Sunday 12 July 2015

Wales, Wales

One of the cradles of Christianity in our land is Llantwit Major. St Illtud's was there in the fifth century, and there are standing stones and crosses from the Celtic past. Several are now installed in a former chapel, ruined at the Reformation, at the west end of the Church. Once there was a monastery too, where reputedly both Patrick and David studied. Some of the street names in the little town refer to the College which once was here.

West end of the church rebuilt recently, where the Galilee Chapel once stood
Rood stairs in the ancient parish church
Wales was the land of saints - which makes the present condition of the "Church in Wales" all the more distressing. You can read about it in a couple of the blogs on my list (Ancient Briton and Let Nothing you Dismay).It is an anomaly of history that though that church has been disestablished it has hung on to the buildings which it was allowed to take over at the Reformation. Yet everywhere, in place-names and buildings, the Catholic past shines through.

A couple of years ago I had the privilege of celebrating Mass in today's Catholic Church in Llantwit; a very workaday building, but one which is loved and [better still] is well attended.
God Save King James .. over an arch in Llantwit

Perhaps as a former Anglican I am more struck by the oddity of all the buildings from our Catholic past being now in the hands of protestant bodies. Those buildings were nationalised under Henry VIII and much of their property either taken over by the Crown or sold on to chums of the monarch. For a while the Church of England and the Church in Wales cared for their share in that inheritance and the churches continued to be used for Christian worship. Today many are being sold to the highest bidders, to be transformed into private houses. Worse still, some have been acquired as nightclubs (there is one in Southampton opposite the Mayflower Theatre) or even as places of non-Christian worship (the former St Luke's in Southampton is now a Hindu Temple). Meanwhile the Ordinariate has to go begging to have the a share in the use of already overused Catholic church buildings or (because the Methodists seem more generous than the Church of England) to buy churches which have become redundant.

20th century Rood against mediaeval wall painting
'Not fair', you might say; but then as grandma always insisted, "Life is not fair, and you'd better find that out for yourself". She was right. And few institutions are less fair than the dear old C of E in her present guise.
Torbay's Ordinariate (former Methodist) Church

                                 Thankfully other Christian bodies have proved more charitable.

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