Today was our last full day in Cardiff. And it was Sunday, and I was scheduled to preach to the Unitarians of Cardiff in the afternoon. And it was pouring. For much of the day, anyway. So what to do on a rainy Sunday in Cardiff? Why not go to church?
We decided to go to the Llandaff Cathedral and had thought to take the bus from the city center, but thought better of the 20-minute walk to get the bus given the downpour. So we took a taxi. Which was lovely, because we got to see some very nice windy streets and old houses on the way to Llandaff (which was, at one time, a separate village, but is part of Cardiff now). We got to the Cathedral shortly before the 11:00 service, so the bells were ringing. They are the most beautiful church bells I’ve ever heard. Twenty-Two-Year-Old wasn’t keen to attend church twice today, so we didn’t stay for worship, but walked around outside and in the cemetery. Even in the rain, it was quite peaceful and the birds were singing. We walked back up the hill and looked at the ruins of a bell tower that’s now a war memorial, and also a lovely walled garden and some other ruins. We had a lovely lunch at Jasper’s Tea Room, and then we headed back to the cathedral to look around some more after the 11:00 service had ended. There was another service going on in the Lady Chapel, and it was being transmitted via speakers throughout the church.
The cathedral has been destroyed by war and rebuilt many times. The church continues to rise. It was a heartening also to see so many people in attendance at worship. As we walked through the cathedral, I listened to the priest’s words calling for peace on earth.
We took the bus back to the city center, and stopped in at Costa for some tea and cookies (aka biscuits) before I had to preach. After the tea, we walked by St. John the Baptist church, one of the oldest churches in Cardiff. The bell tower is visible from the castle.
We headed for the Quaker Meeting House, where the Unitarians meet these days. There are only about 15 members of this historic congregation these days, so they made the difficult decision to sell their building about 12 yer ago. The Quaker Meeting House is small, but comfortable and cozy. Meeting there is like getting a cwtch – (pronounced “cutch”) – a cuddle (in Welsh) from the church.
The Cardiff Unitarians meet in a circle. They have their own little pulpit, and they also light a chalice, as we do in the U.S Once a month they have a service in Welsh. Fortunately for me, that will be NEXT Sunday. They don’t take a collection. The most striking difference for me was the clear understanding by the congregation that the lighting of candles was a prayerful time. Even when sharing out loud for whom or for what they were lighting their candles, no one went on at a great length. This is for so-and-so who’s been ill, or for my new brother, or for peace on earth. No long-winded explanations.
Even though there were only about a dozen of us at most, we gathered to pray and to be a religious community together. There were little children, young adults, middle-aged adults, grandparents, and possibly great-grandparents all together. Just as the cathedral in Llandaff keeps rebuilding after outside forces try to tear it down, the Unitarians have found a way to keep going on, one way or another.
After the worship, they serve tea. Proper tea in china cups and saucers with tea cakes and biscuits and such. We stayed and talked, because people wanted to know about us a bit. We were being the church.
At the cathedral people came together to hear the word and to go out into the world to be the church. On Charles St.. In Cardiff, the Unitarians came together to worship and to go out again and do the work of the church. It doesn’t matter what church. It doesn’t matter what religion. It matters that we keep doing it. In Cardiff, and in Edinburgh, and in the U.S. And everywhere else.
That’s all I’ve got. That’s my mite.