Bev’s Sabbatical – Offa’s Dyke

If time and regulations allow, Mark and I will finish off our sabbatical by travelling along the route of Offa’s Dyke (or as close as we can get to it on roads), stopping off where we can find visible remains.

Mark and I are going to live in Herefordshire (or Worcestershire) in the Welsh Marches when we move on from Llandudno in summer 2022, so travelling the route of Offa’s Dyke seems an excellent way to help make the transition to the border counties. As ever, following a historical route is important to us and even the terms “border counties” and “the marches” are full of historical meaning.

The text below is an extract from the Offa’s Dyke Association website.

Offa was King of Mercia from 757 to 796 AD. His kingdom covered the area between the Trent/Mersey rivers in the North to the Thames Valley in the South, and from the Welsh border in the West to the Fens in the East. 

Offa’s Dyke is a linear earthwork which roughly follows the Welsh/English boundary. It consists of a ditch and rampart constructed with the ditch on the Welsh-facing side, and appears to have been carefully aligned to present an open view into Wales from along its length. As originally constructed, it must have been about 27 metres wide and 8 metres from the ditch bottom to the bank top.

The origins of the Dyke are shrouded in mystery so that many of its aspects are speculated upon rather than being fully understood. Asser, the biographer of King Alfred, gave the first known reference to it when he wrote, about 100 years later that a certain vigorous king called Offa……had a great dyke built between Wales and Mercia from sea to sea.

Much of the Dyke is still traceable along the 80 miles from the Wye valley to Wrexham. In places it still retains most of its original impressive dimensions while in other parts it has disappeared due to 1200 years of farming activity and its presence can only be detected by archaelogical work.

Bev’s Sabbatical – the Wales Ways

The Wales Ways are recently named routes for travel by car. Together with Offa’s Dyke, they offer a perfect way for Mark and I to “finish off Wales” in my latest sabbatical (January and February 2022) before we head off, next summer, to a new phase of our life nearer to our children and grandchildren.

Ou basic plan is to visit all six (Anglican) cathedrals in Wales and to explore theological themes arising from our visits. All are on or near to the three Wales Ways so we plan to use them to travel to the sites. And if there are any ancient monuments on the way, e.g. Caerwent, Caerleon, Pentre Ifan, we will visit them too!

There are three Wales Ways:

  • “The North Wales Way leads 75 miles (120km) past mighty castles, following the old trading route, along our northern coast into Anglesey.” See The North Wales Way. Basically, it is the A55 from Mold to Holyhead!
  • “The Cambrian Way is a complete north-south journey along the mountainous spine of Wales, running for 185 miles (300km) from coast to coast.” Mostly, this is the A470, from Llandudno to Cardiff. See The Cambrian Way.
  • “The Coastal Way runs the entire length of Cardigan Bay. It’s a 180-mile (290km) odyssey that threads between blue seas and big mountains.” See The Coastal Way.

Living in Llandudno, we have done the North Wales Way frequently of course, though not in one go. We have also done the Cambrian Way (before it was named that) but we will redo it in full. Doing the whole of Cardigan Bay to St David’s along the Coastal Way will mostly be a new journey for us.

For further information on the Wales Ways visit the CADW and Visit Wales websites.

Blue Christmas

Our weekly service of prayers for healing and wholeness has a special version today (23rd December) – Blue Christmas, a short and simple service for all those who find Christmas a difficult time because of sadness, stress, grief or fear. Come and simply “be”, in a safe sacred space.

The service is at 1.45pm, St John’s.

If you are unable to join us but want to take part, the text of the service is below.

Pop-up Nativity

Just a reminder that our pop-up nativity is being held today (Wednesday 22nd December) at 4.30pm in Craig y Don park. The weather forecast says that we might be in for some light rain but hopefully we can go ahead. Come well wrapped up and with as many lights as you can carry (or even wear). Let’s have some fun together acting out the story of the first Christmas.

Prayers for healing and wholeness

Today’s service of prayers for healing and wholeness is being held at St John’s, Llandudno, at 1.45pm and is led by Elizabeth Pass. The liturgy and Elizabeth’s reflection for the service are below. Note that the Hospice Christmas Tree Festival is in the church this week so the church is quite full of trees.

‘My grace is sufficient for you,
For my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Cor 12:9)

In the ministry of Christ healing was a sign of the presence of God’s kingdom, bringing renewal and wholeness of life to those who turned to God in their need.  Jesus commissioned his disciples to proclaim the kingdom and heal the sick (Luke 9:2).  The Church believes that the healing power of Christ is exercised through medical and related professions, through faith and prayer, and the care of the Christian community. 

God desires wholeness for all people. We bring to God our frailty and brokenness  –  felt not only in physical illness, but in guilt, anxiety, and all the burdens which weigh us down.  We also bring our concerns for others and for the world. We come to God who knows our needs before we ask, and whose love revealed in Jesus Christ is stronger than suffering and death.

To start, take some time to bring yourself into an awareness of the presence of God. If it helps, imagine yourself sitting in your church alone, resting in the prayerful atmosphere.

Jesus said:  ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’ Matt 11:28-30

Jesus said:  ‘I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.’ John 10:10

Loving God,
in whom all things are made whole,
you sent your Son our Saviour to heal a broken world.
Visit us with your salvation,
that we may be blessed in body, mind and spirit;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Our Lord Jesus Christ said:
‘Anyone who comes to me I will never turn away.’ (John 6:37)

In the presence of God, let us confess our sins.

Lord Jesus, you came to reconcile us to God and to one another.
Lord Jesus, you heal the wounds of sin and division.
Lord Jesus, you offer us a new beginning.
Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.

God is love.  Through Jesus our sins are forgiven.
Let us live in the power of the Spirit.  Amen.

Holy God, you give life to all;
you meet us in our need
and bring hope to those who look to you.
Give peace to our hearts and minds as we pray to you with confidence;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Reflection:

Here we are, in the midst of a forest of Christmas trees!

There’s a lovely forest on the southwest tip of Anglesey in the Newborough nature reserve.  If you’re lucky you could see a red squirrel there, because the forest is one of the most important red squirrel conservation sites in the UK.

Standing in the middle of the huge trees can give you a feeling of wonder and majesty.  But to find myself lost there in the dark of a winter late afternoon would make me anxious, probably confused and longing to get back into familiar territory.

In this third week of Advent, we traditionally focus on the virgin Mary, chosen by God to give birth to Jesus, God’s son.  I wonder how teenager Mary might have felt when she found herself in very unfamiliar territory, unexpectedly visited by God’s angel messenger.   

Luke 1:26-32, 34-35, 38

2In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgins name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.

29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God.  31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High.

 34 Mary said to the angel, How can this be, since I am a virgin?35 The angel said to her, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.

38 Then Mary said, Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.Then the angel departed from her.

Mary found herself in very unfamiliar territory.  To be visited by an angel who is visible to you, who speaks to you, who acknowledges how afraid you are – we can understand Mary’s bewilderment and fear – we’ve had similar reactions in the past to unfamiliar and worrying personal experiences.

Experiences that bring us to an unfamiliar and worrying place – in body, mind or spirit.  Maybe that’s how you are this afternoon?  The grief of bereavement; sudden loss of employment; an unexpected diagnosis of serious illness; the constant, unrelenting caring for a vulnerable loved one.  Why is this happening to me?  How can I cope?

How would Mary cope with the news she was hearing?  How would she respond to the angel’s visit and message?  God would come to share our human earth-life: Jesus conceived in Mary’s womb, born in the humblest surroundings, experiencing the joys and sorrows of family life, finally giving himself up in terrible suffering to humiliating, excruciating death, before the glory and triumph of Easter Day and resurrection.

Mary accepted with love God’s blessing.  In this new and very unfamiliar territory her response to God was: “let it be with me according to your word”.  The angel had greeted her with words that would bring comfort and strength in the years that followed:  “The Lord is with you.” 

God is here with us this afternoon, in the middle of this lovely forest of Christmas trees.  He longs to bless us.  He promises to be with us alongside anything that is going on in our lives at this moment.

There was a lovely prayer earlier in the service when we asked God to:   

Visit us with your salvation,
that we may be blessed in body, mind and spirit.’
God does long to visit us with his salvation,
that we may be blessed in body, mind and spirit.

May God visit you in the stillness of worship as we continue with our prayers. May he come to you with his salvation, his blessing, his peace, his healing of body, mind or spirit.

Some moments of quiet …

………………..

We continue in prayer:

Christ our Saviour, born for us,
bring healing and peace to all people….

Lord have mercy.          Christ, have mercy.

Christ, baptized in the Jordan,
give hope to all who come to you….

Lord have mercy.          Christ, have mercy.

Christ, tested in the desert,
give courage to those who are tempted….

Lord have mercy.          Christ, have mercy.

Christ, who comforted and healed,
bring wholeness to all who are broken….

Lord have mercy.          Christ, have mercy.

Christ, who hung in agony on the cross,
bring strength to those who suffer….

Lord have mercy.          Christ, have mercy.

Christ, who died to save us,
give peace to all who face death….

Lord have mercy.          Christ, have mercy.

Christ, raised from the tomb,
bring light and life to all the world….

Lord have mercy.          Christ, have mercy.

Christ, present among your disciples,
unite all your people in love….

Lord have mercy.          Christ, have mercy.

We thank you, gracious God.
You have loved us from the beginning of time
and remembered us when we were in trouble.
Your mercy endures for ever.

We thank you, redeeming God.
You have come to us in Jesus Christ
to save us from our sins.
Your mercy endures for ever.

We thank you, holy God.
You have sent us your Spirit
to comfort us and lead us into all truth.
Your mercy endures for ever.

Gracious, redeeming and Holy God,
glory and praise be yours, now and for ever.  Amen

Together, let us bring to the Lord those for whom we have been asked to pray. You may well have others you wish to pray for too…

Take some time now to bring your concerns to God. If it helps, try saying them out loud. Feel yourself held in God’s safe hands.

We say the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples:

Our Father in Heaven
Hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil,
For the kingdom, the
power and the glory are yours,
now and for ever.  Amen

Almighty God,
you have made us for yourself
and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you.
Teach us to offer ourselves to your service,
that here we may have your peace,
and in the world to come we may see you face to face;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord look on you with kindness
and give you peace.  Amen.

Go in peace to rejoice in God’s love
and to reflect his glory.
May the Lord go with us and grant us the joy of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Some material included in this service is copyright © 1989 National Council of Churches USA

Some material included in this service is copyright ©1999 Trustees for Methodist Church Purposes

Sunday Worship

This Sunday our livestreamed service will be Carols by Candlelight, 4pm at St John’s. You can find it here. The theme of the service is “God’s indescribable gift”. Here is the text of the service:

The 10am service at St David’s is an all age nativity (a paper bag nativity!) but we cannot share any of it here due to copyright.

The 11am service at St John’s is a mix of carols, together with the rededication of the British Legion Standard as they commemorate 100 years since the Legion was established. The theme of the service is symbols, signs and colours. The service will not be livestreamed but you can find a text version here:

Hospice Christmas Tree Festival

St David’s Hospice are holding a Christmas Tree Festival at St John’s Methodist Church, Llandudno, this week. Come along and see the trees, decorated by groups, organisations and businesses from around the area. They include a prayer tree supplied by St John’s, coloured blue to remind us that not everyone is happy at this time of year.

The blue tree will form part of our Blue Christmas service next week, Thursday 23rd December 1.45pm, for all those who find Christmas a difficult time because of sadness, stress, grief or fear. Come in and simply “be” in a safe, sacred space.

Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash