On Friday we celebrate the light filled Feast of the Epiphany. Guided by a star, those mysterious figures from the East are given a revelation of profound proportions.

The Magi have been identified by many as Zoroastrian priests although the term “magus” is also associated with Simon Magus in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 8:9-24) who was identified as a sorcerer or magician who tried to pay his way to receive the gifts of God. Here’s a poetic reflection. Who or what do you think the Magi are?


They wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
Entertainers entertained.
Magical conjurors
twisting perceptions,
manipulating senses,
attempting to change the way we see things.

The twist came
in the sight before them.
They were used to seeing things differently
so the child could have been anything:
an apprentice,
someone to learn the trade,
a card trick of emotions.

Gifts are delivered -
an acknowledgement?
A price?
A theological masterpiece expressed
in glitz and drama?
A gesture of importance?
Or peddlers calling to see, to sell,
to smile into a family's predicament?

The parents are protective and bemused,
frightened by the future.
The conjurers had suitably expressed the indelible
and cut time short
with an illusion.

The child is amused by the visitors,
who are kind enough to display
and entertain.

And then they are gone.
Not in a puff of smoke
but deliberately and slowly
as if afraid
the child would do a disappearing act
when their backs were turned.

It was a clear night.

We gather at St Paul’s Church, Grangetown on Friday 6th January at 630pm for the Feast of the Epiphany

Now and in the year to come

At the final Mass of the year, the Scripture readings take us back to the beginning, and open our hearts to eternity. As we look forward to a new year, we pray for a spirit of gladness.

The month of January is named after the two-faced Roman god of Janus. He was, for them, the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, and time. In a building in Rome, the doors of a building were opened at time of war and closed when peace arrived. In the opening scene of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Salarino refers to Janus while failing to find the reason of Antonio’s melancholy:

“Now, by two headed Janus,
Nature hath framed strange fellows in
her time:
Some that will evermore peep through their eyes
And laugh like parrots at a
And others of such vinegar aspect
That they’ll not show their teeth in way of a smile
Though Nestor swear the jest be laughable.”

During the last day of this year, many people will be hoping for a new and better year ahead. They will look back to the past, perhaps hoping to forget, and forge on with their minds filled with resolutions, hopes and dreams. Many will be disappointed.

And yet we continue to value these turning points in our lives, as a time to change and make a new start. The Gospel reading at Mass today takes us back to the beginning, speaking of the Eternal Word of God who has been revealed in time, and through whom and for whom everything was made. He has taken his place in the fabric of the world, immersed himself in the human condition, and raised our eyes to heaven.

‘These are the last days,’ announces the first letter of St John, but goes on to remind us that, ‘You have been anointed by the Holy One.’

The Oil of Chrism with which we are anointed at our baptism is is often described as ‘The Oil of Gladness.’ So whatever we hope to leave behind and embrace at the turning of the year, we can know the deep gladness and joy that comes from Christ Jesus our Lord – whether, at times, we are able to “laugh like parrots at a bagpiper” or have “such vinegar aspect that (we’ll) not show (our) teeth in way of a smile.”

Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, and so “Let the heavens rejoice and earth be glad,’ to quote the psalmist, “let the land and all it bears rejoice, all the trees of the wood shout for joy.’

May this be our prayer for the coming year. May the doors be shut on war, and may peace begin. May the land and trees and woods have cause for rejoicing as we recommit ourselves to caring for Creation and treading softly upon the earth. May our hearts be filled with the gladness that only God can give, trusting in the presence of Christ, so that we may bear all things, now and in the year to come.

The Remnants of Christmas Day

Today, is Stephen’s Day, although its more commonly called Boxing Day. In a homily for the Feast of Saint Stephen, the first Christian Martyr, whom we celebrate at Mass at noon, we ask what are the remnants of Christmas Day?

Today, outside the houses of many people sits the debris of Christmas Day.  The exchange of gifts creates tonnes of disposable packaging, reams of wrapping paper and cardboard boxes, and the festivities will have created quite a few empty bottles and cans.

What are the remnants of Christmas Day?  For some it may mean patching up things caused by a family disagreement in the midst of tension and sometimes too much alcohol.  Or it may mean walking off a few pounds put on from a little over-indulgence or counting the pennies or checking the bank balance or the gas meter to get us through to the next pay day.  For others, Boxing Day will indicate for them that it’s time to move on from Christmas and remove the decorations and the tree which has been shedding its needles for some time now.  Yes, there will be many remnants of Christmas Day.

But what, as Christians, will we have gained from Christmas Day? What are the remnants of Christmas for us?

St Stephen’s Day Mass at St Mary’s

Well, of course, for us, our Christmas celebrations are by no means packed up and put away.  They extend for days to come yet, each day of these eight days, extending Christmas Day beyond a few hours, , stretching out, suspending time, a glimpse of eternity.  Our celebrations,  come to their brilliant and light-filled climax in the Feast of the Epiphany.

Just outside Bethlehem, on that hillside where the shepherds received the angel’s message, is a church administered by the Franciscans.  When I made pilgrimage there some years ago, there was a rather delightful South American Friar who went around singing Cliff Richard’s ‘Christmas Time, Mistletoe and wine,’ whilst proclaiming that ‘Here, every day is Christmas Day!’

The Incarnation and the birth of Christ is not, and can never be, a past event. In a sermon of St Fulgentius of Ruspse on this day, he said “Our king, despite his exalted majesty, came in humility for our sake; yet he did not come empty handed.  He brought his soldiers a great gift that not only enriched them but also made them unconquerable in battle, for it was the gift of love, which was to bring men to share in his divinity.

The Incarnation and the birth of Christ is not, and can never be, a past event

When St Paul wrote of that great trinity of Faith, Hope and Love, he declared Love to be the greatest of the three.  ‘Love never ends,’ he says.

Which is why, hot on the heels of Christmas Day, within the Christmas Octave, falls the feast of St Stephen, who was armed with the weapon of love.  It filled his service of the poor, his preaching to his persecutors, his words of forgiveness as he fell, and helped to convert St Paul the persecutor into a follower of Jesus.  This feast reveals to us the cost of Love, the power of Love, the assurances of Love.  It reveals what Love can sometimes demand of us, and how it enables us to give in to those demands, to surrender ourselves to God who surrendered himself to us.

“The love that brought Christ from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth to heaven,” wrote St Fulgentius.  “Shown first in the King, it later shone forth in his soldier.  Love was Stephen’s weapon by which he gained every battle and so won the crown signified by his name.”

“The love that brought Christ from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth to heaven,” wrote St Fulgentius.

So, the remnants of Christmas Day and the birth of Christ is Love, and a sharing in the divinity of Christ, as we glimpse what we shall be, when we see God face to face.

St Fulgentius goes on: “Christ made love the stairway that would enable all Christians to climb to Heaven.  Hold fast to it, therefore, in all sincerity, give one another practical proof of it, and by your progress in it, make your ascent together.”

So, today, whether or not we take in a Boxing Day walk, we are on a journey, and we are climbing up, along the stairway of Love which Christ created.  The new year is almost upon us, and our eyes will soon be focussed on the future.  Here, in South Cardiff may Love be our aim, our tool, our weapon, the path upon which we walk, the stairway we climb, our strategy, our vision, our strength and service, stirring us to action, making us fruitful, so that by the next Christmas Day we can look back and say, ‘Yes, Love has conquered, Love has changed us, Love has shown us the way, Love has given us a new and deeper sense of Heaven, and a sharing in the divinity of Christ.

May Love be our aim, our tool, our weapon, the path upon which we walk, the stairway we climb, our strategy, our vision, our strength and service, stirring us to action

It has been a gift that has lasted.  It has not gone out of fashion, or been outgrown or suffered from wear and tear, not placed into the bin on our doorstep, but has changed us and shaped us, turned out hearts and lives to others, and led us closer to God and the life of heaven.

Love is a Strange Thing

In the darkest and deepest hour of the night, as silence descends upon the earth, we gather to celebrate the birth of Christ whose coming, so we are told, promises peace and brings hope.’ Here is Fr Dean’s homily for the Christmas Mass at Midnight, which reminds us of the Christmas call to challenge injustice, to stand alongside the poor and those who struggle, as Christ stood and stands alongside us.

Detail of the reredos at St Mary’s showing the Adoration of the Shepherds

In his book, ‘The Boy with Two Hearts,’ Hamed Amiri tells of his family’s struggles as they escape war torn Afghanistan to seek refuge in the UK, eventually settling here in Cardiff as their home. Their journey was made all the more difficult by the heart condition of his older brother, Hussein.

At the end of his book, after movingly describing his brother’s death in a UK hospital some years later, he writes ‘Love is a strange thing, especially when it’s felt between total strangers.  In my life with Hussein and through writing this book, I can now see that love crosses borders.  It crosses religions and families and can occur between people who’ll never see each other again.  It brings hope, even in the darkest moments you face.” 

In this, the darkest and deepest hour of the night, as silence descends upon the earth, we gather to celebrate the birth of Christ whose coming, so we are told, promises peace and brings hope.  The news is shared, first, with poor shepherds, night-workers, rooted to the earth, alert to shadows and movements and possible dangers, close to their sheep, seeking warmth from them and one another.

Angel voices fill the sky, and there is light too, as heaven and earth seem to be united in a moment of glory.  Surely, the shepherds cannot be in doubt about the certainty and the seriousness of what they have been told.  And so they make haste, take that journey from the hillside to the town, to see the sign spelt out to them, a baby wrapped in cloths.

This ‘Mass at Midnight’ is known in many places throughout the world as ‘The Mass of the Shepherds’.  It is, then, a Mass of the poor and the ritually unclean, of the night-time workers, and working class, the manual labourers, those who smell of the earth and the outdoors, those carrying on themselves the smell of the sheep.

The angel said, ‘Do not be afraid. Listen, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people.’

We are all too well aware of the presence of poverty in our world, in our country, in our own communities. Of the ten poorest communities in Wales, six of them are here in the southern arc of Cardiff. Unless we are careful, communities can be known as nothing more than deprived, when within them and beneath them are qualities of life which can inspire, a rich treasure trove of talent and possibilities, of people fighting against the odds, unravelling the reputation that others have given them.

Unless we are careful, communities can be known as nothing more than deprived, when within them and beneath them are qualities of life which can inspire.

But as they and we struggle, there are no angel voices, no obvious sign of heaven breaking through, no divine light shining brightly in the sky.

When a dinghy full of refugees crossing the English Channel starts to sink, there is no light from heaven, only the search beam of a helicopter which somehow comes to the rescue but not before four people die in the freezing winter waters.

And when a plane leaves Heathrow for Rwanda filled with rejected  refugees, there will be no angel voices, no Divine song that seems worth singing.

When a dad and his son settle into a hole in the ground of Afghanistan for more than a day, waiting for the missile attacks to be over, the only light in the sky are the flames of fire and missile trails, and explosions.

When girls and women are excluded from education by the Taliban, and Putin’s power displaces thousands, when housing waiting lists grow longer, and mental health services cannot keep up with the need, we look to the sky and see only darkness.

When a whole community is displaced from their home because of floods caused by rising tides, and extreme weather, there are no lights to guide them home, no good news proclaimed to them, just the distant sounds of politicians debating climate targets for the future.

When UK High Street banks keep closing and give way to banks which dole out food, now more numerous than outlets of Macdonald’s, where is the good news for them, for us?

When a mother mourns the death of her child, stabbed in the street, whilst communities respond against the raging obstacles put in their way, told to keep quiet in case they spoil the brand of a growing city, where is the good news?

So how is this a Mass of the poor, and how does Christmas change anything? Where is the promised peace, and where is the light in the darkness, where is the angel’s song, where is the good news proclaimed?

Well, perhaps we need some help from our Muslim brother, Hamed, who discovered the secret in the midst of his own difficulties and dangers.

Remember what he wrote, “Love is a strange thing, especially when it’s felt between total strangers. In my life with Hussein and through writing this book, I can now see that love crosses borders. It crosses religions and families and can occur between people who’ll never see each other again. It brings hope, even in the darkest moments you face.”

In 2022, we celebrated the status of St Mary’s Church in Wales Primary School becoming a ‘School of Sanctuary’. Here’s the proud and brilliant School of Sanctuary Committee celebrating their award!

In Christ, we see the embodiment of Love, the face of God, the touch of God, showing us the power of his Love. We see God’s faithfulness towards us, We see God immersed in the human condition, showing us the possibilities of Love.

In Christ, we see the embodiment of Love, the face of God, the touch of God, showing us the power of his Love

In Christ, we see both who God is, and what we as human beings have been made to be and called to be.  In Christ, we see both our distant past, to which we have been blind, and our future. His birth, his life, his death and resurrection shows us that there is hope, there is light, there can be peace, “even in the darkest moments you face.”

We are called to be this Love to others, and to receive this Love from others.  Each of us, in our own lives, and together as the Church, are called to be Christ’s Body in the world, his presence in the world, being Christ for one another, crossing borders, bringing hope.

Celebrating this Mass, and every other Mass, changes things.  It unites us to the cross of Jesus.  Through it we receive all the benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection.  We receive all the benefits of God’s Love.  And each of us will know the power of love to change things, to bring hope.

“Love is also contagious,’ wrote Hamed, “jumping from one person to the next and never dying out.”

May this Christmas bring much joy and peace, much hope and happiness.  May it comfort us in the faithfulness of God, may it form us anew in his love, and enable us to be his love for others, and as St Paul says, to have “no ambition except to do good,” for love to be contagious.

May it give us the courage to speak out against injustice, to challenge poverty, to respond to need, to work for peace, to live responsible lives, to live care-full lives, playing our own part, to be that light, that angels song, revealing the life of Heaven, to build the Kingdom of God.

“Love is a strange thing,” said Hamed.”

It is also a most beautiful thing, a life changing thing. It’s what the world needs, it’s what we need.

In searching for Love, we find it bundled in cloths in a feeding trough, alongside the shepherds, the poor and those regarded as unclean, the night-time workers and working class, the manual labourers, those who smell of the earth and the outdoors, those carrying the smell of the sheep, or the stink of a damp house or the sweat which comes from struggle and hardship, or the from the rage of fighting for justice, those who weep for home, who have no home, those who have already given up on the future.

We stand with them, as Christ stands with them, as Christ stands with us, as one of us, but showing us so much more, showing us the possibilities of God’s love, bringing hope, even in the darkest moments we face.

The passing of a crown

The following reflection was quickly written and recorded today for United Christian Broadcasters Radio for a production on Monday for the day of the Queen’s funeral

Upon her last, passing breath
she passes the crown to another,
like a baton
but it’s a burden too,
like a gold-plated cross
and, hiding beneath, the rough wood
which dares to splinter.
Honour and riches and fame and renown
can never hide us from the dangers and strife.
There is no such thing as a comfortable life,
and sacrifice is sewn into her handmade garments
and sequined robes of gold.
And yet she seemed to sail so effortlessly
along an uncomfortable journey
comforted by the One with whom she was anointed
beneath that canopy
which hid her from the public eye,
seven decades ago.
An intimate moment spent with God
whose breath and gentle whisper
is almost imperceptible
but always there,
like the feint scent of sesame seed and olive oil,
roses, orange flowers, jasmine
musk and civet.
She was anointed for service
determined only by her heritage
and how wide her heart was open to the passing of a crown.

Common Ground

This is a half-remembered, fully-edited and yet extended reflection from today’s homily at Mass. It’s by no means entirely or exactly what was preached at all but it is a sensitive reworking, and simply provides a little prompt for reflection.

The gospel reading was the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)

The story of the Good Samaritan is among the savoured stuff of Sunday School teachers. It is a simple story with much appeal.

Samaritans feature often in the gospels – not just played out in parables but in the lived experience of Jesus and his apostles. Remember how he draws close to the Samaritan woman at the well? How he asks her for a drink, whilst his onlookers stand surprised by the way he treads across the boundaries which divide, and how he bridges the gaps which have become filled with animosity, disagreement and suspicion.

In those days, the Samaritans and Jews lived far apart from one another. There was religious difference. There was to be no encounter, no friendship, no love. The story of the Good Samaritan would have stunned Jesus’ listeners.

Jesus creates that common ground upon which people who are different can stand. He shows us us how we can build friendships and relate to one another in a spirit of mutual respect, and with love.

It’s the place where conversation occurs, where there is speaking and listening, and where new possibilities are discovered.

It is a place where hope exists, where it is tangible – passed around like a ball game where the only rule is love.

It is a place of stillness, too, and of gentleness. Where wounds can be tended, where healing takes place, where patience is needed.

It is also a costly place – not necessarily in terms of finance, although the Good Samaritan is willing to pay that price – but perhaps in setting aside some things to which we hold close.

On this common ground our insecurities can easily rise to the surface. And so it is a fragile place too.

But is the place we are called to create and occupy, always being intentional but also willing to be surprised. There has to be honesty and openness, as we discover a shared language where love can be heard.

This common ground is also easily spoiled, easily invaded by others, who do not play by the same rules, and who can unsettle the ground. People whose motives are not the same, and who do not understand what it means to till and work this common ground.

Here, in South Cardiff, we have a unique calling and a daily opportunity to help create and cherish that common ground. To build friendships, engage with difference, in order to fulfil the law of Christ which, quite simply, is to love God and to love one another.

The Samaritan in the story of Jesus had no ulterior motive. There is no indication that he wished to proselytise the man he helps and heals. He doesn’t see him as low lying fruit, easily plucked. He simply meets the need presented to him with love and care and compassion. Perhaps he leaves the rest to God.

The Samaritan man creates that common ground where Love’s possibilities are endless.

But crossing boundaries is a difficult thing to do. It is a tender place where love must reign, and which fosters hope not hostility, reconciliation not rage, peace not pain. We must cross those boundaries with care and tenderness, recognising the fragile ground upon which we walk.

Perhaps, standing outside a community, with a certain perspective, we may think we know what is right for it. We may look from a distance, see the people coming and going and standing around, living their lives, loving their loves, and want to bring our own message to them, do things in a different way, a new way. Perhaps we may even think that we have a truth they need to have, a treasure they need to hold.

Jesus was a Jew but, in his own story, it is the Samaritan who saves. Yes, as Christians, we are commissioned to go and make disciples of all nations but we also forget, at our peril, the command of Jesus to love one another as he has loved us.

Yes, Jesus creates that common ground upon which people who are different can stand. He shows us us how we can build friendships and relate to one another in a spirit of mutual respect, and with love.

We must go and do the same.

Leading us to the street

Glastonbury Pilgrimage | Benediction Homily by Fr Dean Atkins| July 9, 2022
John 13:1-17

He looked nervous and out of place
when he walked into the Foodbank.
I’ll call him “Sam.”

Sam had just graduated from university
and now, maybe, with so many dreams dashed
and hopes from the distant past dissolved,
he found himself in need.

He had fallen out with his parents
and had lost that support
so many of us have taken for granted.

I asked him if he’d like a coffee
whilst he waited for his bags of food.
A coffee.
Such a simple thing.
Something I consume in ridiculous quantities
every morning of my life,
without giving it much thought,
or being too thankful for it,
to be honest.

“A coffee?” he said, as though I was offering him gold.
“Oh, yes please. I can’t remember the last time I had a coffee.”

As we sat across the table
over the coffee
which I now valued so much more,
we talked a little.

Sam told me about the problem with his parents,
and how he wasn’t very good with money,

“And, if I’m honest,” he said,
with his head lowered,
“I drink too much.”

But tomorrow,
he was starting a new job,
working in a Buffet Restaurant,
and he could see the possibilities,
even though he wouldn’t be paid for some time yet,
and probably wouldn’t be paid as much
as he once thought his university degree would bring him,
there was some hope.

I never saw him again
although, in the weeks afterwards,
whenever I passed by the restaurant
I wondered how he was doing.

I still wonder.

Some people
cling to you,
stand out,
stir you in some way,
leave their mark.

I hope he’s ok.

The people who find themselves at a Foodbank
are many and varied.
There are the ones you may stereotypically expect to see,
and those who return,
and you’re not surprised to see them.
And again.

But there are others too.
Those who have fled from a broken relationship,
the professionals, a former doctor or journalist,
those devastated by drugs,
the recently released from prison,
the sex workers, the homeless,
the full-time workers, the stay-at-home carers,
those whose minds have been fractured by life,
those who have lost their job,
their home,
their hope,
who come to us, sometimes,
with a sense of shame,
or awkwardness.

Those who look nervous
and out of place.

And here we are.
We,who dare to believe in Jesus,
the Bread of Life,
who fed the thousands,
and dared to say,
‘Come to me all who are burdened by life
and I will give you rest.’

How beautiful is this place!
And yet this is a place
of ruins and lost glory,
a place dismantled by politics
and religious turmoil,
five centuries ago.

This is a place where the past
lies heavy upon us.
A fragile place
of dissolved dreams
and dashed hopes.

We should feel nervous here,
and out of place.

Not because of the dismantled walls,
the toppled stones of the past,
and the lessons of history,
but because of what we are doing here.
Right now.

We should not be able to look at him –
the Sacramental presence of Jesus,
the Body of Christ,
which I consume each day, each week,
without, at times,
giving it much thought,
or being too thankful for it,
(to be honest) –

without thinking of Sam,
and so many others
whose hopes have been changed,
or snatched from them altogether.

Those who need some hope,
some friendship,
a step up,
as they step on.

On the night that Jesus gave us this beautiful gift of himself,
a means through which we receive
all the benefits of his death and resurrection,
a constant sign of his presence,
a sharing in his life,
he also stooped to the ground
to wash his disciples’ feet,
an act which unsettled St Peter,
made him feel nervous,
and out of place.

Jesus moves from the table
to the grime that lies between the toes,
from the food to the feet,
from the sacrament to the sweat,
from the sweetness to the street.

And we have moved through the street too,
through this strange and fascinating town of Glastonbury
with its way-out ways,
and its alternative spiritual awakenings,
moving with Christ, the Bread of Life,
singing of the wonderful way
in which Jesus is present among us
in the Sacrament of the Altar,
feeding us,
leading us,
changing us.

Maybe much of what we have done
through the streets,
were a mystery to those who witnessed it,
but, here, as you sit and sing
and smile and love…

think of Sam…
and all those who are hungry
for food,
for friendship,
for hope.

“Lord to whom shall we go,
you have the message of eternal life?”

Ah, those words of St Peter
which embrace both a sense
of hopelessness and hope.

We have no one
or nowhere to go to…

…we are hopeless…
but you, Lord…
are our hope.

Life is fragile,
and full of ruined dreams
and hopeless situations,
and toppled stones,
and so often we feel nervous
and out of place.
Strangers in a strange land.

But our only hope
lies in Christ,
who is here,
in our midst,
upon this altar,
feeding our souls,
leading us to the streets,

leading us to Sam…

and Janet, and Laura…

and Tianie and Layla and Mohammed…

and Stephen and Bill and Barbara…

and Ahmed, and Derek…

and Sarah, and Sophie and James…

and Fiona and Spencer and Jake …


My Today

Faith is common currency here in Butetown. At St Mary’s (Church in Wales) Primary School we are able to beautifully give expression to all faiths within a Christian nurturing environment.

About 86% of our pupils are from Muslim families and there is wonderful respect of each other’s faith as we work together to build a strong, peaceful and cohesive community.

Over the last week or so, particularly during our celebration of Refugee week and the conversations I’ve been able to have with some of our young people, I’ve given much thought to the beauty of Butetown, and the nurturing environment the school is able to give to children, and I’ve had some lovely conversations about faith and belief.

It’s not the same experience some of us have experienced in the past, and we want to be part of a world of peace where all are respected, and where faith and belief and belonging are valued.

A little poetic reflection.

1970s, 1980s,
growing up into the Valleys,
I kept my head down about faith.
Don’t admit, if you can,
being Christian.
Avoid the talk.
It’s not cool.
It doesn’t fit with football or friends.
Curl the conversation astray.
Just kick the ball away.
It’s easier that way.

But that was yesterday.

It’s a world away from today.
And I’m a 20 mile,
40 year journey
from my childhood days.
I’m back in Butetown,
where Faith is not far from football,
and boxing doesn’t punch the Faith away.

For me,
I was the only known boy
in my whole school year
to “go to church,”
back in those glitter ball days.
There was ridicule then,
here in this Christian Country
and so I kept the ball at arm’s length,
kicked it into touch.

I’m back in Butetown.
Because I was never here before I came -
apart from my grandfather
who welded his way
among the ships here
along the water’s edge,
some time after his teenage years
were spent in the dark canals,
the deep underground,
hacking coal,
shipped this way,
back before a war which challenged faith
and kicked God into touch.

In Butetown,
faith is not such a strange thing.
It’s a common language,
spoken on the streets,
shared in shops,
understood, respected.
There is difference and change.
But there is no reason
to keep your head down
about faith.

And so I get something
of what it means
to be the different one.
The one who tries to make it
all worthwhile
in a kick to goal
or a touchdown
or a sprint across the line,
avoiding the harsh calls
from the touch lines,
shurking the “bible basher” jokes
at the end of the
council street cul-de-sac
and it’s dead end dreams.
I was there before I met you,
avoiding the talk,
wishing it was yesterday,
a world away
from what is my today.

Churches Unlocked

Welcome to our Churches Unlocked festival with activities and events taking place from Tuesday 21 – Sunday 26 June, 2022

We are one of ten churches in the Diocese of Llandaff taking part in the Festival, and you can discover more of the riches of our diocese being unleashed during this festival week here


We have a packed programme at St Mary’s Church in Butetown as we explore and celebrate ‘Welcome, Sanctuary and Diversity‘ and here you’ll find all you need to make the most of your visit. Here are some quick links to some of the items on this page:

Timetable | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday | On Display | Wild Side | Tours | Prayer and Worship | Extras


As well as participating in the Churches Unlocked festival, we’re also celebrating Refugee Week and The Great Get Together (inspired by Jo Cox)

Check out how our Church Schools are leading the way in celebrating Refugee Week with this article from the Diocese of Llandaff featuring St Mary’s School


We love working with others and we have a number of different organisations taking part this week.

Each day, there’ll be an Audio-Visual loop from St Mary’s School, as well as an exhibition from Tiger Bay and the World, Women Seeking Sanctuary Advocacy Group, Cardiff Street Pastors, Info-point. Yes, we love working with others!

In particular, we are working together with St Mary’s School throughout the whole week. Why not check out an amazing video from the school called Butetown’s Colourful Journey which celebrates our vibrant and diverse community:


Feel free to move around the church and grounds, taking in the sights and sounds, discovering a story behind every item. Our volunteers are on hand to help, and if they don’t know the answer to a question, they’ll do their best to find out!

Info-point: Take an interactive tour and pilgrimage through St Mary’s using the Info-point trail inside the building. Discover more about Info-point here. Using your Smart Phone simply scan the QR code available in the church for wi-fi and the particular tour, and you’re off!

Stations of the Cross: You can also walk the Stations of the Cross with our simple reflections available here

Faithful Butetown: there are secrets to be discovered in the streets of Butetown, and our guided tours through our community reveal the faithful past and present of the city, discovering significant sites and stories from different religions, and celebrating the part that religious groups have played in the life and growth of our city. There’s an opportunity to participate in one of these on Saturday when we ‘Meet at Betty’s statue’ as we partner with The Great Get Together

‘Enter the Mystery’ On Friday at 2pm, you can discover the Mystery and History of St Mary’s Church on our guided, interactive tour

We also have our own colourful Guide Book available to purchase at just £3

Recording God’s Garden Adventure with Nicki Prichard, Headteacher of St Mary’s School, and Matt Batten from the Diocese of Llandaff


Yes, we do have a wild side! Our gardens are open for you to explore – you can dig deep into our wildlife area and discover the beauty of nature in the heart of our city, or take an interactive journey on your Smartphone.

Prayer and Reflection: Take our audio-visual trail through the wild side, reflecting on God’s Creation and our repsonsibility towards the natural environment. Here you can explore our Stations of Creation and God’s Garden Adventure (designed for children but popular with those not so young too!) or visit some of the other reflective areas and shrines, including Our Lady and St Francis of Assisi.

Get Wild: You can discover the Wild Side QR Code Trail here which explores some of the features of our gardens and how we are helping to take care of nature and offer a space for people to reap the benefits of getting close to nature.

Wild Activities: we have some Nature spotting activity sheets available, as well as a few bug hunting jars – popular with children – and a few other activities available during the week. Remember to tread carefully – and be kind to every creature!

You can access the garden through the far left hand corner of the church, where you’ll find the Meeting Room (where you can grab a coffee!)

There are two interactive experiences for both children and adults


Whilst St Mary’s is an historic place, with a rich heritage, it is, above all, a place of prayer and worship, a home to the church which gathers here. Each day throughout the year there is a regular pattern of prayer, and all are welcome.

This week is no different, and each day is maintained by a rhythm of Mass and prayer. (including our weekly Mass on Wednesday with pupils from St Mary’s School). You can discover these times in the timetable below where you will also find links to Morning and Afternoon Prayer (using the Universalis webpage) as well as the Angelus and the Rosary.

However, there are also some interactive prayer staions available this week which have been designed and created by Beccie Morteo our Diocesan Education Officer, to explore some of the themes of Refugee Week.

A snapshot from the Easter Vigil 2022


The Kettle’s always on, and you’re welcome at the table!

Tea, coffee, cake and biscuits available throughout each day from after Morning Prayer to 3.30pm, all served in The Meeting Room – yes, a place to meet people! It’s at the far left corner of the church where you’ll also find a toilet, and the entranceway to the gardens.


Children can discover an amazing secret on our Tiger Bay Treasure Hunt – The Mystery of the Stone Head. Pick up a Guide in church or check out more details here


In the weeks before there is also a Poetry Competition for Church Primary Schools with the winners announced at the Schools of Sanctuary Celebration on Thursday

Kimberley Abodunrin plays Betty Campbell in the one-woman show



8.30 am
Angelus and Morning Prayer

[The Angelus bells ring three times a day from St Mary’s. Check out the meaning of the chimes in a reflection here]

9am onwards
Flat Holm - A Walk through Time: The guys from this amazing project will be with us through the day as they provide an opportunity to discover the history and religious significance, the nature and conservation of the island which is situated in the Bristol Channel at the southernmost part of the parish. Interactive activities, including a 3D experience of the island.

10.00amBetty Campbell: A Journey through Butetown' - Betty Campbell Play (for St Mary’s CIW Primary School)  You can find out more about the play here

12 noon
Angelus and Mass  

1.30 pmBetty Campbell: A Journey through Butetown' - Betty Campbell Play (for St Cuthbert’s Catholic Primary School)*

Afternoon Prayer (Link to Universalis webpage)


Angelus and Morning Prayer (Link to Universalis webpage)

School Mass. Each week on Wednesday we celebrate Mass with pupils of St Mary's School. This week, we'll be celebrating what it means to be a welcoming community. All are welcome!

12 noon
Angelus and Mid-day Prayer

1.00 pm
‘Betty Campbell: A Journey through Butetown' - Betty Campbell Play (for Mount Stuart Primary School)*

Afternoon Prayer (Link to Universalis webpage)

‘A scandal to have lost’
In an edition of St Marys Parish Magazine of 1872, we read “It now remains for the Welsh Churchmen of Cardiff to aid the Vicar in his endeavours to restore, what is a scandal to have lost, Welsh Services for the Church of the most important town in Wales. (Join us for this bilingual event with simultaneous translation, as we discover the contribution towards the Welsh Church and the Welsh Language of a past Pioneer priest of St Mary’s, Fr Griffith Arthur Jones, led by Revds Dyfrig Lloyd and Dean Atkins.

'Sgandal i fod wedi colli'
Mewn rhifyn o Gylchgrawn Plwyf y Santes Fair yn 1872, darllenwn: 'Mae’n nawr yn nwylo Eglwyswyr Cymraeg Caerdydd i gynorthwyo’r Ficer yn ei ymdrechion i adfer yr hyn a oedd yn sgandal i fod wedi ei golli, sef Gwasanaethau Cymraeg yn yr Eglwys, yn hon, y bwysicaf o drefi yng Nghymru'. Ymunwch â ni ar gyfer y digwyddiad dwyieithog hwn gyda chyfieithu ar y pryd, wrth inni edrych ar gyfraniad offeiriad Arloesol y Santes Fair, Tad Griffith Arthur Jones i’r Eglwys Gymraeg a’r Iaith Cymraeg. Arweinir y noson gan y Parchedigion Dyfrig Lloyd a Dean Atkins

You can discover more about the event in this news article from the Diocese of Llandaff
Fr Jones of Cardiff

We also have a Beta version trail throughout Cardiff and Wales exploring the life and heritage of Fr Jones of Cardiff.


Angelus and Morning Prayer (Link to Universalis webpage)

Faithful Butetown Walk (for St Mary the Virgin Church in Wales Primary)

12 noon
Angelus and Mass

‘In our words’
Children’s presentation from St Mary’s School about Welcome, Sanctuary and Diversity. What does it really mean to be a School of Sanctuary?

Drinks Reception for the Schools of Sanctuary Celebration

3.30 pm
Schools of Sanctuary Celebration

SORRY - due to unforeseen circumstances, the choir have had to CANCEL the following event (However the event on 30th is still going ahead)

‘Interfaith Choir’ Rehearsal and gathering – all are welcome as the choir prepares for their event at St Mary’s next week – Freedom of Religion and Belief Conference: End the Persecution’ on 30 June.
The Interfaith Choir, rehearsing this week on Thursday evening at St Mary’s are preparing for this amazing event which takes place the weke after our Festival on Thursday 30th June


Angelus and Morning Prayer (Link to Universalis webpage)

‘In our words’
Children’s presentation from St Mary’s School about Welcome, Sanctuary and Diversity.  What does it really mean to be a School of Sanctuary?

12 noon
Angelus and Mass

'Enter the Mystery’ Discover the Mystery and History of St Mary’s Church on our guided, interactive tour

4.00 pm	Afternoon Prayer (Link to Universalis webpage)

En-route – Faithful Butetown


Church open

Morning Prayer (Link to Universalis webpage) and Rosary

Mass and Angelus

Faithful Butetown Walk – ‘Meet me by Betty’s Statue’ - a shared walk with conversation beginning at Central Square and finishing in the Bay, as we discover the faithful past and present of Cardiff and Butetown.

This event is also registered as a 'Great Get Together' event (inspired by Jo Cox) and there is an invitation to extend the walk from Cardiff Bay across to Grangetown Pavilion for the Great Get Together gathering there!

LINK: You can find links to all our Faithful Butetown and Faithful Cardiff Walks at our Visit page which takes you around the city centre, through Butetown, and around Cardiff Bay

Afternoon Prayer (Link to Universalis webpage)
Our Saturday afternoon ‘Faithful Butetown’ walk invites you to meet at Betty’s statue in Central Square at 1pm
Our Faithful Butetown Walk is registered as a Great walk Together. It won’t be the same without you!


Solemn Mass – on Sanctuary Sunday which marks the end of Refugee Week

12 noon
The Great Get Together Barbecue! All are welcome (Vegan, vegetarian and halal options available)

Visit the Great Get Together Map which includes details of the ways in which we are getting involved, including our Barbecue and the Faithful Butetown Walk

God’s Garden Adventure


Our website has an array of resources and insights, including our blog featuring fascinating articles and reflections.

For example, Under the Same Sun is an article which explores how Butetown came to be what it is today – a diverse and multi-cultural community, whilst The Boxers of Tiger Bay begins with an appreciation of Tiger Bay Boxing Club which is carrying on a rich heritage in Butetown and, most importantly, helping young people to flourish!

Check out our colourful resource for schools

Within the Walls and Windows: check out our colourful resource for schools with ideas of teaching and learning. St Mary’s is a great resource for learning in the heart of our community.

Every item tells a tale, and this bell came from a Napoleonic ship docked here in Tiger Bay

Articles of Faith: there’s usually a story behind the objects you see. Check out our growing catalogue of Articles of Faith, many of which have a link to a wider reflection in our blog. For example, did you know that the brass eagle-shaped lectern is linked to Cardiff becoming a City, and the stone-corbal head at the entrance to the Lady Chapel reveals a thousand years of history?

Community: we are an intrinsic part of the community which we love, and we are committed to working together with others to celebrate all that is good, and to address issues and concerns so that our community can be strong and flourishing. Check out some of the ways in which we are involved in our Community