A place of welcome

May those without shelter be under your guarding this day, O Christ,
May the wandering find places of welcome.
O son of the tears, of the wounds, of the piercings,
May your cross this day be shielding them. (excerpt from Celtic prayer)

June 25
Aberdaron, Wales

St. Hywyn's Church in Aberdaron, on the northwest coast of Wales, is a place for pilgrims. Vicar Jim Cotter said this has been a Christian place of worship on the edge of the sea since the fifth century.

Pilgrims have been coming to this church for centuries, many on their way to Bardsey Island. The winds, tides and currents make the three mile crossing risky, but people came to this place, between one world and another, seeking and searching, on a journey but not knowing what they would find.

Unlike the Romans who built straight roads across this region, having predetermined the direction and the destination, it is better for pilgrims, says Cotter, to hoist their sails and go where the wind blows. "You may not get to where you thought you were going," he says, "But you will most certainly get to where you are supposed to go."

R.S. Thomas, a well-known Welsh poet, was vicar at St. Hywyn's in the 60s and 70s. Thomas is said to have burnt all his robes on the beach in a great bonfire on the day he retired. Some say he would have like to burn most of his poems as well!

Cotter gave our band of pilgrims a book of Thomas' poems and sent us out to read them in the church's graveyard or along the beach. Later that evening as I walked the beach in the moonlight and again the next morning as I walked through the fog that covered the beach I kept thinking about one of R.S. Thomas' poems that I had read:

Prompt me God,
But not yet. When I speak,
though it be you who speaks
through me, something is lost.
The meaning is in the waiting.

This church is a place of welcome. May I be a person of welcome here and in the days ahead.


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