I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father
of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you
come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened,
you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are
the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what
is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe,
according to the working of his great power.
Ephesians 1 (NRSV)
ON THE walls of the building that serves as our church hall in
Holyhead are photos of my predecessors: reminders of those who have
gone before. One day, perhaps, someone will be helped by my gaze
looking down on them - less sternly, I hope, than that of some of
those whose past ministry here I benefit from.
On Holy Island in Anglesey, I am also aware of the legacy of the
Celtic saints Cybi, Ffraid (Bridget), and Gwenfaen, who loved and
hallowed this place. As human beings, we are interconnected. As
Christians, we share a common bond with all members of the Church
Universal, living or departed. The writer of the Letter to the
Ephesians prays that the readers of his letter may know that they
are part of a rich inheritance. For me, this inheritance can
sometimes seem like a shackle, as I am regaled with stories of the
saints who have lived in this edgy part of the British Isles. At
other times, their having been here provides rich narratives of
When I feel hemmed in, I find myself transported to this
passage, a prayer motivated by pastoral love and a desire that this
early Christian community should understand that it is part of a
great cosmic plan. I hear it prayed by an elderly Pentecostal
minister in Southey Green, Sheffield, whose church I attended as a
teenager. I hear the rich cadences of his voice uttering phrases
such as "immeasurable greatness of his power". I have sometimes
tried to read the Greek text to myself in the same way, wondering
what effect these words had on their first hearers, and whether
they, too, would have been captivated by the prose and the
expressive reading of it. Did it reverberate in their souls?
This pastoral intercessor asks that we may be enlightened,
beginning to see who we are in Christ Jesus, with the unlimited
potential that this brings. This can be a tall order for church
communities, as we struggle with increasing age and declining
numbers, limited energy and sparse finances. When we remember that
the original hearers of the letter feared for their lives simply
because they were part of the Christian community, we should recall
that our own challenges today are distinctly First World.
Hearing in my mind that Elim minister from my teenage years, I
think of a man whose faith had stood the test of time, and who,
like our intercessor, believed that, in prayer, heaven and earth
meet, and both are transformed. If for us as Anglicans that
language does not quite resonate, we should recall that our
Eucharistic Prayers include the acknowledgement that worshippers on
earth join in with the song of the exultant company of heaven.
The prayer roots all this in the greatness of God's power. It is
through God that we are enveloped in the wider divine drama.
Reminded of this, I can sit not too uncomfortably alongside
Gwenfaen, Ffraid, and Cybi, confident that each of us is embraced
by Christ's love.
Prayers that include the word "power" can make me uneasy. God's
power is fundamentally different. Our church hall in Holyhead is
more than a hall. It is Eglyws y Bedd, which, being translated, is
Church of the Grave. All hope, riches, greatness, and power stem
from something that happened in a Palestinian tomb. I put aside my
queries about power, and embrace my inheritance, hearing again the
timbre of that elderly Welsh voice in a church in Sheffield: "Let
The Revd Dr Kevin Ellis is the Vicar of Bro Cybi, in the
diocese of Bangor.