'Walking in step with the Spirit'
We are a group of five churches covering the town of Kington and the nearby villages of Huntington, Old Radnor, Kinnerton and Titley, straddling the Welsh border between Leominster and Rhayader.
Although two of our parishes are in Wales, due to an accident of history we all belong to the Church of England and the Diocese of Hereford.
Some say Kington is a drovers' town; others say we are a quarrying town. Look up at the whale-back hills and you know you are almost in the mountains. Yet drive towards the Cathedral city of Hereford and you are amongst cider orchards and rich potato lands. We live between the woods and the water; the River Arrow with its green-meadowed fingers flows right through town, meandering its way to the Lugg and the Wye; but ancient oaks remind us of wilder forested pasts. Our Marches community is full of Welsh names with Old Radnor and Kinnerton parishes firmly in Radnorshire. Yet go to Titley and you find Saxon names and landscape memories. Up at Huntington, amongst its green wooded banks, you are back in Welsh Herefordshire.
Is this relevant? Yes! It's a metaphor for God's Church. We are conscious of living between times. Our Lord's coming to walk amongst us and share our hardships, the servant King. Yet we also anticipate his return when he shall come as triumphant King. We live as Christians in such borderlands. Our churches are cherished and beautiful where some of us meet on Sundays, but we long to spread God's grace where people live and work and often struggle. Candles are alight in our churches on top of their hills – even Kinnerton is on a bit of hill – while the Light of the World is finding His way into the lives and myriad workings of the community.
Those of us committed to rural life and those who have known nothing else ask whether there is any greater and more glorious challenge than sharing and celebrating God's work in a rural environment. There are dialect words here that you would struggle to find in a dictionary; and at the same time there are people settling down in home offices dealing with the whole world. We have shepherds and farmers and quarry men; we have city lawyers and film makers and international aid workers. All of them need the Light of the world, and many of them are very welcoming to those of us already travelling down the pilgrim way. Come and join the work, and enjoy the privilege!
I was born on December 29th 1964 at Rustington in West Sussex. My father, Ian Griffith is a North Walian and my mother, Angela Griffith is a Londoner and possibly a Cockney depending on the wind direction at her birth. I am, therefore, “a thoroughbred mongrel” as my father has always described me. I was brought up in Cheshire and West Sussex, although many of my earliest and fondest memories are of my childhood trips to North Wales to see my grandparents. I am one of seven children (five boys and two girls).
Religiously I came from a somewhat mixed family with Anglicans, Baptists, Calvinistic Methodists, Roman Catholics and Presbyterians featuring in the family tree. I was brought up as Roman Catholic, despite sensing a vocation to ordination from an early age. I became increasingly disenchanted with Roman Catholicism during my teenage years. Having been educated at Roman Catholic schools, I went to Trinity College, Carmarthen and it was there that I first encountered Anglicanism in a meaningful sense and discovered what felt then and still does my spiritual home.
Having completed my degree, I became a teacher and spent 18 years teaching in a number of schools mainly in North London and Hertfordshire. Towards the end of that the sense of vocation which had never left me grew stronger coinciding with a time when I was running a rural parish through a four year vacancy.
In 2004 I attended a Bishop’s Selection Conference and was recommended for training. Later that same year I entered Ripan College, Cuddesdon for two years pre-ordination training. I was ordained deacon in St. Alban’s Cathedral on July 2nd 2006 and served my curacy at the Parish of the Transfiguration at Kempston in Bedfordshire. I was ordained priest on July 1st 2007.
In 2009 having completed my curacy, I was appointed as Vicar of the Upper Wye, a group of rural parishes between Builth Wells and Llandrindod Wells.
Having met Jean who lived over the road from The Vicarage in Llanyre, where I was living, we were married on May 16th 2014. In that same year, having already become Area Dean of Builth we moved to Aberedw just outside Builth Wells, for what I thought at the time would be at least five years. There I was Rector of nine even smaller rural parishes. In addition to those I also found myself caring for two other benefices meaning that for over a year I was trying to look after 24 churches!
Various circumstances in 2015 meant that it seemed obvious that God wanted us to move and so I applied for the post as Vicar of the Kington Parishes. I am hugely enjoying the challenges and opportunities here as is Jean my wife, and our dog Gelert adores the vicarage garden – but then who wouldn’t?
My earlier career was in teaching mainly juniors and infants, concluding with three headships until I reached the halfway age of 50. Then, in the nick of time, I was called to higher service, training as an ordinand at Salisbury to me made deacon and subsequently priested in St David's Cathedral in 1983/84. On retiring in the summer of 1999 I ended up with my wife and son here in Kington. We have found Kington congenial, the people, especially in the five churches of the group, exceptionally friendly and caring. During more than 16 years now my wife and I have been heavily involved in ministry. My musical background (eight years teaching and singing at St Michael's College, Tenbury) has gotten me involved in various ways in the community and beyond and I have much enjoyed planning and leading Family Services - once a teacher always a teacher!
After spending 36 years as a parish priest in rural Hampshire, we returned and settled in Kington. It is a great privilege and joy to help in the Kington Group of parishes as part of the team with Ben at the helm. Each parish in the group has its own distinctive character and this diversity has a unifying link through regular worship and support for community activities throughout the benefice.
I am a self-supporting minister who works as a vet within the local veterinary practice and is licensed as a deacon to the Kington Parishes.
The area served by the practice includes all of our parishes, our deanery and beyond and my sense of calling to ministry grew out of bridging the links between community and church.
My wife, Sue, and I have been delighted to raise our daughters Emma and Clare amongst the congregation of St Mary’s and the wider local community.
When l retired from Priestly Ministry in 2005 our lives changed. We needed to take a back seat in order to explore what it might mean to live under Benedictine vows. The Kington Group of Parishes, unknowingly, played its part in that process. There was never any pressure,despite so many interregnums, for me to take services. We were welcomed in the Churches and worshipped from the pews. Now St Hugh's is a reality, much of our time centres around prayer and living according to our vows and a resource to serve the Churches needs which includes Priestly Ministry.
I'm in the pews most Sundays where I admit to occasional wanderings of the mind to the hills and the woods. And when I am in the woods and the hills I am often in my own conversation with the Creator of those much-loved hills. So I don't come to church just to meet God; I know he is everywhere, and life itself, even on Monday morning is worship. But I do come to St Mary's to share with others, to celebrate and give thanks together for God's goodness, and of course to be taught and encouraged.
I especially enjoy worshipping in the other little churches. As a Reader I sometimes lead a service and have the privilege of climbing into the pulpit to pass on in 10 short minutes what God is saying to us in scripture. Indeed, what is he saying to us? It is always a lot! Not only is it looking into a mirror to see ourselves, but crucially we discover how we should relate to God our Father and Saviour and Spirit. And with a hand on the old polished pew we apply that to life itself as we find it.
A church pew sounds very passive, as if we come and “attend” before departing for another week. But in reality it is a starting point and breathing place in life's pilgrimage. It is far from passive. Church is where I am refreshed and share, but life beyond, the pilgrim path, is the adventure with its sure destination to which we are all called.
Our building is simple compared to many churches but it is a welcoming, well cared for sanctuary as welcoming when I was a schoolgirl as it is now I am an octogenarian! Friendliness and love are key features, together with so many opportunities for active involvement.
I count it a privilege to be a Churchwarden at St Mary's. I value the opportunities I have been given to serve our Church in so many ways, the opportunities I have had to walk alongside so many different people, I value the friendship and kindness afforded. For me it is a safe haven where I feel God's presence, his understanding and from where God helps me to help others in small, often insignificant ways.
As I enter the building at eventide to lock the doors, I feel a calmness following the 'busy-ness' of the day and I hear that still small voice, 'Be still and know that I am God.'
Thank you St Mary's, many you long continue to be a welcoming place for all who cross your threshold.
St Marys church is my local place of worship, thankfully within walking distance. I am reminded regularly, as I catch glimpses of the church spire in my daily life, of the call to walk in step with the Spirit and live with gratitude towards our loving God. St Mary's regular services draw me to relate crossways with others in the community and vertically with God in a meaningful way. We meet each other in the high street and our care and encouragement continues.
Until now, our lives have involved quite a lot of house moving so I am particularly sensitive to new faces and the need to be welcoming. We hope to be here in Kington for a long time, being supportive and reaching out into the community.
We have got to know people better through the Lent groups, and the fund raising events. Some of our new friends are worshippers we have met as we go regularly to the other churches in the benefice. Thank you St Mary's for welcoming us into your family!
The community of Kington St Mary's is a welcoming one. We have always felt part of the group and it is a pleasure to attend the family services in the capacity of musician in the "in house " band. The time to contemplate and digest life's mysteries via the medium of the readings and sermons is often a spring board for deeper conversation at home, and the fact that the church family cares for and has concern for all in need regardless of situation is an oasis of love in a world that seems quite uncertain sometimes.God is of course every where always but to focus our minds in nurturing friendly setting can only be a good thing.
Our church is approached through a farm yard along a muddy track and the first sight of it is against a backdrop of fields and hedges. It is a peaceful setting, unchanged over centuries, reminding one of the heritage and those gone before. Inside, with C15th pews, beautiful stained glass windows and a full array of lit candles, it is just a restful place to be.
The Holy Communion Service, as it progresses does it all; a reminder of the commandments, the readings, very often a letter from St Paul, the Gospel with a parable or miracle described, declaring one’s faith by The Creed and the sermon, usually enlightening on the readings. Then as we pray, it is an opportunity to reflect on the Christian message of unity and love, to remember our rulers and governors, to think of those less fortunate than ourselves; if they are refugees being hungry or sick or with little shelter; if in trouble or need and to remember the departed and those who are grieving. Then, having together confessed and repented, to hear the story of the Last Supper is to take us to the Altar and accept the sacraments. That is when you feel closest to Jesus and the Father.
Then with our church so lucky to have a regular organist, we hear voluntaries played and join in hymns sung. After the service, then follows a bit of friendship over a cup of coffee before we all dash off until the 3rd Sunday when Evening Prayer provides quiet time before the week ahead.
All that adds up to a unique period in a week where one can reflect on others less fortunate, on our purpose in life and on how we should behave and conduct our lives.
And finally, as a church warden, being charged with trying to maintain a centuries old building that will be there for generations to come, is challenging and rewarding.
There are lots of good hiding places in the church. I like helping to ring the bell before the service and snuffing the candles at the end. The adults have coffee afterwards and I help pour it out.
We live in a peaceful part of the world, but entering the church takes you to a quieter place still. I am the church's stand-in organist, which I enjoy and I help to clean the place. There's satisfaction in both tasks from the sense of belonging to a community that has kept the church standing and open for hundreds of years and the continuity of work across the generations that's made this possible.