Rector's Blog

My Fifth Anniversary Message

This week I am celebrating the fifth anniversary of my coming to the Borderlands Mission Area.  As often happens when you make a move, especially a happy one (and this has been a happy one) in one way it feels like I have only been here a very short time – in other ways I feel I have been here forever because I feel so welcomed and loved in this very special community.

The story of how I came to be in this part of Wales really does prove that God works in mysterious ways. Even through social media.  The Christmas of 2016 my son and family had hired a cottage in Betwys y Coed and after I had finished the Christmas services at my church in Manchester I drove over to join them. It was a lovely few days and so when I got home I sent a message via Facebook to a friend who was at that time a serving priest in Wales. “I think I am being called to Wales”. It was a light hearted throw away comment. A few days later I got a message back – “My colleague says is your friend serious?”  There was a job being advertised in the Borderlands Mission Area.  The job in question wasn’t the one I eventually came to but it was this exchange that led me to apply for the post at St Deiniol’s and St Francis.

I had visited and stayed at Gladstone’s Library a number of times so knew the village a little (including the Fox and Grapes!).  I had stood looking up at our stunning Burne -Jones Nativity window and thought how wonderful to worship here – and then I moved here and I did!  

I never expected to move to the Church in Wales and when I saw my name being engraved on the tablets on the wall of St Deinol’s,  (the first woman to serve as Rector), I could never have imagined that during my time here our churches would be closed due to Covid.  I had never even heard of Zoom!   But close down we did and it was a painful time particularly for those who lost loved ones and could not hold funerals in church and for those, like myself, with relatives in care homes who they could not visit for over a year.  But here at St Deiniol’s we adapted. We met via Zoom on a Sunday and I was full of admiration for some of our most elderly members who took up this new form of communication.  The clergy team met for Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer on line and people joined us on Facebook.   New members joined our church during this time.  And what a joy when we finally re-opened.

The most heartening thing about being in Hawarden has been people’s openness to deepening their discipleship and willingness to reach out to people in new and different ways – our dawn service at the foot of the wooden cross in our churchyard, leaving our Jesus Rocks around the village, our egg rolling, introducing our village magazine. We enjoy a wide range of worship from Choral Evensong to our Afternoon Church down at St Mary’s with its worship songs.  I could go on and on.  So much happens here and it is underpinned by faithful attendance at the Eucharist.

I have taken on new roles. I am now Mission Area Leader of the Borderlands Mission Area. I was recently installed as Canon Missioner at the Cathedral.  Revd Alan, Revd Gail and I now look after St Mary’s Broughton as well as St Deiniol’s and St Francis.

There are of course challenges ahead.  The church building at St Francis will be closing but that does not mean we cease to share the Gospel in Sandycroft so we have to find new ways to do that.  All our churches following Covid face financial pressures and St Deiniol’s is no different in that respect.  We also need to spend money on repairing and restoring our beautiful heritage building. 

I cannot thank everyone who I minister alongside enough for their support and energy, not just the marvellous clergy team, though I am very grateful to them,  but everyone who in different ways plays a part in living and sharing the Christian faith. I have gained much more from all the good people in this place than I have given them.  I feel very called to be in this corner of Wales.  My own faith has deepened during my time here and I also have such a lot of fun.  We spend a lot of time laughing and enjoying life.  My prayer is that during my time here I can work towards making sure that our church, both in terms of people and the building, will be in a strong position when I (finally!) leave and that those who worship here in the future and seek to share Jesus’ message with the wider community will have a good and sure foundation to work upon. Rev’d Canon Andrea Jones