Dygwyl Y Meirw All Souls Day
Bydd wrol a dewr iawn! (Josua 1.7)
Be strong and very courageous! (Joshua 1.7)
Should we say prayers for the departed? Today is All Souls Day, and an apposite time to pose the question. The reformers gave the firm answer “Absolutely not, a tree lies where it falls”, but you must remember the truth that they were trying to defend. They wanted to make it crystal clear that a person’s eternal destiny was determined by their response of faith to the grace revealed in Christ, by their decision for Christ in this life, and that the multiplication of masses or prayers for the dead after their death could not change their fundamental eternal destiny.
I believe as they did: that it is our openness to God’s grace in this life that determines our destiny, although I want to be agnostic about God’s judgement in any particular case. He decides whom he admits to heaven, and I can never say “never”. Nevertheless, it seems entirely natural to me to say prayers for the dead – not because I believe in purgatory, about which I remain agnostic also – but because it seems to me that it is the most natural thing in the world to continue to be concerned for friends and family, and for those who have gone before us; to name them before God and not to allow them to be forgotten. These people remain in my love, and therefore they remain in my prayers. Even beyond the circle of those whom I love, I believe that an attitude of mercy means being ready to commend all to God’s mercy, and leave it to his divine will to sort out the salvation of the world. I have full confidence that he will.
So whatever you believe about eternity, and the fate of those who have died, I hope that you and your church will pray for the dead, for all you care for, and those who are cared for by those who visit our churches. It is even a good opportunity to come again alongside those to whom we have offered bereavement ministry in the last year. I would rather be wooly in our compassion than definite in our judgement, because it seems to me that this is closer to the will of Christ.
The feedback on the diocesan conference is extremely encouraging, and we’ve been given very high approval ratings. I believe that we had a very inspiring day, an excellent keynote speaker, and very good presentations both on the business of the diocese and upon our mission as the Church. I’d like to offer warm congratulations to Diane, the planning group and all the diocesan office team for the hard work that enabled this conference to take place, and to the members of the Youth Forum for their service as stewards, and for leading worship at the end of the day.
I’m grateful as well for the very high turnout amongst clergy, and for your commitment and professionalism when the temptation of Wales fixtures was great. The attendance of lay members of the conference was less than could have been hoped for, however, with about 40% of delegates neither being present nor tendering apologies. This is disappointing. Not only were meals prepared which went unneeded, but the delegates missed the opportunity represent their Churches at the major forum of the life of the diocese, and to be able to report intelligently about what the diocese is up to. Lay people should be encouraged at the time of election to the Diocesan Conference to understand that it is only a one day commitment a year, but that their election includes that commitment. Since the dates are know well in advance (the second Saturday in October each year), the date shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Those absences can’t spoil the good time that was had by those who came however, and I do hope that those of us who were present will make good use of the resources shared in the conference bags, and take and apply the message about our shared mission which was at the forefront of the day’s proceedings.
Advent Pastoral Message
I would like to give notice that I will be issuing my usual Advent Message later this month. The message will, as last year, be released in five different formats; a video format, recorded formats in English and in Welsh, and written formats also in both languages. I am directing that this Advent Pastoral Letter should be played or read at all principal Sunday services in our churches on Advent Sunday, although you may choose the most appropriate format. The messages will be placed up on the diocesan website for download a week in advance, and I will notify you again by email when they become available.
I am delighted to indicate my intention, under God, to ordain Ivor Hawkins, Peter Heaney, and Glyn Jones to the sacred Order of the Diaconate on Sunday, 29th November, 2015, at St Michael’s Church, Llanfihangel Yng Nghwynfa. These three gentlemen have been nominated to me for ordained local ministry by the deanery of Mathrafal, and will serve alongside the clergy in the emerging Mission Areas there. Ivor and Glynn will serve in the Banw Valley Mission Area, and Peter in the Tanat Valley Mission Area. As St Michael’s is relatively small it would be a big help to have an indication of the number of clergy that will be attending. If you do plan to attend to please would you contact Archdeacon Peter by November 22nd to let him know. Clergy attending should vest in alb or surplice with white stole.
The Standing Liturgical Advisory Committee works on behalf of the Church in Wales to produce new liturgical material. In the coming few months, we are looking forward to the publication of material for Services for a Child, which includes a new Thanksgiving Service and appropriate prayers which can be used in a variety of circumstances surrounding birth or adoption. There will also be liturgies for the Blessing of a Home, and Times and Seasons material.
The commission has also completed a piece of work on behalf of the Bench of Bishops – Basic Eucharist Guidance – which addresses basic liturgical matters in connection with the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. While the conduct of the clergy is of a very high standard on the whole, examples have been noticed where even basic liturgical norms seem to have been overlooked. Of course, it is impossible to write one rule to suit all, but SLAC has produced for us some very useful rubrics to remind us of best liturgical practice. They won’t suit everyone of course, particularly as they are written from a broadly Catholic perspective. However, they do contain wise words about the standards of liturgy that we would wish to commend in the Church, and which I’m sure you will want to bear in mind. Much of this will be well-known, but I suspect there will be one or two surprises for us all.
Hwyl a Helo
I am delighted to announce the appointment of Lorraine Badger Watts to the Gorsedd group of parishes. Lorraine will be moving from Petryal next Easter, and I’m very pleased to welcome her to this new role.
I am also pleased to announce the appointment of Colin Mansley as Area Dean of Denbigh Deanery, and Steve Willson as Area Dean and Mission Area Leader of Pool Deanery, upon the completion by Toni Bennett of her five year term of office. Toni has served faithfully and well as Area Dean, and yet it will be good to welcome both Colin and Steve to their new ministries.
Ivor Hawkins, Peter Heaney and Glyn Jones will be ordained Deacon, God willing, on Sunday, 29th November. Full details are given above.
Sue Moriarty has indicated to me that she will relinquish her licence at the end of the year. Where are extremely grateful for Sue’s ministry in this diocese, and particularly in the Gorsedd group of parishes.
Our deepest condolences go to Gwenda Cooper, on the death of her husband, Tommy. Tommy has been struggling with ill health for some time, but we share Gwenda’s sadness – and faith in grace of God which will now embrace Tommy in eternity. Tommy’s funeral will be at 1400hr on Wednesday, 4th November, in St Digain’s Church, Llangernyw.
I am sorry also to record the death of The Venerable Selwyn Closs Parry, who served faithfully for over thirty years in this diocese, completing his ministry as Archdeacon of St Asaph. Selwyn was a highly respected cleric and servant of the Church in Wales, and we extend our condolences to Ray, his wife, and their family.
Many thanks to all who have already sent in their evaluation forms for the last clergy synod. They have been very helpful and it would be good if those who haven’t yet filled in a form could do so and send it to email@example.com to help us to evaluate and plan the future synods. All the comments are important and we will be spending time in the coming months looking at each one in order to help make the synods effective spaces for conversation and listening.
Unlike the old CMD days however they are not meant to be training, but for conversation and encouragement. The new training prospectus outlines all the available diocesan training for 2016 and is available in English and Welsh. Why not book them in to your diary now?
Information is also available for the Provincial courses running locally (distributed at the synod). There is also another course running in February in London about facilitating difficult meetings. If anyone would like to attend, please contact Manon for possible funding.
Renewal of Permissions to Officiate
The process of renewing the certificates for those holding Permission to Officiate started last month and I thank those who have already submitted renewal applications. These will be processed in Esgobty with new certificates issued before Christmas. I look forward to receiving the remainder of the renewals during November. To remind you renewal is necessary for clergy whose current PTO certificates expire on 31 December. Please find a renewal application form for those who wish to continue offering this ministry to the diocese. Completed application forms should be accompanied by the existing PTO certificate, countersigned by the Mission Area Leader / Area Dean.
Those who have taken up my PTO in recent months will already have received certificates for the later date, and therefore are not required to take further action.
I should be very grateful for the assistance of clergy in reminding priests who hold PTO in their area of their need to renew by the end of the year and to provide them with any assistance they may need.
Dates for your diary
Please note these dates in your diary, commend them in prayer, and be encouraged to join us where appropriate.
NOVEMBER & DECEMBER
10 November Confirmation for Mold Mission Area & Hawarden Deanery, St Mark’s Church, Connah’s Quay.
11/12 November Area Deans/Mission Area Leaders Residential, Foxhill, Frodsham
29 November Ordination of Deacons for Mathrafal Deanery, Llanfihangel yng Nghwynfa.
9 December Diocesan Nicholastide Confirmation, Cathedral, 1830hr
Dates for 2016
20th January Clergy Synod, all day meeting, location to be confirmed
24th March Chrism Eucharist, 1100hr as usual, with lunch afterwards. Please encourage your laity to put this date in their diaries also.
25th June General Ordination, 1000hr in the Cathedral
28th September Clergy Synod, all day meeting, location to be confirmed
8th October Diocesan Conference
Notes and Queries
The Real Advent Calendar is a fun way for parents, grandparents and Godparents to share the Christmas story. The calendar comes with a free 32-page Christmas story activity booklet illustrated by Sophie Allsopp and designed to be used every day in Advent. Behind each of the 24 windows there is a Fairtrade chocolate star and a few words from the Christmas story. As well as celebrating the true meaning of Christmas, the calendar makes a charity donation, from every sale, to Traidcraft Exchange and the Funzi & Bodo Trust. The Real Advent Calendar is available on-line, from larger Tesco stores and select retailers. Supplies are limited so buy early.
Anglican-Oriental Orthodox International Commission
Thank you to all those of you who supported Evensong in the Cathedral during the meeting of the AOOIC. It was a splendid occasion, and the meeting of the commission proved fruitful, as we published a shared statement on Christology, and agreed the first part of a statement on Pneumatology.
The autumn nights are drawing in, and Advent and Christmas draw nigh. Thank you for your ongoing commitment and ministry, and every good wish as you work with your people to build up our common life, and call people to a deeper faith.