The Vicar writes...
September is when our parish is given something of a kick-start. Most of us will have returned from our summer break, our seaside village begins to quieten down after a very busy holiday season and our Church organisations resume their meetings once again.
September is also very much dominated by our major outreach to the wider community, ‘The Mumbles Festival of Music and the Arts’, based at All Saints’.
The event usually attracts over a thousand people through the Church doors. This year it will include eleven concerts and we will welcome a full scale symphony orchestra, choirs, instrumentalists, singers and entertainers. As in previous years, local artists will showcase their work and the Churches of Mumbles will decorate All Saints’ with floral arrangements on a musical theme. This year’s programme looks very impressive indeed and has something for everyone.
As is our custom, we frame the festival with two acts of choral worship, on the first and last Sundays of the fifteen day event. The Archdeacon of Gower will be with us for the 10am Choral Eucharist on the 8th, and Fr Ben Rabjohns, Vicar of Penrhiwceibwr, will be our guest preacher at the Festival Choral Evensong at 5pm on the 22nd September. Fr Ben is an accomplished organist and Church musician. Worship remains at the heart of what we are about as a family of faith.
The music festival is one of the ways we reach out to the wider community. It brings people into Church who wouldn’t usually think of joining us for services. Over the years quite a few concertgoers have become regular worshippers themselves; many of them tell us that they were touched by the beauty of the Church and what it stands for.
Through the year we host around eighty concerts in All Saints’. Most of them are organised to raise money for charitable causes or for local schools. Others showcase choirs, singers and recitalists. I am grateful to our team of volunteers who open and close the building, act as welcomers or stewards and who serve a welcome glass of wine or fruit juice during intervals.
But All Saints’ isn’t just opened up to the community for concerts; it is used for a growing number of other events. It hosts exhibitions, educational visits by school children, fetes, public meetings, recordings and community celebrations. Villagers continue to bring their children for baptism; to tie the knot in marriage and to pay their respects to departed loved ones and friends. All Saints’ also serves as the Mumbles Lifeboat Church and is the home of the Mumbles and South Gower Royal British Legion.
As part of our heritage fund bid, a few years ago, we kept a record of the numbers of people who came through the Church doors over a twelve month period. We actually invested in a people counter at the west door. We were surprised that it recorded in excess of thirty thousand. Almost half of whom came to a concert, a local event or to have a look around the building.
Opening up the Church to the community is something that is gaining momentum across the UK. It’s estimated that there are over 18,000 Anglican places of worship in England and Wales, many of which are listed heritage buildings. More and more of them are now being adapted to make them multipurpose facilities for the parishes they serve. Pews are being taken out; toilet and kitchen facilities are being installed and community groups are being welcomed in.
Churches were often used for more secular purposes in centuries past. It was usually the only public building in the village and could be used for fares, parish meetings, storing crops and even providing shelter for livestock during harsh winter weather. It’s why some of our Churches have ‘dog rails’ rather than communion rails at the altar, to stop animals entering the hallowed ground of the sanctuary.
So, opening up All Saints’ for the annual Mumbles Festival of Music and the Arts is carrying on a long held tradition of outreach. We do so, not just to get people in through the Church doors but to celebrate how our ancient and modern place of worship remains at the heart of the community it serves.
What better place can there be to celebrate “Craftsman’s art and music’s measure”? Please come along to swell the numbers and to listen to some wonderful concerts in the equally wonderful acoustic of All Saints’.