Pilgrimage to Llanfihangel Abergwesyn

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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Start: EOD, Beulah 10 am or Penygeulan Quarry (SN905 538) 11 am

There will be a short reflection at Penygeulan Quarry 11 am at which anyone will be welcome whether you are walking or not

Finish: Llanfihangel churchyard in Abergwesyn (SN854 526) with closing reflection c.3: 30 pm

The pilgrimage is based on the ancient legend of St. Michael moving the stones of the church to Abergwesyn from the Cammarch Valley. It will be a spiritual but informal walk open to people of all faiths or none and will involve carrying a stone from the quarry to Llanfihangel (you can choose what size!)

Introduction, Context and History

Llanfihangel Abergwesyn is a beautiful site in the small hamlet of Abergwesyn at the confluence of the river Irfon and the river Gwesyn in the Cambrian mountains. The church building famous for its beautiful rose window was removed in the early 1960s because it had become dangerous but the churchyard remains and it is fondly remembered by older residents. The churchyard contains some notable yew trees and a fine granite Celtic cross which is a listed monument. There is a churchyard fund which keeps the grass mown but many parts are overgrown and it would benefit from more extensive management. It is generally thought to be a very ancient site with its raised circular shape, although its exact origins are wrapped in legend. It is certainly very strange that it is so close to Llandewi Abergwesyn on the other side of the Irfon. There is a fine history of the churches and parishes written by Ruth Bidgood, a poet and resident of Beulah.

A Pilgrimage Reflection

We are gathered here today in the Cammarch Valley because of this ancient story:
 
The legend says that the original plan was, indeed, to build Llanfihangel church about 4 miles from Llanddewi, in the Cammarch Valley. The chosen spot, according tradition, was at or near the little farmhouse of Dolcegyrn, the ruins of which can still be seen upstream from Llednant. But St. Michael disapproved of this site, and hard though the builders might work by day, their labours were undone each night, when St. Michael would, by superhuman means move all the stones up to the side opposite Llanddewi. Eventually it was recognized that resistance was futile, and the second little church was built where the saint wished.
(Ruth Bidgood in Parishes of the Buzzard)
 
But we are also here because we are pilgrims. Each of us is seeking for that fertile place where we can be planted, where we can grow and flourish, where we can find our rest.
 
For some this will be a physical place
for others a state of mind
 
For some this is a place which has been known but is now lost
for others it might be a place you feel you are in right here and right now
 
For some it is a place for which you are eagerly searching
for others it comes and it goes like the passing of the seasons
 
But we are all pilgrims upon this earth. We are each of us on a journey. We each of us know desire and longing for a better place
 
So let us reflect now on where we are in this moment of time.
 
Are you where you want to be, or are you looking to be somewhere else?
 
What is it in your life that feels good and right and whole?
 
What is it in your life that feels awkward and frustrating and out of place?
 
What are the decisions and choices that you are facing?
 
What are the confusions and troubles that you would like to see more clearly, become less weighty or even be resolved in the course of this walk?
 
We suggest you select a stone to carry to Abergwesyn, it might symbolize something for you a burden, or a hope, or something more intangible. You may want to scratch something on it, you may want to take two: one to leave at Abergwesyn, one to take home with you. It may be small and easy to carry, it may be heavy and more of a burden. It is up to you!

Reflection at the end of the pilgrimage

Each of us has journeyed. And we have journeyed together. In different ways we have experienced the passing of time and the moving of bodies. You may have received some important insight, you may have just enjoyed the company and the landscape, you may have felt heavy, as if you are carrying a weighty burden. But we have all journeyed and now we are here in this time, in this place and with these people
 
What memory will you take away from this pilgrimage?
 
What is personal and private to you, that you want to ponder in your heart?
 
What do you want to share with others?
 
Time to share
 
Has anything moved or changed for you today? Is there anything you need to do?
 
If you have brought a stone with you from Penygeulan and you want to leave it here, now would be a good time!
 
So finally may you know blessing in your life. May you find that fertile place where you are meant to be, where you can grow and flourish and experience life in all its fullness…

Resources

Parishes of the Buzzard Ruth Bidgood 2000. A history of the area see also other work of hers such as the booklet on the Abergwesyn churches. See also her collected poems which includes works about Llanfihangel and the surrounding area.

Trees of the Celtic Saints Andrew Morton 2009. Mention of Abergwesyn yews and those at Llanafan Fawr and Llanwrtyd

At the Bright Hem of God Peter J. Conradi 2009. Refers to Ruth Bidgood but more generally an important meditation on Radnorshire and surrounding areas 'as a place of contemplation, exploration, creation and retreat'

A Celtic Primer Brendan O'Malley. 2002. A very useful resource for Welsh and Celtic worship

Gwesyn Liz Fleming-Williams & Simon Fraser 2006 A 30 min sequence of still photographs with natural sounds tracing the river Gwesyn from its source to Abergwesyn. A beautiful invocation of the surrounding landscape.

http://www.st-melangell.org.uk/ " St Melangell's is one of the loveliest small churches in Britain, and one of the most remote. Its famous shrine attracts many visitors, but not enough to disturb its tranquillity. Close by, The Saint Melangell Centre offers support to people in need by offering a contemplative space and opportunities for refreshment and renewal."

www.journeying.co.uk  Journeying is an ecumenical organisation which takes small groups on holiday in an informal Christian ambience to the more off-the-beaten-track parts of Britain and Ireland. What we offer is almost certainly unique in Britain. Its origins lie in Celtic spirituality and most of our trips still reflect that approach.Pilgrimage has been part of our story from the earliest days and that aspect continues to form a thread woven through all that we do. See report of their visit to our area http://www.journeying.co.uk/Pages/DiaryTywiValley2012.aspx .

Morwen’s Angel – a story

Morwen's AngelMorwen was so excited she felt as if her heart might burst. Finally they were to have their own church. Morwen loved churches. The darkness. The silence. The beautiful objects. When she first visited St. Afan's church she wanted to stay there forever. Even if she didn't understand the Latin she loved to hear the stories of Deborah and Gideon, of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, of David and Non... and to just sit quietly in the candle light. It was so different from running around helping her mother, fighting with her brother and carrying the water up from the Cammarch.

 

Morwen lived in the Cammarch Valley and the people of the Cammarch Valley didn't have their own church. They had to travel to St. David's Church by the river Irfon or take the long journey to St. Afan‘s church. Cadoc, the big man of the valley, was desperate to have his own church. He had been planning it with Capellanus for years and now the time had finally come. Their very own church. In the Cammarch Valley. Morwen could go there every day, say a prayer and just be silent. She was so excited!…

This is the beginning of the story copies are available for 2. 50 including p & p or 2 from EOD church, Beulah

 

Celtic cross