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bullet Monthly Letter of the Vicar of Oystermouth


The Vicar writes...

Dear friends,   

Those who come to the Choral Eucharist on Sunday mornings might have noticed several people who join us every few weeks or so.

            We are used to welcoming visitors and holidaymakers to our services, especially at this time of year, but these visitors are actually committed worshippers in some of the Swansea and Gower Churches. 

The reason they come to us quite regularly is because the Holy Eucharist is no longer celebrated every Sunday morning in their home parish.  A growing number of local Churches now offer a once a month Morning Prayer or a lay led Service of the Word. So our regular visitors come to us because they want to make their Holy Communion on a Sunday morning.  Some of them stay for coffee afterwards and several of them go off for Sunday lunch in one of the excellent restaurants in and around Mumbles.

I accept that, with fewer priests on the ground, it isn’t always possible to celebrate the Eucharist in every single Church these days, especially in multi parish rural communities. But I do sense that there is a moving away from the Eucharist as the main act of worship, Sunday by Sunday. 

            At a clergy meeting recently I was surprised to hear some of my colleagues talking about how they regularly replace the sacrament with a form of morning worship, even if there is a priest in the house. They claimed that this was returning the Church to its more Anglican roots.

            It’s true that, historically, our parishes had a said Communion service early on a Sunday morning, followed by Sung Matins [Morning Prayer], with the most popular service of the day, Evensong, being sung at around 6pm. That was the usual pattern for All Saints’ until the early sixties.

            Then came the ‘Parish Communion Movement’, which had its origins in the High Church revival of the nineteenth century.  Seventy plus years ago it had the enthusiastic support of Archbishop William Temple.  In post war Britain its rallying call was to “be the Lord’s people, around the Lord’s table, on the Lord’s day”.

            As a cradle Anglican I remember what Church was like when I was a boy.  It was a diet of Matins every Sunday, usually led by a ‘Lay Preacher’, with Holy Communion only celebrated at Christmas, Easter, Pentecost and the Ascension.  Then, all that changed with the arrival of a new and energetic young priest, who introduced Parish Communion every Sunday morning. The congregation more than doubled.

            Celebrating Holy Communion meant that we became more of a sacramental community. We met the risen Lord, not only in the proclamation of the Word, but in the breaking of the bread. Our worship became a celebration of both Word and Sacrament.

            I’m convinced that one of the reasons the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches have remained relatively strong, as Welsh Nonconformity has virtually collapsed around us, is that we are a Eucharistic people. Though we can read our Bibles and say our prayers at home, we need to gather together to celebrate and make our Holy Communion.

            I enjoy many different forms of worship, traditional and contemporary. I like the great hymns of the past and many of the modern worship songs,  but my life, as an Anglican Christian and priest, is rooted in word, sacrament and in outreach to the community.  

            If, in the future, we gather on Sunday mornings as the Lord’s people around a worship team rather than the Lord’s Table then we will lose what the sacrament brings to our common life and work together.