Thursday, August 2, 2007

Pilgrimage to Aberdaron

Two weeks ago, we did our first trip through the northern part of Wales, moving through the Lleyn peninsula and ending in Aberdaron. Despite all the rain, the sun stopped as the bus made its way to the first church we were to see, a church in Clynnog Fawr associated with Beuno, the 7th century Northern Welsh saint who by legend had amazing healing powers, was the uncle of Saint Gwenfrewi (Winifred), and founded a monastery where the church currently is. The church is set right alongside the road in a tiny town –my guess is there were about 100 people living there—with a nice little restaurant/pub that we got to know well because, when we’d gotten back on board after seeing the church, our bus wouldn’t start again. We ended up spending another hour or so hanging out in the pub while the bus company sent a replacement and then stopping there again later for tea on our trip back to St. Deiniol’s. The church itself was a pretty large one for such a small town and had been used as a stopping place for pilgrims who were making the journey toward Abedaron and then ultimately Bardsey Island, but I didn’t find it remarkable in any other way. The church rector, who met us, pointed out both a painting on a wall of their smaller chapel, and a trunk which traditionally was used during Beuno’s day to keep any donations that pilgrims made. Both were in a very damp, very musty room which can’t have been good for them.

From there we traveled along the rest of the Lleyn peninsula to Aberdaron, which is a quaint village with lots of narrow winding streets, a great coastline with a small beach, and St. Hywyn’s Church. We met there with the vicar, Evelyn Davies, who has put most of her energy into fundraising to restore the church, using both its connection to pilgrimages to Bardsey Island, which can be seen from its graveyard (and which you can see behind Kathy and me in the picture) and to R.S. Thomas, the Welsh poet who was vicar at St. Hywyn’s from 1967 to 1978. (At the back of the church is a copy of his—to my mind, mediocre—poem The Other” on a slate.) I found much of her talk, focused as it was on restoring a church building rather than the people of the area or any other sense of mission, very boring and slightly frustrating, but really enjoyed being in the village itself (a little of which you can see up the road from the church cemetery).

From the village of Aberdaron we traveled up some very bumpy, very narrow roads into pasture lands where there was nothing but sheep and a wonderful view of Bardsey Island (which you can see between the heads of Dale Skinner, another student in my Drew D.Min. program, and me).

By then the sun was out, the sheep were running around happily, and the view of Bardsey was great.

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