The meeting at St Peter’s Holywell on Saturday 13 July attracted over 20 people who at the end of the meeting agreed to organize a second meeting on September 21, also at Holywell at 2.30pm. The Revd Aidan Coleman, vicar of Holywell chaired the 13 July meeting. The Revd Colin Coward, Director of Changing Attitude England, talk about the evolution of Changing Attitude and responded to questions about the work of CA and how Changing Attitude might be organized in Wales.
One elderly member of the congregation came, conveniently ignoring the clear intention of the meeting and was the first to ask a question, challenging the pro-gay intent of the gathering. Apart from his presence, there was a remarkable energy in the meeting and great enthusiasm for moving ahead to create
The Church in Wales has six dioceses. Bangor and St Asaph are close to the North Wales coast. St David’s, Llandaff, Swansea and Brecon and Monmouth are in the south. Organising CA Wales to bridge the north-south divide is a challenge, but no more so than that faced by the bishops when they meet.
Knowing that I was speaking at the Holywell meeting and prompted by Aidan, meetings had been arranged with Andy John, Bishop of Bangor and Gregory Cameron, Bishop of St Asaph. Both were very welcoming. I was grateful for the opportunity to learn from both of them something about the ethos and structure of the Church in Wales and the ways in which the church has responded to human sexuality and the listening process. The church hasn’t formally debated teaching related to LGB&T people. It is in the happy position of not having an equivalent document to England’s Issues in Human Sexuality. Both bishops were supportive of a positive change in attitude in the church towards the fuller inclusion of LGB&T people. Barry Morgan, the Archbishop of Wales, is of course, a patron of CA England.
Before the meeting I visited St Winefride’s Well. The Shrine building was built in the early 16th century and is small but unusually complex late perpendicular space. The Roman Catholic Church looks after the shrine. Entrance to the shrine is through a relatively recently built visitor’s centre, an exhibition and shop. It is grim. The exhibition is tacky as are the goods on sale in the shop. The solo staff member showed no interest in visitors. Bathing is permitted but only at set times. Pleasure in the healing potential of the water is not allowed. A group with a number of children ignored the notice, removed shoes and socks, sat on the edge and splashed their feet in the water – bully for them.
At a level above the shrine building is the Anglican parish church of St James’, largely rebuilt in 1769 but originally founded by St Beuno in the 7th century. The church was open to visitors and two elderly ladies, members of the congregation, were on hand to welcome people. Sadly, few visit St James’, heading direct to the shrine. The guardians of the shrine would benefit from Anglican input because the elderly ladies were well informed and generous with their welcome.
I reflected with them and later with bishop Gregory on the contrast between the lack of welcome at the shrine and the religious tat on sale compared with the genuinely warm welcome at the parish church. Holywell could be a genuine centre of Christian vision and inspiration, if only those responsible for the shrine were enthused with some measure of love and a passion for Gospel, Christ-like truth and justice.