CANON PATRICK’S 72nd LETTER

Dear friends,

NB: CLOSURE OF CHURCH BUILDING

Because someone who was in the church building (not at a service) has tested positive for
Covid, I have decided (after consultation with the Reverend Delyth Richards and the church
officers) to close Christ Church until it can be deep-cleaned after Christmas. This is to ensure
the safety of our much-loved congregation, some of whom are extremely vulnerable. Until
the church re-opens all services will be held on Zoom.

NEWLY REVISED CHRISTMAS SCHEDULE

Wednesday 16 December: 10.30am ZOOM HOLY EUCHARIST. SUNDAY 20 DECEMBER:
11am FAMILY ZOOM NATIVITY; 5pm ZOOM 9 LESSONS & CAROLS. Wednesday 23
December: 10.30am ZOOM HOLY EUCHARIST. CHRISTMAS EVE: 5pm ZOOM CHOCOLATE
NATIVITY with the Reverend Delyth; 11.30pm ZOOM MIDNIGHT MASS. CHRISTMAS DAY:
8am ZOOM CYMUN GWAWR Y NADOLIG/CHRISTMAS DAWN COMMUNION; SUNDAY 27
DECEMBER (St John’s Day) 9am ZOOM HOLY EUCHARIST. (For expert advice on connecting
with Zoom please contact the Reverend Delyth Richards or the Reverend Kristie Godden-
Griffiths).

This is probably the most peculiar Christmas since the 1650s, when Christmas services and
celebrations were banned by Act of Parliament – something which caused widespread
outrage, particularly in Wales. As it happens, I have just written a short story about that
time (‘Rowland Vaughan’s Angel’), which I was intending to read out at next Sunday’s (now
cancelled) Angel Service. To make up for any disappointment caused by that cancellation
(and because I don’t like letting a good story go to waste) I’m sending it as an attachment
with this newsletter.

The difficulties of this year may have come to remind us that Christ was born, not in some
magnificent building like Westminster Abbey or King’s College Chapel or even St David’s
Cathedral. The true setting for his birth was a stable in a cave behind a crowded hostelry in a
Palestinian village. Some years ago, I attended an Armenian Liturgy in the Grotto of Nativity,
the cave where Jesus is said to have been born. It is very small. Our party of pilgrims were
standing crushed together (no social distancing) and the heat from the candles and the
incense fumes were almost overwhelming. Yet the sense of wonder was far greater than
that which I have experienced in far grander religious setting. Christ will always be
Emmanuel – God with us – in our homes and in our hearts this Christmas time and for all the
glorious Christmases to come. Canon Patrick

CHRIST CHURCH CHRISTMAS SUPPLEMENT

ROWLAND VAUGHAN’S ANGEL: A CHRISTMAS STORY

On December 24 th 1652 Parliament passed an Act banning all Christmas services and
celebrations.

The news took some time to filter through to Wales, so it was only by the following
Christmas that the authorities here began to strictly enforce the new law. It came as a
massive blow to almost everyone in the country, as ‘Y Gwylie’ – the Twelve Days of
Christmas – were important both spiritually and socially: an opportunity for shared
celebration and joy that cheered people up at the darkest and most dismal time of the year.
One of those who was particularly upset by the new restrictions was Rowland Vaughan,
formerly squire of Caer-gai near Lake Bala. Vaughan was 63 years old – which made him an
old man by seventeenth century standards. He was a poet and a translator of religious
books, producing a Welsh version of Carmarthen-born Bishop Lewis Bayly’s international
best-seller, The Practice of Piety.

Vaughan was also a staunch Royalist, like most of his fellow Welshmen. When the Civil War
broke out, he became a captain in Charles I’s army, taking part in the Battle of Naseby. After
that disastrous defeat he was captured by Cromwell’s men and imprisoned in Chester.
When he was eventually released, Rowland Vaughan found that he had lost almost
everything. His manor house at Caer-gai had been burnt to the ground by Parliamentary
soldiers. His estate had been confiscated and given to a nephew who was one of Cromwell’s
supporters. Vaughan had to find refuge in an old half-ruined house on a remote hillside.
However, what hurt him most was the fate of the parish church. When Rowland Vaughan
visited the holy place that had meant so much to him and generations of his family, he
found that it had been deliberately wrecked. The medieval screen had been smashed to
pieces. The stained-glass windows had been broken. The Prayer Book, banned by
Parliament, had been torn to bits and used to light a fire.

There were no more church services. The Royalist Anglican Vicar had been forced out of his
simple vicarage by the Puritan soldiers. He and his wife and children had fled, while the
thatch of their little cottage was set ablaze. The poor man had not been replaced.
Rowland Vaughan knelt and said the Lord’s Prayer. He felt confused and abandoned. He
opened his eyes and noticed a fragment of stained-glass on the stone slabs of the church
floor. An angel’s face looked up at him. Vaughan carefully wrapped the precious object in a
piece of cloth and put it in his pocket. He also gathered up the church’s copy of Bishop
Parry’s Welsh Bible, which had been thrown in a corner. Clutching the hefty volume, he left
the desecrated building and returned to his half-ruined house.

A message was waiting for him there. It was a letter from a member of the Royalist
underground, and had been carefully passed from hand to hand by drovers and shepherds
until it eventually reached its destination. The envelope contained a printed copy of
Parliament’s decree abolishing Christmas, as well as a warning that Cromwell’s soldiers were
being sent to Wales to enforce it.

There was to be none of the traditional carol-singing around the houses, and no Plygain
services before dawn on Christmas morning. Apart from a gloomy rule-ridden Sabbath,
Christmas and the Twelve Days that followed it were to be just like any other days. And, in
addition, there would be harsh fines and even imprisonment for anyone who decorated
their houses with holly and ivy and other greenery. Rowland Vaughan felt furious. The
Welsh words that he used to describe Cromwell and his followers were colourful, but best
not recorded or translated – though we can still get a flavour of some of them from one of
his angrier poems.

By now it was getting late on Christmas Eve. Normally at this time the family would be
decorating the Plygain candles that they would use to escort the Vicar to the parish church
in the early hours of Christmas morning. As the children and maidservants tied ribbons
round the ornately carved candlesticks, Rowland Vaughan would read them the story of
Jesus’ birth. This year he was alone in the cold and damp old ruin, with no Christmas service
to look forward to.

The aged poet carefully unwrapped the stained-glass fragment and looked at the beautiful
angel. “This year, you’ll have to be my audience,” he gently remarked. He took the big Bible
that he had salvaged from the wrecked church, and began to read:
‘Ac yr oedd yn y wlad honno fugeiliaid yn aros yn y maes ac yn gwylied eu praidd liw nos. ac
wele, angel yr Arglwydd a safodd gerllaw iddynt, a gogoniant yr Arglwydd a ddisgleiriodd
o’u hamgylch…’
[‘And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over
their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord
shone round about them…’]
As he read, the feeble candlelight in the room was suddenly replaced by a dazzling radiance
that seemed to transform and transfigure everything. Rowland Vaughan felt an
overwhelming joy – a profound happiness that he had never experienced before. And he
heard angels singing, as they had once sung in those fields above Bethlehem: ‘Gogoniant yn
y goruchaf i Dduw, ac ar y ddaear tangnefedd, i ddynion ewyllys da.’ [‘Glory to God in the
highest, and on earth peace, good will to all men’]
The old man’s heart was warmed by a glorious and unexpected hope. He smiled at the
stained-glass angel, and said “Christmas has not gone from Wales after all. For the love of
the Christ-child will always be with us. Beyond these dark days there is the eternal promise
of light and new life – of peace and good will to all people.”
Patrick Thomas

Dear friends,

NB: CLOSURE OF CHURCH BUILDING

Because someone who was in the church building (not at a service) has tested positive for
Covid, I have decided (after consultation with the Reverend Delyth Richards and the church
officers) to close Christ Church until it can be deep-cleaned after Christmas. This is to ensure
the safety of our much-loved congregation, some of whom are extremely vulnerable. Until
the church re-opens all services will be held on Zoom.

NEWLY REVISED CHRISTMAS SCHEDULE

Wednesday 16 December: 10.30am ZOOM HOLY EUCHARIST. SUNDAY 20 DECEMBER:
11am FAMILY ZOOM NATIVITY; 5pm ZOOM 9 LESSONS & CAROLS. Wednesday 23
December: 10.30am ZOOM HOLY EUCHARIST. CHRISTMAS EVE: 5pm ZOOM CHOCOLATE
NATIVITY with the Reverend Delyth; 11.30pm ZOOM MIDNIGHT MASS. CHRISTMAS DAY:
8am ZOOM CYMUN GWAWR Y NADOLIG/CHRISTMAS DAWN COMMUNION; SUNDAY 27
DECEMBER (St John’s Day) 9am ZOOM HOLY EUCHARIST. (For expert advice on connecting
with Zoom please contact the Reverend Delyth Richards or the Reverend Kristie Godden-
Griffiths).
This is probably the most peculiar Christmas since the 1650s, when Christmas services and
celebrations were banned by Act of Parliament – something which caused widespread
outrage, particularly in Wales. As it happens, I have just written a short story about that
time (‘Rowland Vaughan’s Angel’), which I was intending to read out at next Sunday’s (now
cancelled) Angel Service. To make up for any disappointment caused by that cancellation
(and because I don’t like letting a good story go to waste) I’m sending it as an attachment
with this newsletter.
The difficulties of this year may have come to remind us that Christ was born, not in some
magnificent building like Westminster Abbey or King’s College Chapel or even St David’s
Cathedral. The true setting for his birth was a stable in a cave behind a crowded hostelry in a
Palestinian village. Some years ago, I attended an Armenian Liturgy in the Grotto of Nativity,
the cave where Jesus is said to have been born. It is very small. Our party of pilgrims were
standing crushed together (no social distancing) and the heat from the candles and the
incense fumes were almost overwhelming. Yet the sense of wonder was far greater than
that which I have experienced in far grander religious setting. Christ will always be
Emmanuel – God with us – in our homes and in our hearts this Christmas time and for all the
glorious Christmases to come. Canon Patrick

CHRIST CHURCH CHRISTMAS SUPPLEMENT

ROWLAND VAUGHAN’S ANGEL: A CHRISTMAS STORY

On December 24 th 1652 Parliament passed an Act banning all Christmas services and
celebrations.
The news took some time to filter through to Wales, so it was only by the following
Christmas that the authorities here began to strictly enforce the new law. It came as a
massive blow to almost everyone in the country, as ‘Y Gwylie’ – the Twelve Days of
Christmas – were important both spiritually and socially: an opportunity for shared
celebration and joy that cheered people up at the darkest and most dismal time of the year.
One of those who was particularly upset by the new restrictions was Rowland Vaughan,
formerly squire of Caer-gai near Lake Bala. Vaughan was 63 years old – which made him an
old man by seventeenth century standards. He was a poet and a translator of religious
books, producing a Welsh version of Carmarthen-born Bishop Lewis Bayly’s international
best-seller, The Practice of Piety.
Vaughan was also a staunch Royalist, like most of his fellow Welshmen. When the Civil War
broke out, he became a captain in Charles I’s army, taking part in the Battle of Naseby. After
that disastrous defeat he was captured by Cromwell’s men and imprisoned in Chester.
When he was eventually released, Rowland Vaughan found that he had lost almost
everything. His manor house at Caer-gai had been burnt to the ground by Parliamentary
soldiers. His estate had been confiscated and given to a nephew who was one of Cromwell’s
supporters. Vaughan had to find refuge in an old half-ruined house on a remote hillside.
However, what hurt him most was the fate of the parish church. When Rowland Vaughan
visited the holy place that had meant so much to him and generations of his family, he
found that it had been deliberately wrecked. The medieval screen had been smashed to
pieces. The stained-glass windows had been broken. The Prayer Book, banned by
Parliament, had been torn to bits and used to light a fire.
There were no more church services. The Royalist Anglican Vicar had been forced out of his
simple vicarage by the Puritan soldiers. He and his wife and children had fled, while the
thatch of their little cottage was set ablaze. The poor man had not been replaced.
Rowland Vaughan knelt and said the Lord’s Prayer. He felt confused and abandoned. He
opened his eyes and noticed a fragment of stained-glass on the stone slabs of the church
floor. An angel’s face looked up at him. Vaughan carefully wrapped the precious object in a
piece of cloth and put it in his pocket. He also gathered up the church’s copy of Bishop
Parry’s Welsh Bible, which had been thrown in a corner. Clutching the hefty volume, he left
the desecrated building and returned to his half-ruined house.
A message was waiting for him there. It was a letter from a member of the Royalist
underground, and had been carefully passed from hand to hand by drovers and shepherds

until it eventually reached its destination. The envelope contained a printed copy of
Parliament’s decree abolishing Christmas, as well as a warning that Cromwell’s soldiers were
being sent to Wales to enforce it.
There was to be none of the traditional carol-singing around the houses, and no Plygain
services before dawn on Christmas morning. Apart from a gloomy rule-ridden Sabbath,
Christmas and the Twelve Days that followed it were to be just like any other days. And, in
addition, there would be harsh fines and even imprisonment for anyone who decorated
their houses with holly and ivy and other greenery. Rowland Vaughan felt furious. The
Welsh words that he used to describe Cromwell and his followers were colourful, but best
not recorded or translated – though we can still get a flavour of some of them from one of
his angrier poems.
By now it was getting late on Christmas Eve. Normally at this time the family would be
decorating the Plygain candles that they would use to escort the Vicar to the parish church
in the early hours of Christmas morning. As the children and maidservants tied ribbons
round the ornately carved candlesticks, Rowland Vaughan would read them the story of
Jesus’ birth. This year he was alone in the cold and damp old ruin, with no Christmas service
to look forward to.
The aged poet carefully unwrapped the stained-glass fragment and looked at the beautiful
angel. “This year, you’ll have to be my audience,” he gently remarked. He took the big Bible
that he had salvaged from the wrecked church, and began to read:
‘Ac yr oedd yn y wlad honno fugeiliaid yn aros yn y maes ac yn gwylied eu praidd liw nos. ac
wele, angel yr Arglwydd a safodd gerllaw iddynt, a gogoniant yr Arglwydd a ddisgleiriodd
o’u hamgylch…’
[‘And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over
their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord
shone round about them…’]
As he read, the feeble candlelight in the room was suddenly replaced by a dazzling radiance
that seemed to transform and transfigure everything. Rowland Vaughan felt an
overwhelming joy – a profound happiness that he had never experienced before. And he
heard angels singing, as they had once sung in those fields above Bethlehem: ‘Gogoniant yn
y goruchaf i Dduw, ac ar y ddaear tangnefedd, i ddynion ewyllys da.’ [‘Glory to God in the
highest, and on earth peace, good will to all men’]
The old man’s heart was warmed by a glorious and unexpected hope. He smiled at the
stained-glass angel, and said “Christmas has not gone from Wales after all. For the love of
the Christ-child will always be with us. Beyond these dark days there is the eternal promise
of light and new life – of peace and good will to all people.”
Patrick Thomas

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