Travels with MaryE

Most things I love best are about good light and good timing. That's where the adventures start. Don't be in no hurry here. Here you'll find a little bit about bluegrass music, fox hunting, life on the road, time on the mountain, and a whole lot about other things, too.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Chapels and Churches in the Radnor Hills

Hermon Congregational Chapel, RhosGoch

Over here in Wales the folks used to be required to go to what's called "church" which refers to the Church of England or Church of Wales. I don't fully understand the ins and outs of the "church" but one thing I do know is they don't believe in separation of church and state over here, at least not much.....the Queen is the head of the church, at least as I understand it.

Anyway, back around 1904-5 there was a BIG revival here in Wales and a whole lot of folks started going to what is called chapel. Now being American I think of a chapel as a little teeny place a Protestant goes to worship. But here a "chapel" is just a Protestant, non-Church-of-England-or-Wales house of worship. Though most chapels are indeed fairly small, modest, and "new" (in comparison to their 1000-year-old "church" counterparts) some chapels, particularly in cities can, in fact, be rather large, so much so that Americans would surely refer to them as "churches."

Moriah Baptist Chapel, Llandeilo Graban (above)

Anyway, yesterday we went riding around the nearby countryside photographing some of the churches and chapels. It wasn't a brilliant day for photography, but at least it wasn't raining, and it was nice to see some of these houses of worship. Like in America, membership is down and I do wonder how many more years some of these places will be kept up. As the old ones die off, the chances grow slimmer as the younger generations don't have the ties to church and chapel that previous generations did. Anyway, nobody is required to go to church these days and in fact most don't go. Except on Christmas Eve, the Harvest Thanksgiving festival and times like that. After living in America's Bible Belt for so long, here I find only traces of religious dogma around me. But John Wesley once walked these hills and left his mark here and there and found many converts to what has long been called non-conformist (NOT Church of England!) religion; similarly, Francis Kilvert served many of his years in local churches and wrote some of the most beautiful prose about the Radnorshire hills that has ever been written. If you get out on some of the footpaths and lanes on a fine spring day with the primroses blooming and birds calling you can almost feel like you stepped onto one of Kilvert's rambles and that he might just be there when you turn the next bend in the road.

The Hermon Congregational Chapel was actually the last one we stopped at yesterday. When we passed by the first time there was a service being held so we decided to catch that one on the way back. As I walked into the yard, folks were coming out the door and I was warmly welcomed in and given a tour, and I was even introduced to the minister. My friend Joyce's great-grandfather actually BUILT the chapel back in about 1830 or thereabouts. It's a small world around here. One of the men who talked to me got his eyes twinkling and then shared with me that he'd grown up on the farm just across the lane from Joyce - and that he'd been her boyfriend way back when.

This little church is off the beaten path, but not as far off as the lovely little church at Llandewi Fach. Though we passed that pretty place, we didn't stop as the church is a couple of very soggy fields away from the road and there wasn't a good place to park. Maybe next's well worth the visit! Llanbedr church - inside and out

And, not to be outdone, there's lovely St. Teilo's Church, up on a hill at Llandeilo Graban. St. Teilo's, Llandeilo Graban

And another nice thing about these Radnorshire can actually go in and visit many of them. Keep in mind many of the churches were built about 1000 years ago and were one of the focal points of any community. Here in the UK most of the churches and especially the chapels are struggling to stay open. Many chapels have been sold off for living quarters and I think that is a darned shame!