Saturday, 23 March 2013

The Spirit of Creativity

Eighteen members and friends of St David's Uniting Church gathered for a weekend at Coleg Trefeca to explore  the 'Spirit of Creativity'. Through worship, creative bible study, practical  exploration, stories and  a lot of laughter we relaxed together and discovered the goodness of God in new ways!

 Photo   PhotoPhoto

You can listen to some audio reflections from  those who attended the weekend.

And you can see on this audiovisual clip what the different 'creativity groups' got up to,  as they explored  the way of music, the way of writing, the way of photography and the way of art.

Some of the photos taken by the photographers amongst us can be seen here  (you may need to wait for permission to be granted for  you to access this site) . And there are more  photos here.


Thanks to James for putting together these audio visual  records of our weekend.

Friday, 15 March 2013

This is our story: journeys of faith

Bible stories   have a natural place in worship. We have readings from the bible in our sunday services,  and these are often  'brought to life' by the preacher  in the sermon. By and large, however, the congregation's engagement with the bible is one of meditative listening , not one of  active exploration.

It isn't often that we have the chance to dig deeper into bible studies  as a group activity.  During lent we have been doing just this, together with members of Castle Square URC.

'This is our story:journeys of faith' is the title of the course prepared by  Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. Radio 4 and local radio stations have picked up the theme in their religious broadcasting.

Each week we have look at a story from the Jewish scriptures, and a connected New Testament passage.    For example we read of the Israelites' rescue from  Egypt, crossing the red sea, alongside the account of Jesus' baptism... and the meaning of our baptism.   We looked at Moses' saving the Israelites from an infestation of poisonous snakes by lifting up a  bronze serpent on a pole, and at  the reference in John's gospel to Jesus being 'lifted up' on the cross for our salvation.  We looked at the feeding of the Israelites on manna in the desert alongside the  saying of Jesus 'I am the bread of life', and the meaning of communion for a christian community.

Under the skillful guidance of Gethin and Dan, we we  encouraged to make connections between  central stories of the Jewish faith and  core themes of our Christian faith.  We did so in a way that took account of our personal experiences and the  life and witness of churches of which we are, or have been a part.

A small minority of people made it to every session; the majority dropped in when they could.. sometimes just for one week, and that was fine!

Our congregational traditions put great score on the power of people of faith coming together in the name of the Holy Spirit to ponder the Bible. In discerning Gods word in this way, and doing it together, we can discover 'treasure' which is inspiration for our lives. And  we grow, not only as individuals but as a community.

It isn't something we do very much at St Davids Uniting.  Perhaps we should!  Especially as we begin to explore a bigger vision for our church in this locality, it will be vital that we remain firmly connected with the roots of our faith, and with one another.

Monday, 4 March 2013

The Magic Flute

'Hail to a new dawn of wisdom and brotherhood.'
      That is the conclusion of Mozart's opera 'The Magic Flute', but to get there we go through a series of fantastical scenes and adventures.  We were treated to a magical evening by Opera Mint at St. David's Uniting Church on 2nd March.
      Imaginative use was made of the whole of the space in the chapel and even the font was put to good use as a hiding place! When the chorus sang from the gallery behind the audience it put us right in the middle of the action.  I saw this as quite appropriate, as in order to make sense of the drama and the various physical and metaphorical journeys that the main characters take, the audience is obliged to undertake their own journey in understanding.  At the opening we think we know who the 'goodies' and the 'baddies' are, but as the drama progresses we realise that things are not what they seem and we end up with our perception of good and bad being turned completely upside down.
      This is certainly an ambitious project for an amateur opera company, but it was clear that a lot of thought had been put into it to convey the story through action and expression and with the help of a few simple, yet very effective props.

      For me, the strong character of Pamina came across very well and it was sung very confidently by Angela Brown.  Tamino and Pamina may have gone through their trials of fire and water, but I think the most courage was shown by Janet Powell as the Queen of the Night - especially in the extremely demanding aria 'Der Holle Rache', which trial she came through with flying colours.  James Stewart had a very warm bass voice in the role of Sarastro which was pleasing to listen to.  Other performances that I enjoyed especially were the three boys and Monostatos. However, I must admit that Trystan Francis just stole the show for me with his lovely clear resonant voice and witty portrayal of cheeky chap Papageno.             

      There were many other highlights - showing that the whole ensemble worked well together as a team. And not least of all was the skill and stamina shown by the two musicians accompanying and directing the singing - this was truly impressive.
      It is quite astonishing that such a remarkable performance should come to our 'little' chapel and that we had the opportunity and privilege to experience one of the most popular and greatest works of art of all time - created by the genius that is Mozart more than two hundred years ago!  
      I shall long remember this as a thoroughly entertaining and marvellous evening.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Lent at St. David's

During Lent a study group meets on Thursday afternoons following the theme of "This is our story: Journeys in faith".  It is tied in with the Sunday morning worship on BBC Radio 4.

Dan has also written a notice to us, thus:

Prayer is not asking for what you think you want,
but asking to be changed in ways you can't imagine.
Kathleen Norris (author; 1947 -  )

Last week Shelagh Pollard was here to lead us into the season of Lent.  Once again Christians around the world heard the story of how Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, to be with the wild creatures and the impossibly wild God who led him there.
Of course the forty days and forty nights that Jesus spent in the wilderness after his baptism recalls the forty years the people of Israel spent wandering in the wilderness after their escape from slavery by passing through the Red Sea.  For both Jesus and the people of Israel, the time in the wilderness was a test for their survival and their faith.  It was a time to understand at a visceral level what it meant to be called by God, chosen for a life of faith.  There were struggles, temptations, dangers and snares – a more harsh reality but otherwise not all that different from the challenges and surprising blessings we experience every day. 
Just as Jesus was called to the wilderness to figure out who he was and what he was meant to do, so we are called in this time of year to lean in and listen carefully to the voice of wisdom that calls us into fullness of life.  It’s a voice that often can get lost in the rush of schedules and the press of responsibilities and the drone of our own mind.  In Lent, we’re invited to walk with Jesus out into the spacious desert where the stars are bright and the silence allows us to listen more carefully.
This Lent, you are also invited in particular ways to step into the wild space of the holy and listen, consider, reflect.  Though we’re halfway through the Lenten series on Thursday afternoons, you’re always welcome to come: at St. David’s, in the Victoria Room, from 1:30 – 2:30.   Feel free to drop-in.
In two weeks, 17 people from St. David’s will travel to Trefeca for our Lenten retreat  The Spirit of Creativity.  There are a few rooms still available if you’d like to jump in.
As Jesus listened to clarify his call, so the work of this congregation now is to continue to listen to clarify the ministry to which you are called.  What will your priorities be?  How do you want to use your resources of time and energy and money?  How is this congregation called to be a life-giving presence to Pontypridd and the wide-world?  This is a time not only for first thoughts and opinions, but for careful discernment and prayer.
Of course, our regular worship on Sunday morning and evening is a time when we’re invited into the wilderness to listen, pray, tell stories, eat a little something and join the wild chorus of frogs, birds and the stones themselves which are known at times to cry out.
However you step into the season of Lent, may the Spirit of God find you wherever you are and offer insight, clarity and blessing.