Change and decay in all around I see....?

So runs a line in the hymn “Abide with me”, once popular at funerals but now replaced by the universal hymn “All things bright and beautiful”!

Had he lived until July 11th 2019, my father would have been 100 years old. Sadly, he died in 2000 the victim of dementure which took him to a care home for the last two years of his life, from where he was completely unable to communicate. He preached at St James for John Hunnisett in, I think, 1995 but was not at his best as the illness had begun to take hold.  The name Dursley was well-known to him as all the farm machinery he worked with proudly proclaimed the name Listers.

Brought up in a remote farmhouse (his father was a tenant shepherd) at the top of the Swansea valley in an area which was staunchly Welsh Calvinistic Methodist, my brother and I often wondered why he became an Anglican clergyman. Having nearly completed the trawl through my parents' belongings and carefully sifting through piles of paperwork, various things have come to light and it seems that his school strongly influenced his career choice. With very little family backing he won a scholarship to Maesydderwyn Grammar School in Ystradgynlais (accessed with a 6 mile cycle ride to catch the ‘bus for a further 6 miles) and came under the influence of Mr Seth Owen – then Head of English, but later Headmaster.

Mr Owen was an outstanding violinist and was a National Eisteddfod winner. Originally from Anglesey he read English at Bangor University and was a member of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales (founded after the disestablishment of 1920). Our only early photograph of my father is of the sixth form pupils at Maesydderwyn  (all fifteen of them!) with Mr Owen at the front.

My father followed in Seth Owen's footsteps to Bangor university where he read English, despite having learned that the Church in Wales' preferred route to ordination was via Lampeter; but outside ecclesiastical circles (in those days) a Lampeter degree was considered so lowly that it only covered the matriculation requirements of London University! Two years at Lichfield Theological College preceded ten years as a curate and priest-in-charge, and he was a vicar for another thirty-three years until an active retirement.

Unlike many of his generation he kept up to date with all things ecclesiastical and I know that he would be horrified to see the many of the things happening in today's church.

To start, he would be incredulous at the size of the Parish Share (in the “old” days the Diocesan Quota was never such a large proportion of parish income); he would be surprised to learn that Archdeacons no longer have parochial responsibility – especially when we are so short of full-time clergymen (today in the Church in Wales Archdeacons have parishes).  Equally he would be surprised at the number of staff (including ordained clergy without parishes) at the Diocesan Offices. He would have been disappointed with the lack of support for our regular worship from our church school pupils and staff. He would be rather sceptical about the way in which ordinands are selected with such little training (gone are the days when a degree of three years would be followed up by two years theological training and then the proper G.O.E examinations). I doubt he'd have been impressed with a Bishop who takes a ten week sabbatical after a short time in the diocese. He never had any sort of sabbatical in all his years' service! And I am sure there are several other areas of today's church life which would have surprised and amazed him.........

However, he would have been most impressed with the way in which the members of St James' and St Mark's congregations are all “doers” and roll up their sleeves and get on with things. Never having been able to learn to play a musical instrument, he loved listening to music, and I know he would have enjoyed the music at St James – though perhaps not some of the rather limp worship songs which we use occasionally! He would appreciate the fussless way in which the 10.00am Sung Eucharist is delivered with neat, unobtrusive serving and well focussed sermons (for most of the time!). The Dursley bells would be rather coveted as only one of his churches had a proper peal (with not very good ringers!), and he was all for encouraging people to know that the church is alive. What better way than with the bells at 9.00am on a Sunday! But most of all he would be delighted to see how we have the resources of a Parish Administrator as, in the “old” days, my mother acted as an unpaid secretary; admittedly at a time when there was rather less “paperwork”. In fact, today we are extremely fortunate in having Clive Orchard and his helpers who are at the beck and call of everyone in the Parish Centre and do so much to assist the smooth running of all areas of church life.

So it's not all “decay”, and in the past few years we have had quite a few “changes” but I guess like most of us, my father would have liked to see fewer changes, and only those changes which actually make a difference to our local worshipping community and are not just designed to increase layers of bureaucracy.                                              Nigel Davies


The Choir is on holiday during August. As ever we are pleased to welcome singers to join us particularly sopranos. Our first rehearsal after the holiday is Friday 30th August at 7.30pm in the Choir Room.


Come and Sing “The Pirates of Penzance”

We hope that marauding hoards will be heading for St James' church on Sunday 8th September where, at 2.30pm, there may well be clashes between Pirates, Police and Polite Society. However, don't panic as they will all be brought to a peaceful conclusion through the rehearsal of choruses from Gilbert and Sullivan's “The Pirates of Penzance”.

A hearty tea in the form of a Pirate Picnic will further cement relationships and brace the band of players and performers for the costumed concert performance with celebrated soloists at 6.30pm; proceeds to the Pirates' Benevolent Fund - sorry, Church Funds.

Potential players of Pirates, Police and Polite Society can borrow a score on the day (from 2.00pm) or they may wish to bring their own. Outrageous costume will be most welcome, though some slightly more modest attire will be available to borrow on the day.

A few pieces of eight is all that it will cost you to climb aboard. Do join us is whatever capacity for the “first rate opportunity”. It should be great fun with, no doubt, a few surprises.......!                        Barbie Davies