excite us, and wonder what we have done to the gospel to make discipleship an optional extra.

One of the great advantages of collaborative ministry which lies at the heart of Ministry Areas is the realisation that all of us are on a journey of discipleship: wardens, congregation members, Readers, those licensed by the bishop as part of the Ministry Team, and indeed the Team Leader. The need to be honest and open with each other is crucial. This is why we are making a commitment meet daily to pray. Such a commitment is not radical, but accepts that discipleship that is not rooted in prayer is hollow and does not stand the test of time.

What we need is a discipleship that while flexible, is not thrown out of sorts when life does not stick to the script. That is where we will pick up next time.

13   23 July 2014

From 16 June to 4 July, I was on Wlpan Summer School (Ysgol Haf) at the University of Bangor. Wlpan is a Welsh Language Course. I have to admit I loved almost every minute of it. I love learning. When I was looking at the post of Team Leader of Bro Cybi, one of the attractions was the commitment of the Diocese of Bangor to be a Learning Church.

I was intrigued by the different methods used by the tutor: repetition of phrases (for example: s’mae, sut dach chi heddiw, iawn diolch), working as a group (making time for questions, yet pressing on with the task), in pairs, then switching who you were working with (ensuring that the pronunciation was correct), work in the language lab, as well as encouraging conversation with Welsh speakers (putting theory into practice). It is interesting for me as a Ministry Area Team Leader to ask how we nurture people in the faith across our four churches: how flexible are we in our approaches. I still love preparing, giving (and at times) listening to the traditional sermon. Not all though learn in the same way. How often do those of us who are charged with teaching the faith use interactive methods? Interaction rather than say a power-point presentation which sometimes is the preacher’s words in a visual format. The use of film clips, audio snippets and movement all contributed the Wlpan course.

Moreover, how often do those charged with teaching go over the same ground? Even as I type, I can hear the repetition of certain phrases from the course (examples include Lle dach chi’n byw? Sgen ti brawd?) that helped me to learn. Anglican worship does involve repetition, but how often do we pause and explain?

I recognise there is a difference between trying to learn a language and growing as a disciple or nurturing others as they seek to follow Christ; yet there is one obvious similarity. When you learn a language, you need to also begin to adopt a new mindset. I am slowly learning not to try to think in English when I am attempting to speak in Welsh. The sentence construction for one thing is different, not to mention the varied ways of saying ‘yes’. This mindset is more important than learning vocabulary, important though that is.

When I am seeking to be nurtured in my discipleship or indeed nurture others, I need to be mindful of the fact that the Christian and secular worlds collide, and that we are training people to stand out from the crowd. It is clear that we cannot expect to do this within the confines of a 20 minute sermon per week. In Bro Cybi, we have a significant Bible Study group each week.

In the Autumn, we going to be looking at the course of the Bible produced as part of the Living and Learning material by our diocesan training arm. I am aware though that meeting together to study does not usually excite us, and wonder what we have done to the gospel to make discipleship an optional extra.

One of the great advantages of collaborative ministry which lies at the heart of Ministry Areas is the realisation that all of us are on a journey of discipleship: wardens, congregation members, Readers, those licensed by the bishop as part of the Ministry Team, and indeed the Team Leader. The need to be honest and open with each other is crucial. This is why we are making a commitment meet daily to pray. Such a commitment is not radical, but accepts that discipleship that is not rooted in prayer is hollow and does not stand the test of time.

What we need is a discipleship that while flexible, is not thrown out of sorts when life does not stick to the script. That is where we will pick up next time.

12   16 July 2014

The two days of Saturday 5th and Monday 7th July were very different in the Bro Cybi Ministry Area. Saturday was the time for our second Messy Church in Holyhead and Monday a day with Year 9 from Ysgol Uwchradd Caergybi in St Cybi’s.

The second Messy Church was significant because no one came. It was a gloriously hot day and there were many reasons why people did not come, including the beach, family weddings, as well as of course Messy Church is not firmly on their agenda. It was though a good time for the forming Messy Church team, who spent time talking with each other. When teams are formed from across a Ministry Area it might be that people do not really know each other. (A small but successful Messy Church took place in Bae Trearddur on 12th July with people expressing a desire for more events.)

The visit of Year 9 was brilliant and surpassed all my expectations. I am deeply committed to school’s work, and particularly enjoy working with secondary schools, and as such this first event with the school was important to me.

Over four different sessions, around 30 pupils came to the St Cybi’s (making about 120 in total). We split the group into four different stations: ‘Baptism’, ‘Eucharist’, ‘the seasons of the Church’s year’ and ‘what is a Christian?’. The level of engagement by the pupils was deep, with a number of challenging questions being asked

Whilst I liked the engagement with the pupils and the staff who were with them, it was perhaps more encouraging by the manner in which the team blossomed as the day progressed. Some of those leading stations had never worked with teenagers before, but thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

Within the day, there was also a cautionary note, which demonstrates how far we as churches on Holy Island have drifted from the people we serve. Over 60% of the pupils had never set foot in St Cybi’s before, which given the amount of occasional offices that take place was somewhat surprising. Perhaps more disturbingly was how sketchy their understanding of the Christian story was.

As a Ministry Area, we must commit ourselves to addressing this. Indeed, I might say that the success or failure of all Ministry Areas will be how far we can re-engage those who we serve with the good news of Jesus, which we believe transforms the world.

 

 

 

 

11     16 June 2014

On Tuesday 10 June, we had our Archdeacon’s visitation. Archdeacon Paul came and visited Bro Cybi, spending time with leaders within the Ministry Area, including members of the team, the Ministry Area Council (PCC), wardens as well as presenting his charge. We finished the day at Trearddur Bay Lifeboat Station. In the hope that the Archdeacon is not reading this, he enjoyed it. The day went brilliantly, but had it not done so, I think all he might have remembered would have been his delight as the different types of boat he was able to see and members of lifeboat crew and volunteers he was able to talk to J.

One of the key features of the day was the note of gentle optimism about the future that ran like a common thread in our conversations: about the possibilities for working with Messy Church, for our outreach to residential homes, and development of our contact with families approaching us for baptism and/or couples wanting to be married in our churches. The emphasis throughout was on what we could do together.

WhisperWhisper it very gently, but as a group of congregations, yet one church, on Holy Island, we are beginning to like being and working together.

 

10     12 June 2014

I finished the last blog with the words

…success brings its own problems: not least how do we do something new and sustain what we cherish from the past. That will be issue addressed in my next blog.

This is something that I have thought a lot about over recent weeks. It seems to me that if we are to move forward together, we need to develop a healthy attitude to our history. In Bro Cybi, we have been involved in two acts of community remembering recently: the 75th anniversary of the sinking of HMS Thetis and the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Both for me were deeply moving events. The first involved being caught up in a poignant moment in Holyhead’s history and the second to stand with three Normandy Veterans as they remembered their friends. Remembering is not a passive act. It certainly was not for the veterans or the families of those lost on the Thetis. Not least remembering is active because there has to be a willingness to enter the story of an event or events in order to be able to truly re-member.

DSC_9386We have also for a variety of reasons found ourselves discussing how to remember those who have served our churches in the past. This has been quite helpful in a context where we have moved from a Rectorial Benefice to a Ministry Area, with the specific focus on mission (an outward focus, community building, social justice and, as importantly evangelism), collaboration (team-working) and nurture.

Remembering is something we do when we meet together to celebrate the Eucharist. As incumbent, I am conscious that I stand in a long line of other priests, and in the context of Holyhead, beginning with, amongst others, Cybi. We also stand with all those who have worshipped God in our holy isle. As someone who presides within our Eucharistic communities or community, I am deeply thankful for all those who have sacrificially served in particular communities and across our island and feel a deep sense of continuity with them. Remembering helps us to see ourselves and our role as stewards for a particular time aright. One of the key things about being a Ministry Area is the explicit celebration of the fact that our calling to be disciples is rooted in our baptism. As someone who is relatively new to the Province, I am very excited about being part of rediscovering that God has showered liberally gifts of the Spirit on each one of us.

If this rediscovery is going to be more than a passive remembering, then it requires clergy, lay leaders, and indeed all worshipping members of the each congregation to change radically how we work together. One of the roles of the Ministry Area Leader (like me) is to ensure that each person is enabled to explore and function in a way that fulfils their own particular God-given calling. This is challenging: colleagues and friends might be better equipped to take a role that I would like to do. It is also challenging because sometimes colleagues and friends need to make room for others to take on roles that they too cherish. However, it is, for me, also one of the most wonderful parts of the ministry to see people flourish as they take on new roles and discover what it means to minister, with God, in both the church and the world.

In 570 words I may seem to have come a long way from the question of how to embrace the new and yet sustain what has gone before. So, in an attempt to be clear; we show that we cherish the past by engaging in active remembrance, which always involves more than a degree of thankfulness and gratitude. However, just as we are discovering that ministry cannot be done in the same way revolving around one ordained follower of Jesus or indeed that church life cannot be determined by the views of a particular lay disciple, we have to accept in order for our faith to have relevance for the early 21st Century there must be a degree of change.

My stall at St Cybi’s, which incidentally I do not use very often, is very close to the great saint’s cell. I do wonder what he would think of our attempts at Messy Church or of some of the music played at funerals and weddings. I hope he would think that we were beginning to do things in a way that is relevant for today, but that he could see that we are still family. I am sure as he watches over us, he also feels sadness at the number of people who walk past the church building and have no idea of what it is there for. I share the saint’s sadness and realise that because of that we need to do things differently. The creation of Ministry Areas is part of that change.

 

 

9     3 June 2014

DSC_0241Holyhead as a town has known more than its fair share of economic decline in recent years, and notwithstanding the investments recently made and the initiatives of the Town Council which are to be commended, too many town centre shops stand empty. It has therefore been excellent to welcome Kalico to the town. Kalico stocks previously owned or pre-loved goods, as well as individually made crafts. It is run by Alison and Judy Jones.

Alison was confirmed by Bishop Andrew in St Deiniol’s Cathedral on Holy Saturday. WP_20140419_012Through getting to know Alison a little, I have been impressed by the patience and tenacity shown by Alison as she negotiated the intricacies of leasing the shop, liaising with solicitors and banks in order to see her dream of setting up her business come true. Kalico’s opening coincided with the visit of a cruise ship to the port, and it is fair to say trade was brisk and better than expected. This has continued to be the case.

As I have reflected on the success of this small business, I find myself drawing a few parallels with the birth of Bro Cybi.

First, Alison and Judy had a vision.

Second, Judy and Alison faced several obstacles as the vision came to reality.

Third, the opening was a success.

Four, the success brings its own problems, for example looking for extra stock as well as keeping the shop open.

Similarly, the Church in Wales had a vision of the establishment of Ministry Areas so that the presence of local churches might more easily be sustained and that congregations and clergy might refocus on sharing their faith.

Second, there are obstacles to Ministry Areas coming into reality. This is because a Ministry Area might do many of the same things as a Parish, but the essential DNA changes: a Ministry Area has to be more outward looking. Clergy, licensed ministers, wardens and congregations sometimes do not find that easy.

Third, the launch of Bro Cybi has been a success: journeying through Lent, celebrating Easter, realising potential, and increased anticipation of what might be.

Four, success brings its own problems: not least how do we do something new and sustain what we cherish from the past. That will be issue addressed in my next blog.

 

 

 

8    17 May 2014

wpid-melin-llynnon-300px-2014-05-29-10-53.jpg

I have been struck by how many windmills there are on Anglesey. There were, at one time over 100 of them on the Island. By windmills I mean buildings that were formerly used for that purpose but are now usually people’s homes. There is now only one working windmill: Llynnon Mill. They still look distinctive, and to me, at least, strangely beautiful. I suppose lots of people are drawn to them. By their very nature, a windmill would have been set in a prominent place. A windmill had a purpose and needed to utilise the natural elements to fulfil their function. I suppose as I prepare for a series of meetings looking at how we finance our churches and begin to engage in mission, I am struck by the fact that sometimes church building can appear to be like windmills. They are usually attractive, distinctive and set in prominent places, but there is a danger that we have forgotten what their primary purpose is: places where people meet with God, and where Christian disciples are formed so that we might witness to the communities in which we live. It was Emil Brunner who said, ‘The church exists by mission, just as fire exists by burning’. Perhaps in the creation of Ministry Area, God is gently, or not so gently, reminding us of what our primary purpose is.
7    1 May 2014

We had our Easter Vestry yesterday evening (29 April 2014). A good number of people from all four churches attended, for which I am deeply grateful. Their attendance indicates that people are generous in these early days of Bro Cybi to help us think about how we work relate and work together. I am delighted that I am serving alongside some talented and amazing people. The congregations on Holy Island are no different in that respect from countless others across our Diocese and Province. Women and men who continue to witness to the amazing power of the resurrection of Jesus the Christ: that still changes the lives of many. Just as importantly they are Christians who realise that the Church needs to do things differently in order to for this witness to continue to make a difference. Change is, by its nature, uncomfortable, but my initial experience here is that people are willing to embrace it as we walk together.

The Vestry did many things, some of which it is constitutionally required to do: elected Wardens and appointed a Secretary and Treasurer, received the accounts and thanked numerous people. The Vestry took place within the context of a celebration of the Eucharist. It is always important, I think, to remember that the Christian community should firstly and foremostly be a thankful and generous place. We after all believe that we worship a God, who is generosity overflows with abundance.

The meeting also began to look together how we, as a Ministry Area, as four churches and as individuals, begin to do mission together. We are beginning to move in our relationship with each other to look outwards. We explored together how we welcome those who come for baptism and weddings and ways in which might learn from other churches and Ministry Areas. We realise that any change will cause concern and needs to be intentionally done at walking pace.

There are of course some who seem to think that the church is in terminal decline and Ministry Areas are yet another way of rearranging chairs on the proverbial sinking ship. I beg to differ. To change images, the creation of MAs can be akin to the mist clearing, so that we begin to see clearly what is there.

DSC_0168

 

 

6    24 April 2014

Alleluia! Christ is risen! Atgyfododd yn wir. Alelwia

It is now Easter Week in the Bro Cybi Ministry Area. It has been a glorious celebration of Christ’s triumph over death. Lent and Holy Week were critical learning times for us as a Ministry Area as well. Like many of you, there were opportunities for study and reflection: we followed the York Courses, as has been done here in

previous years. Throughout Holy Week, we journeyed together by looking at a specially written study booklet, using it at a variety of services throughout the week. However, within this sacred time, there was also a chance for churches to listen to each other and for individual Christians from different parts of the Ministry Area to meet.

Lent was also a time for re-engaging with different parts of the community in mission. Messy Church was run in Holyhead and Rhoscolyn. Both were successful in terms of numbers and meeting new families, building on excellent links with Ysgol Parchedig Thomas Ellis and Ysgol Gwenfaen Rhoscolyn. It was good to provide a haven for people looking to creative

2014-04-24-messy church

work with their children and at times for children, parents and grandparents to play together. There were opportunities to learn together about what happened at the first Easter.

I was delighted for many reasons and challenged by two. I was delighted by people from all four churches being willing to try Messy Church and also that each volunteer was willing to both improvise in that we did not know what was going to happen and bring along their own children/grandchildren. Improvisation is a key component of Christian mission in a world that increasingly knows little of what the gospel message is about. It was a real pleasure to see young and old come together and laugh in each other’s company. Moreover, it was good that those who volunteered want to do it again.

I was challenged over Easter in two ways. The first is one that I am always confronted by in the run up to Easter. I was taking assembly at Ysgol Llanfawr, and said something like, after Jesus had eaten with his friends, he went to a secret place to pray, and there he was arrested. A child is reception put her hand in the air, ‘but why’ she asked over and over again. We cannot overestimate the extent with which people have now no connection with the Christian story. This is why I am looking forward to using the new Living and Learning course as a means of re-introducing the story into the life of the Church.

The second is really the challenge I face. On Easter Monday, outside St Gwenfaen’s, Rhoscolyn, I was addressed in Welsh. My basic welsh greetings disappeared to the four corners of my memory, so I was left to say I am learning Welsh (yn dysgu Cymraeg). My greeter reads this blog and was very gracious, but I was struck that as someone seeking to minister in Wales I have much to learn, not only its language but about its heritage and culture. The journey continues.

 

 

5  April 7  2014

“One of the great dangers for me is to come in and think this worked in urban Brum or on the west coast of Cumbria, and therefore must work here”.

These were my remarkably perceptive words buried in my last blog. I am not sure that I have kept to them. One of the dangers facing any new incumbent, new teacher or for that matter anyone who is new in post is to assume that we can start in the new place in exactly the same place where we left off in the old. This might be a reasonable assumption a teacher is appointed to a senior position in a new school because of what they have done somewhere else. On the basis of their past experience, the new employer may provide extra training for their employee. We bring into the fresh context the gifts and graces of the old, and but also the blemishes of the past.

An example for me might be that I assume that because I was allowed to pound the corridors of schools within Bartley Green, often without the respective head teachers knowing that I can do in a new place.  What I – and perhaps you – can forget is that what has worked well elsewhere is because of the strength of the relationships that have been nurtured over time. Relationships take time.

This is an important observation for three reasons. First, relationships are essential in Wales. Indeed my initial reflection on ministry in the Church in Wales, is that ministry here is perhaps more dependent on relationships than it is in England. In one sense, this is nonsensical, ministry anywhere is about relationships. But there are subtle differences between the two nations, which are hard to put into words, and I trust that my readers will for now be happy to accept the veracity of what I am saying, in the hope that in a later blog I might be able to explain things further.

Second, in a new Ministry Area, relationship cannot be established overnight. Indeed in many cases, relationships that have been formed over time are already present, bringing with them both the highs and lows of previous contact. Giving a new missional setting will not alone mean that effective working can be established.

candles-on-birthday-cake-iphone-5-wallpaperThird, it is a well-established fact that most people come to faith through the influence of their family and friends. It is though with those who know us best that we struggle to talk about our faith. Those of us who talk about God professionally and who are to a large extent ‘in-comers’ would do well to remember this.

Sometimes relationships need a shift to change. Something happened last week that caused that within one of mine. It was my birthday – I do not need belated good wishes, and was talking to a family member, who had every reason to remember, and yet they had forgotten. This, it turns out, is part of a pattern of forgetfulness. This has caused a seismic shift for a number of people involved. For those of us involved in creating new ways of doing ministry in the place where God has placed us, seismic shifts might at times be needed. At other times, it is not something major that is needed, just a commitment to be in relationship; and not always on our terms.

 

 

4 March 23 2014messy-church-logo-high-res

 

I am sorry that there has been a brief gap in this blog. The truth is I did not think that last week I had anything worthwhile to share; and like you, I have read enough blog postings, when I have wondered why they had been posted. So I promise not to do that as we explore Bro Cybi’s journey.

Now where was I? How do we move as a new Ministry Area on to a more missional footing? After nearly a month here, these are the patterns that seem to be emerging. Such movement has to be intentional, incarnational and inclusive. These are offered with the following caveat, by September these may have changed.

In whatever group you are part of, it is fairly easy to keep the status quo going, even though I think most organisations would say it is getting increasingly harder to find people to fill roles, whether that be the Steward at a Club or Treasurer to the Cricket Club. Life is becoming more pressured and time more valuable. I think Christians are no different to anyone else in liking to remain within their comfort zone. Therefore we need to purposely set out to do things differently. New to Bro Cybi on 5th and 12th April will be the launch on Messy Church in Caergybi and Rhoscolyn. I am sure I will reflect on how they go. It is pleasing already to have a number of volunteers and it being talked about in a couple of our primary schools. However, it would be wrong to take these as evidence of missional intent in and of themselves. To be truly missional in our intent, we would need to run an outward looking eye on all our activities. This might mean that some of the things we cherish and hold on to have to go. After all, if we are to sustain something like Messy Church in the long term, those who are volunteering may need not to other things within the life of the Church. As Team Leader, I am beginning a conversation with the Wardens of the churches, the PCC and then the Vestry about the framework we use for governance, so that we make mission central and enable us, in our Archbishop Rowan’s words, ‘to see what God is doing and join in’.

It does have to be incarnational. One of the great dangers for me is to come in and think this worked in urban Brum or on the west coast of Cumbria, and therefore must work here. Similarly, Christians can think we know how to draw people in when in actual fact for the vast number of people; the Christian faith is an undiscovered country. We need to start where our neighbours are, rather than where we think or remember they are. One of the stain glass windows at St Gwenfaen’s is of Jesus and the disciples fishing. That in itself is probably replicated in a number of settings throughout the Christian world. What makes it different is that in the background the landscape is clearly of Rhoscolyn. The artist has connected the story of Jesus on Galilee with the local community. Today, we need to find new ways of making our story connect with those around us.

Finally, it needs to be inclusive: in our situation as a Ministry Area that is geographically the same as the benefice that preceded it, we need to explore together what it means to be missional. It is not about the Leader or the Team having a vision, but one that flows naturally out of conversations with all who are part of our church family groupings. This will not happen overnight. It will require a combination of Yorkshire grit and Welsh tenacity, and the ability to appreciate that God is with us.

As I approach a month in post, I can say; I am delighted to be here.

 

 

3   March 8  2014  Rugby Union - RBS 6 Nations Championship 2013 - Wales v England - Millennium Stadium

Two weeks into my new role as Vicar of Holy Island and Team Leader of the Bro Cybi Ministry Area, one of the things that particularly strikes me is that it is the subtle changes that can be the stumbling blocks to embracing a new way of working rather than much larger innovations.

For me this is apparent in working in a different language. At this point, I do not mean the medium of Welsh. I immediately accept that I find myself in a bilingual church in a nation that cherishes two languages. This means I have led the singing of Calon Lan at a funeral (but then again which priest does not find themselves leading the singing at a funeral) and have been learning slowly how to say the Lord’s Prayer and pronounce the Blessing in Welsh. This is important to me because I want to tap into the rich heritage that the Language of Wales gives. Pupils at Ysgol Parchedig Thomas Ellis have also begun to teach me, Mae hen wlad fy nhadau yn annwyl i mi, Gwlad beirdd a chantorion, enwogion o fri, although I suspect this at the moment has more to do with the events that are due to take place on the First Sunday of Lent at Twickenham. Whilst this can at times all be overwhelming in demonstrating just how much I have to learn, it is secondary to another seemingly subtle problem.

The bigger problem at the moment is the English liturgy. I need to explain perhaps. Since my ordination, I have been used to Common Worship and BCP as practised within the Church of England. There are slight differences between the English liturgy of the Province of Wales and the Provinces of Canterbury and York, and if I do not concentrate I find myself using words that I have lived with rather than the ones in front of me. Oddly perhaps, if there were substantial differences between the two liturgies, it would be far easier to work with what is now new. In one sense, this is neither here nor there; however it does highlight one of the problems facing us in Bro Cybi as we emerge into our new Ministry Area: everything has changed and sometimes it appears as if nothing has. This will be different for other Ministry Areas where there have been significant changes in the geographical boundaries.

Here in Caergybi, Bae Trearddur and Rhoscolyn, collaborative ministry has developed considerably under the ministry of Canon Christine Llewellyn and the Revd Jane Bailey; Readers have an important role in terms of taking acts of public worship, and key lay leaders are accustomed to taking critical roles within the decision making structures. This means that much of the ground work for working together has been done and successfully so.

It is how we work together to reach outwards in mission rather than in simply sustaining the normal patterns of church life that is giving us food for thought. At our Ministry Area Church Council, we explored what we would like to do in terms of mission, and then began to look at the resources we have in order to achieve this.

Some of the things we discussed were the creation of Messy Church in Holy Island, as well as how we follow up folk from baptisms, weddings and funerals, which seem to occur on an almost ‘industrial scale’, as well as how we want to engage with schools.

It was a different sort of discussion then some had had before. At this stage, we are just beginning. Next time, I will explore this discussion in greater deal, and will have learnt what it is like to be an Englishman in Wales, when the Land of my Fathers in being sung on a rugby pitch in the South of England. I am a Yorkshireman, so Twickenham is almost a foreign country for me too. It is a subtle distinction, but then again, all subtleties are important.

 

 

2014-02-28 @ 03-30-55 in 0, 02   February 27  2014  (George Herbert (1633), Priest and all Pastors)

It happened! I was licensed and collated as the Vicar and Team Leader of the Bro Cybi Ministry Area on 22 February by Andrew, Bishop of Bangor; and the Rectorial Benefice of Holyhead became a Ministry Area.

Inductions are inevitably a whirlwind of conflicting emotions. As a priest, you see those whom you have loved and served with from the previous Parish come to the service, and memories are stirred as to what you have left behind. You are also aware of the hopes and expectations of those who are from the new place bring with them.

In the midst of this are the hopes and expectations for a new way of working. This is probably not as sharp in Bro Cybi as in other Ministry Areas as we keep the same shape being defined by the geographical area of Ynys Cybi (Holy Island).

On the other hand, the fact that geographically we remain the same means that new ways of working need to be embedded carefully, and yet quickly, lest we fall into the trap of believing that we are a Rectorial Benefice with a different name.

Sunday morning was a small beginning. A United Eucharist was held at St Ffraid’s, Trearddur Bay, which for some was a novel concept. I have to say I really enjoyed the induction and celebrating communion for the first time in the Church in Wales. I appreciated again the culture and language of Wales, and made by first attempt at speaking Welsh in public. By the end of the weekend, I was probably the only person on Holy Island who could take an oath of canonical obedience in Welsh, and not be able to ask for a pint.

Learning the language and culture is not only necessary for me to communicate in the mother tongue of Welsh speakers, but means being attuned to the particular spiritual lilt of faithful members of the churches in this area, regardless of what particular language they speak. Each church within the Ministry Area speaks with a different dialect, and therefore over the coming weeks I will reflect much of what it means to attentively listen to people and to the contours of the area. Such activity is the not a form of pre-ministry; it is ministry. In listening to others, we walk with them.

The birth of a Ministry Area and the early days of an incumbency are both about orientation and re-orientation, except perhaps my re-orientation is slightly more obvious and perhaps more public. Nevertheless, for this Ministry Area to succeed in terms of collaborative ministry, discipleship and mission, there does have to be some significant re-orientation and perhaps re-imagining of how church needs to be lived out in Rhoscolyn, Bae Trearddur and Caergybi. For a Ministry Area to have any validity it has to be more than those who hold the bishop’s license working together, rather faithful members of each congregation need to be willing to re-adjust how they might have worked previously.

If I am beginning to work out that those who I am working with need challenging, I also accept the challenge starts with me. If I am not prepared to be truly collaborative, to allow others to flourish and enjoy what God has called them to, then the whole adventure will be less than it can be from the start. I am reminded of the words Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, which were read last Saturday:

Let the same mind be in you that was[a] in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
    he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.  (NRSV)

The Ministry Area PCC meets tonight for the first time. That will give food for thought, I imagine, for the next week or so.

 

1   20 February 2014 (Saints, Martyrs and Missionaries of Africa)

On Saturday (22nd February 2014), I will be inducted as the Vicar of Holy Island and become Team Leader of the Bro Cybi Ministry Area. I left the Parish of Bartley Green in Birmingham with a degree of sadness and anticipation on Sunday 26th January. Sadness because I had grown to love the Parish, delighted in engaging with local schools and establishing Messy Church, and was beginning to see the congregation grow numerically and in terms of discipleship. Alongside this sadness, was a positive expectation that I was coming into a new situation with a fresh way of doing things. Ministry Areas, it seems to me, provide an arena for the Church in Wales to do things in a new way, whilst remaining faithful to one of the of the core features of Anglican identity: rootedness in the local area.

Ministry Areas came out of a realisation that the Church in Wales needed to change in order to effectively reach the people of Wales with the gospel of Christ – as the Church in Wales Review (July 2012) highllights

The following blog entries will hopefully occur weekly and reflect hopefully not only my own journey but the journey of the Rectorial Benefice of Holyhead as they become a Ministry Area. In this blog entry and the next one, I will try to set out some of my expectations, hopes and concerns as I begin the new post, and as I go will offer reflections of how these become incarnated (or not) in this Holy Place, which includes Trearddur Bay, Rhoscolyn as well as Holyhead itself, with its different estates, heritage, busy port and differing cultures. Ynys Cybi is a collision of sand, sea, second homes, urban estates, industry and nature.

First, it might be helpful for those perusing this blog to grapple as I have with how an English-born priest who was trained and spent the last 12 years since ordination in the Church of England has suddenly appeared in this part of Wales. The simple and most complicated answer is that I feel passionately, deep within my gut, that I have responded to the call of God. In many ways, I do not understand it; indeed it does not appear logical. But for me God has always been beyond what I could contain within the limits of my thinking.

So here I am about to embark, with others on, a new adventure.

This adventure will involve a discovery of how to be a priest in a new place – in a different country.

It will involve the fostering of relationships and partnerships between myself, other clergy, Readers, wardens and members of the congregations as to together we rediscover what it is like to be a pilgrim people in Ynys Cybi.

What excites me about the possibilities?

–        Building on the work of faithful, committed and gifted priests who have ministered in this place before

–        Engaging with the local schools, deepening our links with Ysgol Thomas Ellis and other primaries, and re-discovering relationships with Ysgol Uwchradd Caergybi

–        Help play a part in encouraging people that the Christian faith is credible, relevant and exciting. Archbishop Rowan Williams, speaking at the press conference, immediately prior to his enthronement as Archbishop of Canterbury spoke of his desire to help recapture people’s imagination with the good news of the gospel.

What am I daunted by? I am conscious of the great trust that has been placed on me to help write a new chapter of what it means to be church in this particular part of the Diocese of Bangor and of the Church in Wales.

It is a big task, for me it begins by learning the language and culture of the people that I will serve.