28 Feb 2020 • From the Clergy
At St David’s we are preparing to celebrate one hundred years of Christian worship in the building in Comer Gardens. Originally the Comer Gardens Mission, the building was dedicated to St David on March 1st 1966, this particular saint being chosen as there was no other church in Worcester dedicated to him.
So what do we know about Saint David?
According to James Bentley (Macdonald & Co Ltd, 1988) David was born in Henfynyw, Cardigan, at the end of the fifth century. His father was a prince named Sant and his mother was Saint Non. According to legend, David learned to praise God, as the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, hovered over him as he learned to read the Psalms. Another legend has St David winning a great victory over the Saxons, telling the Welsh soldiers to wear a leek in their headgear so that they could recognise each other on the battleground.
Educated at Ty Gwyn by St Paulinus, David was elected abbot of the monastery there and he is credited with the founding of twelve monasteries, including the one at Menevia, now St David’s. David’s rule was extremely harsh with speech restricted to extreme necessity, a limited and sparse diet and hard physical labour. The monks were expected to remain awake and at prayer from dusk on Friday until dawn on Saturday. This will probably not inspire many of us to want to follow David’s rule but the saint was also known for his kindness and compassion for others, particularly the poor and the sick. On his deathbed, in about 601, David instructed his followers to: “Rejoice, hold fast to the faith. And remember to fulfil those small tasks that you have learned while you were with me.”
There’s something there that we can all take hold of and should be trying to reflect in our daily lives.
“Rejoice!” It’s so easy to focus on the problems we face or the things we consider to be wrong in our lives, forgetting all the many blessings for which we should be thankful. Health, homes, safety, freedom, occupations, friends and family are all things we can take for granted until we don’t have them any more. Above all, we should be grateful for, and rejoice in, our faith and our Salvation.
“Hold fast to the faith;” for so many Christians around the world, this is a real challenge as they face persecution and oppression for their faith. We don’t facethose challenges but there may be others. We all face times of crisis in our lives; times when it may be difficult to hold fast to the faith but it is at exactly those times that we most need our faith; our trust in the God whose will we may not understand; whose ways we may not like, but whose love and faithfulness we should never doubt.
Remember to fulfil those small tasks …St David was known for his kindness and compassion and we can all follow his example in this. Acts of kindness and compassion don’t have to be big. Small things can make a huge difference in the life of somebody else. As I write this, we are just over two weeks from the beginning of Lent. Perhaps, in our Lenten practice of giving up some favourite luxury, we will be reminded of St David’s rule of abstinence from alcohol and the simple diet he imposed on his monks. More importantly, though, perhaps we will remember his compassion and kindness and resolve to make a more conscious effort to follow his example in this. Stewardship are once again operating their “40 Acts of kindness” initiative by which, for each day of Lent, people are encouraged, alongside prayer and reflection, to commit to a daily act of kindness for somebody else. Some of the suggested acts are more demanding than others – both in terms of effort and finance, but all are designed to demonstrate selfless kindness and generosity towards others. Selfless they may be, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that the giver won’t receive pleasure and satisfaction from performing these acts. And the really good thing is that, having known the pleasure that performing some act of kindness for another can give us, we go on repeating it; the “one off” act of kindness or generosity can become a habit which continues long after the end of Lent.
At St David’s Church we are aiming to make 2020 “The Year of St David” but perhaps that vision is too limited. Perhaps we should rather be aiming – and praying – to make it the year in which that congregation leads the people of West Worcester in growing as a community which rejoices as it holds fast to the faith and doesn’t forget to fulfil the little tasks which reflect the love of God and make such a difference to the lives of others.