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Newport hosts ‘Posada for the City’

22 December 2023

NEWPORT CATHEDRAL

NEWPORT, in the diocese of Monmouth, may be 5000 miles from Mexico, but this year it has shared in a Mexican tradition dating back centuries.

The tradition of “Las Posadas” commemorates the journey of Joseph and Mary to the inn in Bethlehem (posada means inn, in Spanish). Celebrated between 16 and 24 December — a novena or nine-day period representing Mary’s pregnancy — it typically involves re-enactments of the journey.

This year, young people at Newport Cathedral have helped to create a “Posada for the City”, which focuses on a miniature model of the city that depicts Mary and Joseph travelling past local landmarks on each Sunday in Advent.

Each stop is accompanied by a reflection on a different subject: the conservation of the environment, at the Gwent Wetlands; the city’s industrial heritage and contemporary deprivation, at the Transporter Bridge; the freedom to worship, at a sculpture of a bull (inspired by St Gwynllyw, a sixth-century warrior king, also known as St Woolos, whose church is now the site of the cathedral); and justice, with boots commemorating the uprising of 1839, in which Chartists marching for the vote met armed resistance at the Westgate Hotel. Ten men were buried in the cathedral grounds.

The display was designed and curated by Wendy Diamond, the partner of the Bishop of Monmouth, the Rt Revd Cherry Vann. The houses were crafted by the cathedral choristers, and the boots originally belonged to a Cabbage Patch Kids doll, but have been coated in black papier-mâché.

The aim had been to “make connections between first-century Palestine and now,” Ms Diamond said this week. “A lot of people have been to see it in the cathedral — people who probably wouldn’t have darkened the doors before. I hope that we are able to build on that.” The model train that runs around the display was also a significant attraction, she noted: instructions to stay behind the barrier had tested some adult visitors.

Canon Andrew Lightbown, of Newport Cathedral, said that the display reflected the questions being explored by the cathedral’s new Forum for Urban Spirituality: “What is God revealing to us here in the city of Newport?” he asked. He had been impressed by the “depth of conversation that the choristers brought to their crafting”.

Newport had “areas of grinding poverty” and homelessness, he said. It was home to a significant number of refugees and asylum-seekers. The posada ended at the cathedral, a reminder that “Christ is born not just in Bethlehem but here, there, everywhere”.

The model is on display until Christmas Eve.

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