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************************************************************* February 2021
A letter from Rev'd Geraint concerning Ash Wednesday:
On Ash Wednesday you are invited to join our deanery “quiet day” on zoom where each of the three curates: Rev’d Ceri (Bridgend), Rev’d Glenda (Pencoed), and Rev’d Geraint (Maesteg) will offer a reflection throughout the day. In addition to this we will meet for worship.
The series of reflections complement one another but individuals can dip in-and-out throughout the day. All are welcome to attend individual sessions or join with us for them all. Between each reflection there will be time to reflect, rest, and pray. At 7pm there will be a short break whilst a piece of music is played in order for those wishing to join with the closing act of worship – but not the 6:30pm reflection – to do so. I have included the running order below.
At 10am Rev’d Maggie Thorne (Bridgend) will celebrate the Eucharist on behalf of the deanery and we are all invited to partake in the sacrament spiritually – just as we do on a Sunday. As part of the service there will also be an opportunity for individuals to mark their forehead with ash as the words “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.” are spoken.
This year - as we are not meeting in church - we have been encouraged to consider the best way of maintaining the tradition of Ash Wednesday whilst also re-evaluating the purpose of the day and the events which usually take place.
In short, the act of applying ash to the forehead is a sign of our common mortality, and our need for corporate penance. Well, there is nothing like a global pandemic to remind us of the frailty of our mortality, so we’ve got that one well and truly covered this year whether we physically receive ash on our heads or not. In addition to this, I would like to share with you the following sentence from “The Priest’s Handbook: The Ceremonies of the Church” by Dennis G. Michno (1998):
“The act of receiving ashes must not become the focal point of the day but rather a sign of the day, a sign that is part of the penitential beginning of the season of Lent.”
This – I believe – gives us the flexibility to receive the ash of Ash Wednesday spiritually this year if we are unable to receive the ash physically. However, guidance from the bench of bishops does allow the imposition of ash within households, especially if public worship is not taking place. Therefore, if you wish to apply ash to your forehead at the appropriate point in the service, there are a number of options available.
Firstly, and only if it is safe to do so, you may wish to burn your own palm cross (or a piece of paper) outdoors. Once cool you can grind the ashes into a powder in order to apply them to your head at the appropriate time. Remember that you only need a small amount in order to mark your forehead.
Secondly, you may wish to purchase a small sachet of palm ash from a church supplies company. Time is running short for this but there is an option to purchase small amounts of palm ash via amazon. (Please check the delivery date to ensure it will arrive by Ash Wednesday).
Finally, you may wish to abstain from physically marking your head with ash this year. Instead, as Michno has reminded us in the citation above, you may wish to focus your attention on the words which are being spoken at this point as – together –we resolve to turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.
Having reflected on this for a long time – and having already procured palm ash in preparation for Ash Wednesday – I have decided that I will not be applying ash to my head this year. Instead, I will be marking the sign on the cross on my forehead with a clean thumb and reflecting on my ongoing need to turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ at the appropriate point in the service.
I will be sending further details of our lent course within the next few days but as Ash Wednesday draws nearer, I would like to wish you all a spiritually fulfilling Lent as we begin our 2021 lenten journey together.
With love and best wishes,
The Reverend Geraint John
Curate: Parish of Llangynwyd with Maesteg
Tel. 01656 734012
Mob. 07968 839509
10am – Holy Eucharist with (optional) imposition of ashes.
12:30pm – Reflection 1: Redemption
3:30pm – Reflection 2: Restoration
6:30pm – Reflection 3: Rest
7pm - Closing Worship
Note: Zoom details will be sent out on Shrove Tuesday.
Although “places of worship” are permitted to remain open under the current Covid-19 restrictions, we have made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend face-to-face public worship within the parish with immediate effect. This decision has been made in response to the local statistics available to us and an awareness of the pressure our NHS is currently under.
At the moment, Bridgend County has 6,098.6 confirmed cases per 100,000 population with our own locality topping the list. On Christmas Eve* it was reported that the areas with the greatest number of cases in Wales were:
This decision has not been taken lightly and has been made with a very heavy heart after lots of prayer and reflection.
All are welcome to join us on Zoom. Please get in touch if you would like to be added to the mailing list to receive more details and zoom login links.
We will be reviewing this situation regularly with the hope that we can recommence face-to-face public worship in line with our “Covid-Safe” policies as soon as it is safe and practical to do so. We will continue to monitor the Public Health Wales statistics for our locality along with any updates to guidance from the Welsh Government and The Church In Wales.
Please remember that even though our church buildings are currently closed, we are continuing to meet regularly for worship and fellowship on Zoom. You are always welcome to join us.
We continue to pray for those who are making difficult decisions on behalf of the nation at this time and regularly pray for our local communities. Our clergy - Rev’d Martyn and Rev’d Geraint - are available to pray for you and are always willing to chat on the phone or on zoom. We continue to pray for those who are suffering at this time and all those who are working to reduce that suffering through their care and service of others.
If you would like to pray with us, you may like to pray the following prayer. Alternatively, if you would like to know more about prayer (or learn more about our Christian Faith) then please get in touch with us.
- Heavenly Father, in the midst of a troubled world, you are light and life. Send us your healing for those who are ill, your strength for those who are suffering, your compassion for those who grieve, and your courage for those who work for the healing and service of others. Bless our nation of Wales with the life-giving spirit of your love, and grant us your mercy, revealed in the person of Christ your Son. Amen.
The year 2020 has been unlike any other year we have known! As our lives were suddenly turned up side down, Enid-Sian Hughes started to write some poems. These have been compiled into a booklet for Christmas to raise money for Cancer Research UK and St Michael's Church, Maesteg. They are now ready and are £5.00 each. If you would like to buy one please contact Enid-Sian directly or get in touch with us here.
We have stock of Fairtrade Jam, Marmalade, Sugar and Chocolate available. We also have a selection of Fairtrade Christmas Cards – a lockdown may be an excellent opportunity to get your Christmas cards written early! If anyone is interested in buying any of the above, please contact Lynne Hodges (735153) and she will be happy to arrange a (socially distanced) delivery for you.
Going back just 12 short months, the word ‘Zoom’ meant either ‘to travel very quickly’ or was the noise a rocketship made in a ‘Flash Gordon’ comic! Well, in this year ‘Zoom’ has travelled very quickly into our everyday vocabulary, including that of our Parish! Services held via this online resource have proved to be a lifeline for many of us during the months of lockdown and have continued to fulfil a spiritual need ever since. A loyal core of between 30 and 40 attendees link in for every service and it is always cheering to chat and catch up for a few minutes before the service, especially in these difficult times. I say this every month, but if you haven’t tried ‘zooming’ at St Virtual’s, and you are able, then please give it a go – a warm welcome is always assured!
Evening Prayer services are generally lay-led, taking full advantage of the talents of our fellow parishioners, who each bring their own unique thoughts and points of view to the readings of the day or the events of the week.
The current lockdown means that Sunday services of Holy Eucharist will be Zoom only for the time being. Rev Geraint is also currently preparing a new Contemplative Zoom service for Wednesday evenings at 7pm. (See page 2 for the full pattern of services.)
From the Curate
“If you could have any gift, any treasure
Taste any pleasure, then what would it be?”
- The Gift of Music (John Rutter) -
Music has been an important part of worship for millennia. Music also plays an important role in our daily lives and it is woven into the fabric of society. We listen to music while alone or in company, in a dance club (not during lock down!) or at home, through simple headphones or via high-end speakers, as background or as foreground, after we get up or before we go to bed. Music accompanies us when we are travelling, doing sports, shopping, working or relaxing. It accompanies the highs and lows of life and is present at times of celebration and grief. This omnipresence of music raises several questions: how does music affect our lives and what happens when it is taken away from us?
For quite some time, the footnote in my outgoing emails contained a quote by Victor Hugo which said: “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent”.A sentiment which - as a musician - spoke to the depth of my being. However, in recent months I feel as though the gift of live music has been temporarily taken away from many of us as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Choirs, instrumentalists and singers have found themselves muted and even our churches have - understandably - needed to suspend hymn singing in order to minimise the risk of transmitting Covid-19.
For quite some time I struggled with this because so many aspects of my life revolved around music. This got me thinking of two songs I first came across when I was the assistant accompanist to “Maesteg Gleemen” and they later became a favourite of “Sounds Familiar” - my mixed voices choir based in Porthcawl. “What Would I Do Without my Music?” and “As Long as I Have Music” have long been choral classics. The lyrics of both these songs demonstrate the ability that music has to stir up all sorts of emotions within us and demonstrates that - for many people - music has the ability to lift us up when we are low.
Music has the ability to affect us emotionally. It can create a mood and soften our hearts so that we listen more intently. Music can help us to hear words differently. It can distract us from what’s going on or help us to focus on what’s going on… This is why music has the ability to enhance our worship.
The gift of music has been something that I have taken for granted for a long time and it has taken this pandemic to remind me that – whilst music has the ability to enhance our worship – the focus of our worship must always remain on God because God never changes and nobody (and no virus!) can separate us from God. Whilst we have been temporarily separated from the gift of live music, God’s presence in our lives remains steadfast.
‘Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.’ (James 1:17)
Live music (and other things) have needed to be put on hold in recent months but God’s love, mercy, and presence have remained with us. Although our worship looks (and sounds) different at this time, Hebrews 3:8 reminds us that ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever''- and for that we give thanks to God.
I long for a day where we can enjoy live music together again. However, when the day comes, I will be all the more grateful for it as a result of the past few months where live music has been silenced in our churches and in our community. Music is a gift of God and as we make music together in the future (and as we enjoy listening to music together again) may we do so in thanksgiving to the one who gave it to us to enjoy in the first place.