It is only since I began this series of visits — it has now at the end of March reached 69 visits and 257 churches — that I have really begun to appreciate just how large, far-flung and diverse this diocese is. The greater part of the population is located on the coastal fringe and it is clear that around three quarters of our churches are both rural and small.
That does not mean that they are any the less enthusiastic or up for change than their large and more urban counterparts. Nor does it mean, as I have discovered for myself, that the clergy who serve them are in any sense less focussed or enthusiastic than their urban colleagues.
It does, however, mean that resources, both human and material, are more thinly stretched, but that in turn implies the cooperation, collegiality and engagement with the wider community which I have seen working so effectively during the past several months, and is so vividly recorded in all its variety and communicated in the most recent number of Pobl Dewi.
And I want to emphasise once again how lucky we are in our Diocesan Communications Team in producing a paper of such quality – and the Diocesan Communications Officer accompanies me and takes such remarkable photographs which you see in the blog and Pobl Dewi. Moreover, as I go around the diocese I see the most recent copies at the back of the church. My thanks to the Area Deans who undertake this vital task of diocesan communication.
For communication is so vital in a large and scattered diocese of this size. Rurality makes communication paramount. The pictures taken during my Pilgrimage around the Diocese in the steps of St David in Pobl Dewi make that point implicitly, communicating to the diocese as a whole the range and vitality of what goes on within the congregations and parishes which I have visited since September.
I know that a visit from the Bishop means that everyone make a special effort – and no, I do not constantly smell fresh paint — and I take this opportunity of thanking everyone who has put so much time and effort into organizing each day and each visit.
It is, however clear that so much of what I see and experience is what happens regularly week in and week out, and I therefore want to pay tribute to the people and the clergy who make those links and nurture and maintain them between church and community.
Two particular elements strike me: the links forged between schools both church and community; and the care homes which I have visited and gained so much from my conversations with the residents.
Where communications are concerned, as an aside, I can, I think by now compile a map of this diocese showing where mobile phones simply do not work. In some places connectivity is non-existent — not just on the part of one service provider but several simultaneously. And as for Broadband do not get me started.
At base of course the most effective means of communication is one person having a face to face conversation with another, which is why I so value the encounters I have had with so many of you as I have walked in St David’s footsteps.
As we stand on the threshold of the Easter season, we are reminded of how important person to person communication is where the transmission of the Gospel is concerned. It began with the women at the tomb telling the other disciples, communicating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. That is what spread the story; and such encounters continued to spread the story across and down the centuries; as they do today.
Pasg Llawen a Dedwydd i bob un ohonoch. A very Happy and Blessed Easter to all of you.
+Wyn Tyddewi Maundy Thursday 2016.