I want to begin by thanking you for the welcome I have received in the parish since I began moving in. For all of us these are strange times. Normally I would have said goodbye to Cwmbach my former parish and hello to Llanishen with a service and a celebration. While I was pleased to see so many people join the licensing on line, Zoom, miraculous though it is, doesn’t quite have the same feel. I wasn’t able to meet and shake hands, to start learning names, or just to get a feel for the life of the parish. The start of my ministry here is different and it will take time to find my feet and to work with you all in planning how we go about our mission and ministry together, just as I am sure it will take time for you to come to terms with a new priest. In the coming weeks, within the restrictions imposed by COVID 19, I will strive to be around the communities served by St Isan and St Faith’s, in part to get my bearings, but more importantly to give people the opportunity to see the new parish priest has arrived. So, if you see a priest you don’t at first recognise say hello: hopefully it will be me.
On my last day in Cwmbach, the gospel recalled St Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi. Jesus was curious about what people were saying about him. So he asked the disciples what they had picked up. Some thought he was an Old Testament prophet, some thought John the Baptist. And then he asked Peter and he said that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God. It is a turning point in the gospel, not just for Peter but for us all. It revealed the essence of our faith in Jesus Christ as God’s Son. My last words to the congregation were simple:
What I hope I have been able to do, especially through my preaching, is to share with you my faith, our faith, in the living God that Jesus reveals. It’s the faith that keeps me going, the love that will not let me go, and it is into the hands of that God, revealed in Jesus, that I commend you now. May God bless you, and keep you safe for evermore.
As I come to Llanishen I know full well that these are different communities with different challenges, but the faith that underpins all our ministries (and I look forward to learning about the various ministries exercised within the parish) is the same. We believe in one God, who is revealed in Jesus Christ as a God of eternal and unlimited love. We see that in Jesus dying and rising again. In a world where we yearn for certainty we find it revealed in that divine commitment: a love that will not let us go. (You’ll discover I have a love of hymns.)
The coming months are going to be challenging I fear. The effects of COVID 19 are yet to be fully revealed. It might be a long time before we get back to anything approaching normal in terms of our daily life, let alone worship and fellowship. Within the parish, we need to find new ways to continue to reach out to our congregations and to the wider community with the faith that gives us hope. I’m sure we have the resources to develop material to meet the many needs of the people we seek to serve.
And of course, we each of us play a part through our life of prayer. If the opportunities to worship together are limited, the opportunities for prayer are limitless. Prayer is the life blood of any community which seeks to be Christ-like and it is the key to our relationship with God. In the coming weeks I will make a point of saying my prayers at 8am and 6pm and would invite you to spend some time in prayer at those hours where possible. Together we can listen to God, bring to him our fears and share with him our joys as we move forward in faith and hope.
With my prayers