Bonhoeffer uses a similar phrase 'worldly Christianity'. It's J Gresham Machen that I want to line up most closely with. See his Christianity and culture here. Having done commentaries on Proverbs (Heavenly Wisdom) and Song of Songs (Heavenly Love), a matching title for Ecclesiastes would be Heavenly Worldliness. For my stance on worldliness, see 3 posts here.

Thomas Jones Pencerrig 1742-1803

When I was in Llandrindod Wells yesterday I noticed this statue of Thomas Jones. I did not know who he was but I have learned that
He was born in Trefonnen in Cefnllys, Radnorshire, near Llandrindod, the second of 16 kids in 1742. Formative years were spent on his father's estate at Pencerrig near Builth Wells (hence the distinguishing epithet). He was educated at Christ College, Brecon, and later at Llanfyllin, Montgomeryshire, before going to Jesus College, Oxford in 1759. He dropped out in 1761 and began to pursue his preferred career as an artist, moving to London and enrolling at William Shipley's drawing school in November 1761. Despite attending the life class at St Martin's Lane Academy, he lacked confidence in his ability to draw figures convincingly, and in 1763 persuaded the leading landscape painter of the day (fellow Welshman) Richard Wilson to take him on as a pupil. A high-spirited youth, he recorded in his journal that he and two rowdy fellow pupils were once rebuked by Wilson with the words, "Gentlemen, this is not the way to rival Claude".
In 1765 he began to exhibit at the Society of Artists (forerunner of the RA). From 1769 onwards his landscapes began to adopt the "grand manner", becoming settings for scenes in history, literature or mythology. A frequent collaborator was John Hamilton Mortimer, who painted the figures. One of his best-known works from this period is The Bard (Cardiff), based on Thomas Gray's poem. The 1770s were a successful period; he was elected a fellow of the Society of Artists (1771) and served as the society’s director (1773/4). This period also saw the beginning of his unconventional habit of producing small landscape sketches in oils on paper for his own amusement.
He embarked on an eagerly anticipated trip to Italy in September 1776. The works produced there departed significantly from the example of his master, particularly in his watercolour paintings, where he developed a distinctive palette of varying shades of blue. Jacob More, John Robert Cozens and Thomas Banks were among the fellow expatriate artists with whom he was friendly. His first commission in Italy was a landscape entitled Lake Albano – Sunset for the Earl-Bishop of Derry, who became Jones's most important patron. He made his first visit to Naples in September 1778, staying there for five months. He returned to Rome for a time and took on a Danish widow called Maria Moncke as his "Maid Servant" in April 1779, eloping with her to Naples a year later. Then Italy's largest city, Naples promised more opportunities for patronage than Rome, and he sought the patronage of the British Ambassador Sir William Hamilton in particular. Maria gave birth to two daughters, Anna Maria (1780) and Elizabetha (1781).
On hearing of his father's death in 1782, Jones, who after six years in Italy was becoming restless and homesick, returned to Britain. He set off for London with Maria and the two girls in August 1783. He arrived the following November only to find many of his possessions destroyed by damp, including all his painted studies from nature. In London he attempted to revive his career as a painter, but he had less impetus to do so as an annual income of £300 was left to him by his father. Although he exhibited 10 works at the RA 1784-1798, by 1785 he felt that his artistic career was over.
In later years he felt increasingly drawn back to Wales, especially his beloved Pencerrig. He inherited the estate in 1787, on the death of his brother Major John Jones without issue. With his new-found financial security he finally married Maria on 16 September 1789 (though his devout mother also influenced the decision) at St Pancras Church, London. He took an active interest in his estate, using his sketchbook to record new agricultural developments. In 1791, he wrote a poem entitled "Petraeia" about his love for Pencerrig. That year he also became High Sheriff of Radnorshire.
He died in 1803; the cause of death was angina pectoris. He was buried at the family chapel at Caebach, Llandrindod Wells.

Keswick in Wales

I went with my father-in-law yesterday up the road to Llandrindod Wells to the Pavilion where the Keswick in Wales convention has been taking place this last week. The main speaker has been John Tindall and we heard him very helpfully on the woman who anointed Jesus at Simon's house. After a nice meal at the Metropole and a wander around Llandrindod we heard Ben Thomas preach on the end of Romans 8. Again, it was very good (although I nodded off at one point tired from yesterday). There must have been about a hundred there, most of them unknown to me though I had nice chats with the few I do know. Nice day.

Ar Gopa'r Wyddfa

Climbed Snowdon today with four of the boys. Not easy (for me) but we made it. I'd been once before by another route. We used the Llanberis Pass. Quite busy. Cloudy on top but sunny before that.

10 Interesting facts about Dylan Thomas

1. Dylan Thomas Welsh. He was born in Swansea in 1914.
2. His middle name was Marlais, which means 'voice of the Sea'. Dyaln also menas something like son of the wave and so both names are apt as the sea was to be a recurring theme throughout much of his work, especially in 'Under Milk Wood'.
3. His father was Senior English Master at Swansea Grammar School.
4. His wife's name was Caitlin Macnamara. Born in Hammersmith, London, in 1913, she was of Irish descent. They married in 1937 and had three children (Llewelyn, Aeronwy and Colum). It was a very stormy relationship. They lived in Laugharne 1938-1940 and New Quay in 1944 and 1945.
5. They were introduced by Welshman Augustus John, who painted Thomas's portrait in  1937 and 1938 (Alfred Janes and Rupert Shephard also produced portraits).
6. He is one of the Beatles' heroes (John's?) on the cover for the Sgt Pepper album, gave Bob Dylan part of his name and has had his poems set to music by Welshman John Cale.
7. His 1940 work 'Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog' humorously parodies the title of James Joyce's 'A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man' published 24 years earlier.
8. His most celebrated work was 'Under Milk Wood', subtitled a play for voices. It was in fact commissioned as a radio play. It was broadcast in January 1954 (having been previously performed on stage in New York in May 1953).
9. Under Milk Wood was narrated famously by Richard Burton. Sir Anthony Hopkins later did it too. Burton and Hopkins, born 1925 and 1937 respectively, were both from the Port Talbot area of South Wales.
10. Dylan Thomas died in New York in 1953. He was only 39. He was undertaking a lecture tour of the USA at the time. Caitlin arrived at the hospital shortly before his death. She was institutionalised for a while after. His excessive drinking led to pneumonia. (Nick Cave's 2012 song "There She Goes, My Beautiful World" includes the line "Dylan Thomas/he died drunk/in St. Vincent's Hospital".) 

Dylan Thomas

As hinted at I went today to the Dylan Thomas exhibition in the National Library of Wales with my three oldest sons. I did study Anglo-Welsh literature as part of my degree here in Aber many years ago but I don't recall looking at Dylan Thomas at all hardly. The exhibition was fairly random and quite populist but a nice gentle reminder of one of Wales's most famous sons. My son Dylan featured with other Dylans in a photo montage of Thomas.
I found elsewhere a list of notable works by him
1934: Eighteen Poems (poems, inc: The force that through the green fuse)
1936: Twenty-five Poems (poems inc: And death shall have no dominion)
1939: The Map of Love (poems and stories)
1940: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog (stories)
1946: Deaths and Entrances (poems, inc: Fern Hill)
1951: In Country Sleep (poems inc: Do not go gentle into that good night)
1952: Collected Poems
1953: The Doctor and the Devils (screenplay)
1954: Under Milk Wood (radio play, published posthumously)
1955: Adventures in the Skin Trade (stories, published posthumously)
1957: Letters to Vernon Watkins

'A Child's Christmas in Wales' also deserves a mention.

Swansea again

I thought I might more or less repeat this blog from last year noting my Swansea stories, with this picture from the current Dylan Thomas exhibition in the National Library.

1. My wife was born in Swansea
2. When I was about 11 my father seriously considered taking a promotion to work in Swansea but didn't in the end
3. The only city I have seriously considered ministering in apart from London is Swansea
4. My parents-in-law lived in Swansea the first year they were married
5. On the first Sunday we were married we went to church in Swansea
6. We were in Swansea when we celebrated my parents in law's 25th anniversary using a tier from our wedding cake
7. My son is president in the CU at Swansea University


My wife and daughter-in-law with the new grandson, Gwilym

Strict Baptists

I've been thinking of the phrase Strict Baptist and I think one can fairly say there is more than one way of using the phrase. I guess the four categories I'm thinking of more or less get stricter and stricter. Anyway, I think we can say that Strict Baptists are those who
1. Insist on a baptised membersip and will give communion only to church members or members of churches of the same faith and order. (Gospel Standard Strict Baptists)
2. Insist on a baptised membership and will give communion only to church members or members of other churches who have been baptised by immersion. (Regular Strict or Grace Baptists)
3. Insist on a baptised membership and will give communion to church members or members of other churches regardless of baptism.
4. Welcome into membership all believers regardless of baptism and will give communion to church members or members of other churches regardless of baptism but insist that leaders are baptised by immersion and teach that view.
I think we are really 4 though we may present as a 3.

Lord's Day July 27 2014

Yesterday I was in a familiar church setting but one quite different in some ways to what I have experienced over the last few weeks. The wooden pews, the pipe organ, the long sermons (45 and 55 minutes I think), Grace hymn book, Thee and Thou praying, a man in a proper pulpit wearing a tie, etc. Actually all those are incidentals and not quite the big deal sometimes made of them and the great thing was being given every encouragement to worship God together. My father-in-law, Geoff Thomas, preached a very convincing sermon on the goodness of God in the morning (from the story of the rich young ruler a la Walter Chantry) and was fine in the evening with a four point sermon from Romans 4:1-5. Both sermons had real bite. I was also helped by the prayers. In the afternoon we had a lovely tea downstairs to mark the golden wedding anniversary of my parents-in-law.

Dog in the water with a ball

This one of Owain's latest creations

Shakespeare's Julius Caesar at the Globe

Got down to the Globe for the second time this season and stood watching Julius Caesar with the other groundlings (always less of them by the second half I notice). This was the first of Shakespeare's plays put on at the old Globe (I think that is why we had a bit of jiggery pokery with the scenery at the beginning and during the play). As it says in the programme somewhere the piece does lack a comic character (or were the actors just not good enough with the comic material available) to lighten the mood but brimful of famous lines and phrases (The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,  But in ourselves, that we are underlings; Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; Et tu, Brute?; The live-long day, Beware the ides of March, let slip the dogs of war, etc). George Irving of TV fame took the part of Caesar well, though it isn't that much of a part - Brutus, Cassius and Mark Anthony getting the best bits. Perhaps one problem with the play is that it is hard to identify with any of these three, though they are well drawn and relatively complex. Anyway, good stuff from the Bard as ever.

Dr D M Lloyd-Jones

I've been doing these rehabilitation classes at the Royal Free, which are helpful. One funny thing has been the presence of a Lloyd-Jones lookalike. He's not a dead ringer and certainly no soundalike but reminiscent of and he dresses the part regardless of the fact the first hour is exercise.
My Sabbatical is drawing to a close and I spent a good deal of yesterday doing one of the things I had promised myself to do - sitting in the Lloyd-Jones Library at LTS and perusing the contents. No major surprises but worth doing I hope. I need to write it up now.

It's all happening at ...


Had a great day at London Zoo yesterday with my youngest who is wild about animals as they say. Not too crowded not over hot. Good day.

Lord's Day July 20 2014

Rather late with this but I did enjoy the last of my Sundays out and about during this sabbatical period. This time I was with bona fide Presbyterians down in Ealing. IPC Ealing has its roots in Schaefferism but like many good churches is made up of various strands and is seeking to bear witness where it finds itself. Their building (looks like an old office block from the outside and a temple on the inside) is currently too small for their morning congregation so they meet in Drayton Manor High School, where there must have been 160 or 170 when I visited. They would like to extend their building which comfortably sat the fifty or so along in the evening.
First impressions are of a well heeled white congregation but closer inspection reveals it is a more diverse group. I know some of the people and met others including my son's new next door neighbour at LTS next term. Paul Levy, who I also know, is the pastor. He is currently working through Luke 22 morning and evening (not his usual practice - like most of us he usually looks at different things am and pm). He has a gift with illustrations and was great talking to the children (in the evening service, unusually). They used a projector in the mornings and Praise! in the evening with a guide to the order of service printed out for both. In the morning a flute, a violin and a silver trumpet accompanied the grand piano; just keyboard and flute in the evening. Being Presbyterians there was a bit of audience participation with a corporate confession and at the communion they used real wine in communal cups. They took up a collection am and pm. I also noticed that in the evening some of the chairs were arranged as a choir sideways on to the preacher. It is good to know that the gospel is going out in that part of London.

Last week

Last week seems a long time ago now but it was quite a busy week. We started off at the school for our regular chat about our youngest, with whom they are very pleased. He was off to Go Ape on Wednesday. We were back the next day in the evening for what was billed as An evening with the stars, showcasing the music, dance and drama the school has been putting on this term. Another of our sons was hosting it with a friend of his and a very good job they made of it. Then Wednesday was the graduation in Cardiff (see above). Around 200 were graduating, mostly females. The ceremony was in the St David's Hall, which I don't think I've ever been in (I do know that Focus played there once and the magnificent pipe organ was used for a rendition of La Cathedrale). I slowed down after that but Eleri just carried on with another trip to Wales to drop off two sons (one an officer, one  a camper) and others at camps. She also got to see our new grandson for the first time. Back here I was saying goodbye to Dylan off on holiday and hello to my niece staying with us en route to Norwich. Busy days.