But every cloud has a silver lining. Bishop Andy offered to ordain each candidate locally, with just a small, invited and socially-distanced congregation. So on 10th August he will come to Hen Eglwys Llangelynnin, in the Carneddau Mountains. Eryl will become a Pioneer Priest in that uniquely beautiful and sacred place.
We hope to film the service and share some of it with you. Today Eryl reflects on what this unexpected opportunity means to her.
I will have the joy of walking across the hilltops to the ancient church of Llangelynnin which nestles high above our everyday lives in the valley below. This is where, of course, over the last few years we have invited people – at whatever stage they are at in their journey of faith – to walk into this sacred place of restoration and acceptance, at monthly services of Celtic Prayer and Praise.
The panoramic vista across the hills provides a glorious setting and seems to call us to reflect God’s creativity and peace. It was George McCloud, the founder of the Iona Community who termed the phrase a ‘thin place’ – a place where people get a sense of the transcendent and infinite, the smallness of self in the vastness of God, and a glimpse of Heaven where it touches Earth. We have experienced this for ourselves at Llangelynnin, knowing that many pilgrims have also prayed and encountered God here over the centuries, so this is a place that perfectly combines rootedness with new beginnings.
I had a business career before working in the tourism and culture sector in my hometown of Liverpool. But my boots have brought me to a deeper home, the place of my family roots where, in the words of the Bishop’s Charge in the Ordination Service, we are to ‘proclaim afresh’ the Gospel, in ways that draw others to Christ.
There are, in fact, many pertinent phrases in that part of the service in which I will take my vows, not least to ‘explore new ventures in mission’. That is, to find ways to relate the Christian faith to those who are currently not part of the life of the church. It seems a tall order, and I admit that there are times when I feel daunted and pretty inadequate to the task! But there are some lifelines …
Firstly, the pandemic means we are living in extraordinary times, when survey after survey reveal more of the general public asking the big questions of life, seeking answers, turning to prayer, finding churches and services online, and actively engaging in community activity, often through simple acts of neighbourly kindness.
All these present us with opportunities for making new friendships, inviting people to belong before they have to believe, and increasing the church’s own community engagement. These daily reflections have been just one way of supporting one another, something we had never done before, and we now have a whole new set of relationships! It has felt good to journey together. Mission may take many forms, but we never do it alone.
Of course, the ultimate companion all of us have as we attempt to live according to our values, is the Holy Spirit. Thank goodness we do nothing in our strength. What I’m being asked to be and do as described in this service would be impossible without a firm foundation of prayer. I am deeply thankful for the prayers of those in Bro Celynnin, Bangor Diocese, wider pioneer networks, friends and family. Without your support, I would simply not have thought this day possible. Now we will walk together on an adventuresome journey as God’s friends, full of opportunity and promise, creative possibilities and new connections.
I truly believe that each one of us has a calling on our lives, and that if we can discern the path along which we are to walk, we can be part of God’s loving plan. The passage above from Paul’s letter to the Romans has been my touchstone throughout the discernment process. Paul speaks of simply offering who we are back to God, with both the rich array of unique gifts He has given us, and our frailties too. The work He gives us to do requires making sacrifices, but in acknowledging that likely cost of service, the ‘Bishop’s Charge’ says ‘it will also bring you joy and peace.’ For that is the story we tell with our very lives – Christ’s narrative of hope, as relevant to today as it ever was. That, too, is the story we tell at Communion, when we can experience once again God’s radical hospitality: His invitation for all, to His table of life. No VIP pass required.
So on go the boots! Even by reading this, I thank you for being prepared to walk with me. And although the number of people physically with me on 10th August will be few, I can walk His way, knowing I have your prayer support and friendship, and at Llangelynnin there will also be a cloud of witnesses.
Our prayer of blessing today comes from the Ordination Service:
Bydded i’r Hollalluog Dduw,
yr hwn er mwyn iachawdwriaeth y byd
sy’n rhoddi i’w bobl
amryw ddoniau a gweinidogaethau
er hyrwyddiad ei ogoniant,
ddeffro ynoch ddoniau ei Ysbryd
a’ch cynnal chwi oll yn eich gweinidogaeth;
a bendith Duw Hollalluog,
y Tad, y Mab, a’r Ysbryd Glân,
a fo yn eich plith
ac a drigo gyda chwi yn wastad. Amen.
Almighty God, who for the salvation of the world
gives his people many gifts and ministries
to the advancement of his glory,
stir up in you the gifts of his Spirit,
and sustain each one of you in your own ministry;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always. Amen.