Blog 10: The End of the Road

The journey, or this stage of it, at least, has come to an end. The next stage awaits. It has been an immense privilege not only to have been the Bishop of this Diocese for almost eight years but also to have served as Dean of St Davids for fourteen years previously; to have served twelve years prior to that Trinity College Carmarthen; and to have served forty five years as Deacon and Priest since in this Diocese since 1971.


Bishop Wyn revisits St John’s Penrhyncoch, the church of his childhood

I want to thank everyone with whom I have served in ministry: colleagues on the DBF and all the other committees upon which I have served, but above all I am grateful to all the parishes and people where I have ministered; not least that congregation of congregations, the Diocese of St Davids itself.

And that other journey, the one in St Davids Footsteps, y daith yn Amsang Dewi Sant, has also reached its end. ­

It has taken meticulous organisation and preparation by my two successive Chaplains, Archdeacon Dennis and Canon Paul to have got off the ground in the first place; to have reached the various destinations in the second, — and I now have a fine appreciation of both the remoteness and the far flung nature of some of the communities, parishes and churches in the Diocese; and thirdly to have come to a successful and rousing conclusion at the Cathedral at Michaelmas. My heartfelt thanks go to them and for their loyal, patient and unstinting service to their bishop, along with their navigational skills over the length and breadth of this enormous diocese.

Equally worthy of praise and gratitude are the clergy and congregations of this diocese for responding so positively and imaginatively to my intention of visiting them in this three year rolling visitation. They did indeed ask me to come and see; and to go and tell. I have, as I make sure that everyone who asks gets to know,  I have been immensely heartened by what I have seen and heard: by the devotion and loyalty to church and to people; the sense of mission and ministry and service; the readiness to change in the face of the challenge of a moving church landscape and change in society.

It is indeed continuity and change which have impressed me. There is the way that continuity of worship and service to the community still characterises our churches and congregations as they have for decades and centuries. There is, side by side with that, the awareness that continuity cannot continue without change; and so many churches and congregations have taken that on board in terms of adaptation and accessibility of buildings; in terms of creating new and imaginative opportunities in worship; in terms of welcoming and fostering the ministry and contribution of young people — and also those of riper years — we are indeed an all age church; and finally the sense that church and the experience of being and doing church  is to be enjoyed.

dhw2014The pictures which David Hammond-Williams has taken, and may I thank him for his immense contribution to this journey— not least in that he, together with my Chaplains had to listen to my Charge 90 times, both the pictures which he has taken and the rolling video which he put together for the Diocesan Conference, make that point eloquently and colourfully.

The last stages of the journey, — and I will take more time than usual to describe them , for they are the last parishes for me to have visited in St Davids’s Footsteps —  took me, via Laugharne, Pendine and Llansadwrnen, Bletherston, Uzmaston and Llawhaden to Dewisland, the very part of the world most associated with Dewi himself. This was the landscape associated with his birth, ministry, religious life, death and continued afterlife thorough his shrine and cult at St Davids.

On the way there, I was privileged to visit the Portreeve of Laugharne and Hall which is home of the immensely interesting, and immensely flourishing survival which is the Court Leet and Court Baron of the township; having begun the day at Assembly in the Church School at Laugharne; then met the congregation at St Martin’s where I celebrated the sacred mysteries — and having been able to preside at the Eucharist at so many churches in the diocese has itself been immensely moving. That was followed by a remarkable community lunch at Llanmiloe, which was itself succeeded by an even more remarkable experience, that of World War I trenches at Morfa Bay Adventure Pendine. It is one of the most evocatively authentic educational experiences of its kind which I have ever been to; and I would commend it.

Just above the beach at Pendine, scene of her triumph and disaster in a new purpose built facility, Babs was home —temporarily. This highly evocative symbol of speed, pared down and brutal, has a palpable presence; and we were fortunate to see it, and hence think about her driver John Parry Thomas who in 1927 lost his life in Babs in an attempt on the Land Speed record. Babs was recovered from her burial place in the sand dunes by Owen Wyn Owen in 1969, and rebuilt by him.

The day ended as it has at all the visits with a simple said Evening Prayer at Llansadwrnen church, into which, as indeed with so many of the other churches I had not hitherto been until this series of visits.

Likewise, the day ended thus on the penultimate visit: with Evening Prayer at Llawhaden church dedicated to Aeddan / Maiddog, a companion of Dewi’s which nestles by the Cleddau, just below the former Bishop’s Castle, which even in ruin is more impressive than the modern Llys Esgob in Abergwili.

Even the torrential rain did not derogate from the experience of a site which developed over the centuries culminating in that dominant gatehouse. That day had begun at Bletherston,, which, although I had been the Rector of the neighbouring parish, I had not only not entered but had no real idea where it was. It has a surprisingly spacious feel enclosed within a deceptively small building; and although closed at present, it has not been made redundant:  its former congregation are exploring future possibilities.


Inside St Mary’s, Bletherston


After visiting Miss Nan Warlow at home, whom many of you will remember in connexion with the Mother’s Union and the Young Farmer’s Movement, it was on to Uzmaston for the Eucharist and splendid lunch at the Church Hall. It was also an opportunity to visit the grave of Bishop Ivor Rees, who had appointed me to the Deanery of St Davids in 1994.

The final visit fittingly was to Dewisland itself. The Rectorial Benefice of Dewisland, where the story of St David and St Davids all started, saw the end of the pilgrimage, equally aptly on 29th September, the Feast of SS Michael and All Angels: aptly because every major event before during and at the end of Dewi’s life was punctuated by angelic presence and monition.

During the day, I was privileged to visit Solva School and Ysgol Dewi Sant and to speak to staff and pupils; to celebrate the sacred mysteries at Llanhywel, and Diane and I and the congregation enjoyed the splendid hospitality of Mrs Mair Richards at Ty Howel; and then to visit the equally splendid facilities in the recently created bunkhouse accommodation at Carnwchwrn with Mr and Mrs Robert Griffiths.

The journey came to an end at Choral Evensong on Michaelmas; the episcopal ministry came to end, on the following Tuesday, the Feast of St Francis, where I was mightily relieved to hand back the Diocesan Crozier and the Diocesan Cope and Mitre, all of which are unconscionably heavy. Indeed so heavy is the crozier which has always towered over me, that a few years ago I asked his granddaughter how tall had been Bishop Basil Jones for whom the crozier had been made. She said he had been five feet and five inches tall. I felt somewhat better then, for I am five feet four and a half inches tall —so it towered over him too! But they were laid on the Cathedral High Altar to be picked up by my successor the 129th Bishop of St Davids to whom I wish every blessing and success.

Diolch o galon i bob un ohonoch am eich dymuniadau da i Diane a minnau; thank you all so much for your cards, gifts and good wishes for the future to Diane and myself .



This is the final despatch from the journey – watch our slideshow featuring some of the many highlights:


Blog 9: Final Footsteps

At the end of July, I found that my pilgrimage in St David’s footsteps had taken me around eighty-seven parishes. I have thus been able to visit and join in worship with the congregations of three hundred and twenty one churches; and gain an idea of the daily life of the diocese as it exists in the parishes and ministry areas.

I am astonished, that I have been able to accomplish this because, given the size of this diocese, I have more than once, over the past two and a half years, thought that I had bitten off more than I could chew. This was not least because the time of my episcopate was always going to be short; and the 4th October 2016 is now looming ever closer.


That PaulMacknessI have been able to visit as many of you as I have since 2014 is due in no small part to my staff, in particular to my two successive chaplains and also to the parish clergy who have prepared such interesting and varied programmes for me, as the pictures which appear both this blog and in Pobl Dewi make so clear.

As you know, before I visit, I ask to see what pastoral and missionary initiatives churches and congregations are fostering at present; what engagement they have with the communities among whom they dwell, and to whom they minister; and how they see and are responding to the changing ecclesiastical landscape which this diocese and the Church in Wales as a whole is engaged in at present: how, in other words, they are growing hope for the future.

The mathematicians among you will have worked out therefore, that although I may be on the threshold of completing the journey, I am not yet there and that there are still nine churches to go until, DV, on the 29th September, the journey ends in the Rectorial Benefice of Dewisland. September will be a very crowded month!

When I have completed the journey, which has taken me from the western sea border of the diocese to the mountains in the east, from the industrial and post industrial valleys of the south to the more remote areas of the north east, I shall have no difficulty in bringing to mind the kindness and the welcome and the hospitality I have enjoyed on the journey; the sheer variety of people and places I have seen; the sheer exuberance of the schools, large and small, to which  I have been.

The overwhelming impression made on me has been of the people who are the diocese of St Davids in 2016, for without them no bishop can exercise a ministry and that is as true today as it was of the time of St David.


+ Wyn Tyddewi

Blog 8:Communicating with Communities

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.

PoblDewiPicturesAnd 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.

CatchUpWhere 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.

Blog 7: Countryside Connections

It’s not just the churches or the congregations but the links between them. Those links are as much emotional and spiritual as geographical. I have certainly travelled along some very narrow country lanes indeed, back roads known only to churchwardens as I have travelled from one isolated rural church to the next. Mind you, finding them in the first place can be difficult enough: this is where I depend on the satnav on my Chaplain’s phone.
Journey’s end is always satisfying: and over the past five months, my journey in the footsteps of St David has taken me from the north of this eighty mile long diocese to the south west and to the south east; with a substantial number of churches in the centre.

 MessyChurch1   SundaySchoolGame

I have been welcomed at small rural churches which are determined to displace (at least some) of their pews for people, in order to extend their outreach to the local community as well as offering hospitality to their congregations and creating space for Messy Church of which I have seen several examples. I have also seen youth and children’s work, using a village hall in the centre of the community.

CapelDewiCake   LawrennyShop1

I have seen several examples of the church’s involvement in community shops, one housed in a hall which has been refurbished to the extent of being able to hold regular film shows.

PencaderGreenCentre   CaerfelinAssembly2
I have seen a former church school in the shadow of a massive twelfth century motte, housing a Green Technology centre. I have been privileged to visit a great number of schools both church and community and been both moved and stimulated by the searching questions asked me by the pupils in question and answer questions: you have no idea what sort of questions can be sparked by the appearance of a bishop in cope mitre and carrying his pastoral staff.

AudreyEvans   BroPreseliTea
It has been a particular privilege to visit members of congregations, who are now housebound, more than one centenarian among them, and also visiting senior members of congregations in sheltered accommodation: one visit to a new complex in Pembrokeshire was particularly impressive.

StIshmaelsScones   CaffiBecaService
I have also had — and this has had a marked effect on the episcopal waistline — lemon drizzle cakes being a particular episcopal temptation — please, don’t tell my doctor — coffee, lunch and tea, with church officers, giving them — and the bishop — an opportunity to discuss and tease out the implications of the diocesan strategy. This is in addition to the charge which I give at a Eucharist in one of the churches of the groups — and it has been a very special experience for me to have been able to preside at the Eucharist, and one which sticks in my memory is the Pub Eucharist which I celebrated last week for a group of five churches on the Carmarthenshire-Pembrokeshire border.

I have by now made forty visits since the beginning of this pilgrimage around this diocese in the steps of St David; and I have now visited one hundred and fifty five churches and their congregations out of the three hundred and twenty eight which are listed in the Diocesan Year Book.

I must also congratulate the clergy who have put together some amazing venues and events for me to visit and get a taste of the real vitality which characterises the life of even the smallest churches in the diocese of St Davids.

Rebecca   PlasDwblDemo1

MynachlogDduCrafts5   PowerStationTour

I have visited museums; wielded a blacksmith’s hammer; been impressed by the complexity and scale of a hydro-electric plant and the huge number of fish in its fish farm; listened for the bottom of the valley to the distinctive bellow of a narrow gauge locomotive on which I had travelled a few weeks before; visited art and craft exhibitions in churches; climbed a hillside to see a particularly significant early mediaeval boundary stone; visited a potter’s workshop and see him throw a vessel on his wheel; seen wrecks and sand dunes and a mediaeval and early modern gentry house spectacular even in ruin.

PotteryVisit2   CourtFarmTour1
St David was fortunate: he was one hundred and forty seven years old (so they say) and founded a huge number of churches (again, so they say: I have my doubts). I, on the other hand, have completed just under half of my journey in his footsteps: and I am, D.V. looking forward to visiting the remainder in the fourteen months I have left in post. I will be beginning again in September.
+Wyn St Davids St James’ Tide

6: Back to our roots

On the Thursday before St David’s Day, on my pilgrimage Yn Amsang Dewi Sant, In the Steps of St David, I found myself, if not at journey’s end, then in that part of the world which is most associated with our Patron saint.

Llanrhian   Mathry

I was in Dewisland itself, whose Welsh name is Pebydiog . It is the area of Wales most associated in legend with Dewi himself, the area, so it is said, where his earthly journey began in the sixth century. Granston Jordanston StNicholas

I was visiting the group of five ancient churches which has recently been constituted as the Benefice of North Dewisland. By the end of the day the total number of churches I had visited since the journey began just over a year ago was one hundred and eleven (out of three hundred and thirty); and I had been welcomed by the clergy and people at twenty seven benefices. This last sequence once again presented me with the sheer variety of churches and congregations in this diocese; and with the generally positive and hopeful attitudes of both clergy and people as they face the numerous and far reaching structural changes which affect both diocese and province at this juncture. Aberaeron Clergy

It took me from the Carmarthenshire estuary to the North Cardiganshire coast; from the eastern edge to post industrial Carmarthenshire; from substantial Victorian seaside churches to very small rural and quite isolated churches, one of which once produced thirteen clergy (their names are on the sanctuary panelling) including a bishop. This reminds us of how much the rest of the Church in Wales and Anglican churches far afield owe to North Cardiganshire as a nursery of the ordained ministry; and of how things have changed – the last name was dated 1939.


The journey included a visit to Pembrokeshire and a newly established Local Ministry Area, which gave the opportunity to both people and clergy to tell me how it was all going. Then there were the projects reaching out to the community, especially the lonely; and a substantial number of those projects involve the use of church buildings refurbished to meet those particular needs as well as creating spaces for post service hospitality…

SchoolAssemblyPres2    College

…contact with schools, – both church and community, both English and Welsh medium – and with tertiary education: it is so good to know that clergy are making and sustaining links with the schools on their patch, both as governors an visitors.

NashShop  BegellyGardenAdit

There were visits to local employers, heritage sites, housebound parishioners, including some very alert nonagenarians and centenarians, and there was the worship in all its variety but in every case prepared with care and delivered with sensitivity.

CityBlessing2015    IMG_0721

And then having visited and enjoyed my visit to North Dewisland, on St David’s Day itself I found myself literally, or at least metaphorically and in imagination, treading in the steps of St David, as we made our way in procession from the well at St Non’s, his traditional birthplace, through the streets of the village city to the Square, on to the mediaeval Cross – it is me or do the steps up to the Cross get steeper every year? – for the blessing of the City and then down to the Cathedral through the Close for prayers at the Shrine. Procession I did indeed have the feeling, given that we were singing Baring Gould’s hymn, that we were ‘treading where the saints have trod’. I have the same feeling, as I continue my journey in Dewi’ footsteps around the diocese to churches which bear the names of so many of his contemporaries, the saints of the ancient British church. But that feeling is not confined to the past. I also feel, and know, that what I have seen and experienced in the last year, mans that I am walking alongside and in the footsteps of the saints of the present, who give life and grow hope to the communities in which they live; and whom they serve. Bendith y Garawys as bob un ohonoch + Wyn Tyddewi.

5: Finishing the First Phase

My first year of parish visits in the footsteps of St David is at an end. Time to reflect on the final steps on this first part of the journey:

YsbytyYstythIt is always good at the end of a winter’s day to get in out of the cold and the wet – and it was cold and wet that day – and to stand or sit beside a roaring fire. That was my experience at the end of the last sequence of visits this year. And very good it was too.

It may surprise you but that happened to me inside a church. Ysbyty Ystwyth whose mediaeval church has been restored for use, following the abandonment of the now over large Victorian church, has a working fireplace — and it works very well indeed – and keeps the congregation, the officiant – and, on this occasion, the bishop – warm and comfortable.

It is the first church I have come out of in the winter seeking cooler air! But it was absolutely right and it was so good to be part of that small devoted worshipping community.

LlanfihangelCreuddynExt   TrisantExt1

The day itself had involved visits to several church buildings: a very large mediaeval church; a former estate church of which my father was once vicar; a small church on the very edge of the diocese which has several Early Christian monuments within it;

YCTrees3   YCTrees2

An equally small church crammed with Christmas trees placed there by so many different communities and organisations and other churches within the wider local community; another former estate church which was magnificently restored by WD Caroe after a disastrous fire in 1932: it is to my mind his masterpiece; and I am certainly envious of its large and airy vestry

HafodExt    YsgoldyGoch

The Eucharist there, was followed by a cawl lunch in the little hall, centre of much community activity. And all of this – buildings, community and landscape – brought to vibrant life by the various congregations, small in number but still focussed, still engaged, and through their loyalty to their particular church proclaiming the love of God and the care of Jesus Christ for their neighbour

Such a day is so characteristic of this diocese and its parishes and its congregations. I could write the same about any one of the eight groups of parishes which I have visited since my last blog.

I have been in each of the three archdeaconries and each of the three counties, four indeed at the eastern edge which make up this large diocese.

HayscastleView    GolfClubExt

I have seen breathtaking views of the Tywi valley; glimpses of the sea in Ceredigion as I looked out from a cawl lunch in the local golf club who also provided a room for a Q and A session with the ministry team and wardens; and experienced a Pembrokeshire tourist destination out of season — it was at one of the parishes attached to the latter that I consecrated a piece of land in the wind and pouring rain.

HistoryMural   Ceremony1Crop

I have been to schools both very large and very small — it is not only rural churches which are very small — I have been to schools in each in the three archdeaconries, both county and church schools, and explained what a bishop is and does, wearing my cope and mitre as a visual aid. More important, is when the children ask me about my work as a bishop; and searching indeed are the questions.


Equally searching and equally welcome are the vigorous question and answer sessions whether in Welsh over coffee and biscuits in one very small church or in English and in a much larger mediaeval building over a bring and share lunch.

Tea   LunchMeeting
They are usually to do with the future and with the way the diocese envisages the future and the strategic way ahead. I find these very useful since I can engage directly with people’s hopes and fears.

I have been humbled and heartened with the serious and engaged way all the churches and congregations, many of them very small indeed are approaching the future in hope and a determination to be there reaching out in service and mission and ministry for as long as possible

I have been invited to watch a training session for a circus which regularly uses one of our church halls and is an outstanding example of outreach to the young people in a post industrial community in the eastern edge of the diocese;

to think of a name for a sheep;


and I have visited church sites where the building has been long abandoned but retains that indefinable sense of the numinous.


I have experienced the high quality of the art and architecture of the fittings of so many of our churches, especially windows and mural decoration of so many of our churches: they are treasure houses not only of devotion but of the arts.

HafodRoof   StUrsulasWindow
Above all, however, what has impressed me as I have been around the eighty two churches I have visited since February – and remember there is also the round of confirmations and dedications/rededications; the committees and the conferences which fall to a bishop’s lot: that still goes on as well as being available to those who wish to see the bishop – what has impressed me is not only the fidelity and loyalty of congregations but the devotion and loyalty of my colleagues in the ministry.

HouseGroup    LlanwnnwsGroup

So much of what they do: the day in and day out pastoral care both to the worshipping and to the wider community; leading worship Sunday by Sunday; reaching out to those in any kind of need and being there for them. That never comes up on any one’s radar, but that is what we are about as a church and I want to recognise, acknowledge and affirm the role of those with whom I share ministry in this diocese and take this opportunity to wish them and the whole of the diocesan family, David’s Family, Teulu Dewi a Joyous Christmas and a Blessed New Year

Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd dda i chi gyd.

+Wyn Tyddewi

4: Reasons to be Grateful


The first sequence of visits is drawing to its close- I have one more visit to an Area Dean’s parish. Dates and places are, however, already in place not just for the end of this year but well on into next year for the second one.

In the meantime,

  • I have walked the bounds of an ancient borough;

On the heritage trail in St Clears

  • stood on the river bank observing one of the most ancient forms of river transport in these islands and beyond in action — and no, given the force of the tide, I did not venture into the coracle, not even though Noah’s Ark may have been a somewhat scaled up version!

In Carmarthen with the coracle fishermen

  • was welcomed by an enthusiastic congregation who had imaginative and innovative ideas for the future for a comparatively isolated rural church with a small, surprisingly large mediaeval fabric;
  • been impressed by excellent work with youth and children;

Sunday School in Borth

  • seen at first hand ministry with schools at work;
  • experienced two instances of schools and former schools being used for worship and outreach following the closure of church buildings;
  • an imaginative conversion into a community meeting room of a former public lavatory;

MeetingRoom  MeetingRoomInt

  • appreciated the sterling efforts being made by congregations, often small, not only to keep the wind and the rain out of the historic fabric of their churches but also to enhance and modify them into places of solace and welcome for the wider community.

Most of all, I have valued immensely the opportunities both to preside at the Holy Eucharist at midday at so many churches and also to say Evening Prayer quietly at the end of the day in preparation for returning home.

Worship is what makes our church buildings live. Worship is what lays the foundation for the outreach and welcome which so many of our congregations, even in the most remote rural locations, extend to the wider local community and the passing visitor and pilgrim.

Worship into which the congregation pours its enthusiasm and devotion imbues our buildings with that sense of the holy which strikes and attracts the passing visitor and pilgrim and which strikes bishops on their travels around the diocese.

As I make this series of visits, I not only think of my first predecessor Dewi Sant, but all those clergy and ministers who served these congregations, sometimes successive generations of families.

IMG_0083Often their memorial tablets grace the walls of the churches they served, giving us some idea, fulsome language and rhetorical flourishes aside of the quiet dogged service they rendered to their parishes; often under the considerable restraints of pluralism and diversion of ecclesiastical income elsewhere.

More often than not, they lie buried beneath the altar under nameless slabs. We owe as much to them in their generation as we do to Dewi and his contemporaries whose names grace the numerous historic churches in the diocese which bears his name.

Bendith + Wyn Tyddewi

Michaelmas 2014