Last Monday we took a visiting friend out for the day.
First stop a tailor’s shop, hidden deep in the Conwy Valley. Before her, her father operated out of this little hut, providing every type of outfit from Eton uniforms to marriage suits— which then got let out to accommodate middle age spread and then got taken in again, as old age took its toll. But she’s closed on Mondays. We then went to Gwydir chapel, just outside Llanrwst. But you have to get the key from Gwydir castle, which is closed on Monday. Never mind, just across the road from the castle is Ty Hwnt i’r Bont, where they serve Welsh Rabbit (or Rarebit if you prefer) to die for—providing it’s not Monday, when they’re closed. Ty Gwyn, on the edge of Betws-y-Coed, was open, fortunately, and provided an excellent lunch; not Welsh Rabbit but Tomato and Basil soup, scallops, mushroom stroganoff and octopus salad, all fresh and delicious.
Then to Ty Mawr, Wybrnant, home of Bishop William Morgan, who translated the Bible into Welsh. They—the driver and the visiting navigator—said they’d checked on line and it was open till 4.30 pm. After taking a more than normally scenic route we finally arrived there at 4.10 pm where a notice on the gate announced that last admissions are half an hour before closing. But that information was irrelevant because it was closed all day Monday. So I just enjoyed the haunting isolation of the place and the concomitant peace and serenity.
William Morgan’s name is largely unknown today, which is hardly surprising because he was famous for translating the Bible into Welsh. I’m tempted to deliver a brief history lesson at this point because his is a story well worth telling and, for Welsh language speakers and enthusiasts, a vitally important one. Ty Mawr now contains a remarkable collection of bibles from around the world and it was in fact the Bible rather than Bishop Morgan that I was musing about on the journey home.
On BBC’s Desert Island, along with your eight discs, you will find the Bible and Shakespeare. Shakespeare is still on the school syllabus but what about the Bible? Do children ever get the opportunity to read the Bible these days? My guess is (and I would love to be told I couldn’t be more wrong) that Religious Studies for GCSE, which include such topics as citizenship, life issues, morality and philosophy and ultimate questions, don’t rely much on the Bible for example and illustration. In fact, the syllabus covers so many topics and so many religions that it can only skim the surface, and the Bible demands studying in depth.
If I’m right, what a wonderful world we are denying our children. What a hard task we’re giving ourselves trying to teach citizenship and life issues etc., without using all the amazing stories gathered for us in the Bible. There we can find storytelling beyond price. Get small children hooked with the story of Noah and move on from there. Joseph and his technicoloured dream coat—that’s got it all. There’s favouritism, jealousy, sibling rivalry, wickedness, crime, success, seduction, imprisonment, deception and guile, all building up to a triumphant finale. Skip several books and get to David. David and Goliath; David and Saul; David and Jonathan; David and Bathsheba.
I can see a problem, of course. If the Music syllabus doesn’t include a sufficient number of female composers to please young women they may object to reading a book written by men for men in a man’s world where assertive women are few and far between. There’s Judith cutting off Holoferne’s head and Jael beheading Sisera—both in a good cause, but there’s too much of that already in today’s world.
And yet, there are some amazing women in the Bible, delineated mainly in just a few words, yet revealing characters instantly recognizable. Read about Rebekah, for example, beginning in Genesis, Chapter 24. It’s a brilliant story, as relevant today as the day it was written, and should provide topics for discussion for several ‘Religious Studies’ lessons in more vivid language than any modern text-book will use. It will also pack more punch because it was true then and it’s true now, and that fact alone should give long pause for thought.
I trust Almighty God to know what He’s doing, though His “mysterious ways” are certainly hard to fathom at the moment, particularly in the Church in Wales. In fifty years time I pray my grandchildren won’t be blaming me for the fact they’ve only just discovered the wisdom of the Bible and resent the deprivation. I also pray that they will have enough of that uncommon attribute – common sense – not to stomp around, shrilly demanding apologies from the Minister of Education, if we still have schools and from the Archbishops, if we still have churches.
An after-thought: I wonder if it would make sense for churches to hold their major services on Mondays when everything else seems to be closed.