One of the most fascinating things about blogging is the ‘stats’. They’re the amazing statistics that tell me the countries where I have been read. Today I added them up and discovered I have had readers in 60 different countries. How about that! It sounds much more impressive than it really is. Influencers are read by millions and even humble blogs may reach hundreds of thousands. My readers only number a few hundreds. Readers in many countries, from Afghanistan to Uruguay, have only turned up once – probably by mistake. And I can’t really count New Zealand either, because I have a lot of family there.
On the other hand I do appear to have one faithful reader in China, who has been following me for a year or more now. Of course, I don’t really know if it is one lone Welsh man or woman who suffers from ‘hiraeth’* occasionally, or whether it’s several people, of different nationalities, far from home. Perhaps it’s an English Language class taking it in turns to see what an elderly Brit has on her mind at the moment. Who knows? If it is someone other than an ex-pat I had better give more detail about Wales and Welsh in the future.
For example, the Archbishop of Wales has just announced his retirement. In China people may be under the impression that all Archbishops in the Anglican church are pretty much the same, and have the same status and power as the Archbishop of Canterbury. The fact is, size matters and whereas Archbishop Justin Welby has 80 million Anglicans in the world who look to him, the present Archbishop of Wales only has ultimate responsibility for 42,500 people. That is why I get so incensed when he and his five other Bishops take it upon themselves to re-write basic Christian tradition.
Another thing my “Stats” tell me is how many people read which of my posts. For a long time the clear favourite was “Empty boxes, empty gestures, empty words” but recently there has been a post many, many times more popular so I am going to re-post it. It was called “Faith not Angst” and I posted it originally on May 22nd, 2020.
For the sake of today’s reader from Algeria I must explain that the boss of a Cathedral is not the bishop but the Dean. In Wales the Dean of one of the cathedrals hasn’t been seen anywhere near the place for almost a year. The Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, the Reverend Robert Willis, isn’t like that. For a start he is incredibly learned. Since the beginning of Lockdown he has delivered Morning Prayer every single day from somewhere in the Deanery Garden. Last week he took refuge in a greenhouse and we could hardly hear him for the rain beating on the roof. The next day he peered out from under an umbrella. Day after day he preaches the Gospel of Christ. He has never let us down. May God bless Dean Robert.
*Hiraeth – a Welsh word difficult to translate. Richard Burton described it as “a nameless longing for home.”
I don’t know how to re-post blogs so I’ve done a cut and paste job. The following is what I wrote on May 22nd last year, but without the photos of the Dean, the cats and the garden. You’ll have to scroll down through the blogs to find that. Better still, go to the Canterbury Cathedral website and watch all the episodes. You’ll be astounded at what you will learn.
“The Reverend Robert Willis, Dean of Canterbury, has been lifting my spirits, restoring my soul and making me feel far less of a Misfit every day since just after lockdown. The team at Canterbury Cathedral who appear daily on line from various places around the cathedral precincts provide Morning and Evening Prayer as well as the Eucharist and Compline. However, it’s the Dean who has stolen my heart.Every morning, no matter what chaos has been caused getting the day started — six of us in a three generation family, plus two puppies — the Dean, in his garden, gives me sanity, security and the assurance that God is in his Heaven and all’s right with the world, really. With consummate skill, he draws together the reading for the day, the needs of the day, a special person or event of the day and the wonders of the Deanery garden in a particular spot every day. All these elements are woven into the fabric of Morning Prayer, directly, simply and with eternal truth.
On Wednesday morning I found it unusually powerful. The reading was Luke, Chapter 7 vv. 2-10.
It is a story about a Roman officer in an army of occupation and his sick servant. However, the soldier, a Centurion, is a man of wisdom and understanding. Far from being a hated enemy he has taken a keen interest in the local people, their culture and religion and has even built a place in which they can worship their God. He also keeps abreast of local affairs and has the sensitivity to listen when he hears of a remarkable man doing remarkable things. As a man of authority he recognises authority in another.
As the Dean tells the story it is all about Faith. Jesus himself says as much. “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”
Even as I was listening to the Dean amongst the irises the memory of another sermon on this story was bugging me. At the same time, as I tried to concentrate on the
prayers, two words from a poem were buzzing in my brain. ‘Fools’ and ‘traps.’ Later, over a cup of coffee, my brain cleared and I remembered both the elusive sermon and the poem. The sermon had been given in Liverpool Cathedral by Revd Jeffrey John in May 2016 and the poem was “If” by Rudyard Kipling.
After a lot of history about homosexuality in the Roman Army the point of Dr John’s sermon was not faith, but, because Jesus would have known the Centurion’s servant was gay, proof that Jesus loves gays.
Here is the bit of the poem I was remembering:
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools . . .”
What I remember now of Dr John’s sermon was a complex convolution by an angry man. I still find those two lines of poetry most apt.”
Long may the Dean of Canterbury, in the company of his cats, continue to preach wisdom, truth and faith amongst the flowers.