St. Stephen's Church Hightown

....part of the local community.

Revd. Jan AshtonDear All,

Happy St David’s Day.

While investigating St. David on the internet, I read this poem and liked it very much so now I’m sharing it with you.

St David

by David James Jones, who uses the Welsh pen name Gwenallt.
There is no barrier between two worlds in the Church.
The Church militant on earth
Is one with the Church triumphant in heaven,
And the saints are in this Church which is two in one.
They come to worship with us, our small congregation,
The saints our oldest ancestors
Who built Wales on the foundation
Of the Crib, the Cross and the Empty Tomb.
And they go out as before to travel their old ways
And to evangelise Wales.
I have seen Dewi going from shire to shire like the gypsy of God,
With the gospel and the altar in his caravan;
He came to us in the colleges and schools
To show us the purpose of learning.
He went down into the pit with the coal miners
And shone his lamp on the coal face.
He put on the goggles of the steel worker, and the short grey overall
And showed the Christian being purified like metal in the furnace.
He brought the factory people into his disreputable Church
He carried the Church everywhere
Like a body with life and mind and will,
And he did small things and great.
He brought the Church into our homes,
Put the holy vessels on the kitchen table
With bread from the pantry and wine from the cellar,
And he stood behind the table like a tramp
So as not to hide from us the wonder of the sacrifice.
And after the Communion we had a talk round the fire
And he spoke to us of God’s natural order,
The person, the family, the nation and the society of nations
And the cross which prevents us from making any of them into a god.
He said that God had made our nation
For his own purposes.

One of the reasons I like the poem is, it shows me how God is there in the ordinary - the factories and mines of Wales and how these are blessed through the extraordinary life of a saint. Saints are said to be the visible evidence of how God works in the world. We often make the comparison between saints and stained glass windows. The latter let light shine through so we can see inside and the former let God shine through so we know more about what God is like.

This poem pays tribute to the long lasting effects St David has had on the Welsh people; the poem describes St David as if he’s there still visiting ordinary working people in the 20th century. Despite living in the 6th century, St David is still being ‘the gypsy of God’ going around in his caravan adding wisdom to the people’s lives. He convinces others about the importance of education and gives an insight into how faith can be compared to the actions of the steel workers- they are refining their metal and faith purifies our lives.

The poem is written by Gwenallt, (18 May 1899 – 24 December 1968) the pen name of David James Jones. I think this light shining through so we can see more of God is happening both in the poem describing St David and also in the life of the poet. Gwenallt was born in Pontardawe, Glamorganshire, the eldest son of Thomas "Ehedydd" ("lark") Jones and his wife Mary. Conscripted into the Army in 1917 during World War I, he declared himself a conscientious objector and was imprisoned in Wormwood Scrubs before being transferred to Princetown Work Centre in the former Dartmoor Prison until April 1919. His father was killed by molten metal in the tin works, and this had a deep effect on him. In his youth he regularly attended chapel, but later he embraced Marxism. Still later he changed his opinions and became a Welsh nationalist and a Christian poet.

Despite what Genallt experienced, his faith seems strong and Christian themes are present in much of his work.

I started off comparing stained glass and saints. I want to finish with another comparison. In the poem we see God shining through the saint and in the writing of this poem we can see God shining through the poet. In the poem I’m reminded God is interested in the ordinary and in the poet I was reminded that despite tragedy in your life God can still shine through.

Enjoy your leeks!

Revd. Jan Ashton
Vicar of St. Stephens, Hightown

Revd. Jan Ashton Vicar of Hightown, Liverpool. Telephone: 0151 929 3971 Email Me Here