The General Secretaries and staff missionary secretaries of CWM met in Cardiff, the capital of Wales in September 2017. As part of their introduction to Wales, they were taken to Maesyronnen, dating to 1697, the country’s oldest nonconformist building. There the Rev. Dr. Geraint Tudur, General Secretary of the Union of Welsh Independents, presented the delegates with copies of Our Holy Ground, the Welsh Christian Experience, written by John Morgans and photographed by Peter Noble. Each delegate also received a copy of ‘Câr Di’, a spectacular photograph included in the book. It captures a moment of inspiration.
What are the stories behind the photograph and the creation of the window?
John had been writing and rewriting the book for many years. He invited Peter to photograph places inspired by the history. Both found themselves discerning the action of God. While it would seem that John was making journeys into the past, and Peter was on pilgrimage through present-day Wales, both found themselves exploring past and present, and preparing for the future. In their exploration they discerned the finger of God guiding the people of Wales throughout their history. The book was created to help the people of Wales discover and celebrate together the wholeness of their Christian story.
They felt God’s presence on many occasions but supremely in their final journey together in October 2015. Autumn had drawn in. Most of Wales had been travelled. One last corner remained to be explored. A final chapter needed to be written and the last photographs taken. All seemed to be drawing to a close. They arrived at the historic town of Llanymddyfri (Llandovery) and climbed the hill to the ancient church. The great door was opened and they entered the medieval wonder which is Llanfair ar y Bryn. Were they guided to the tiny narrow insignificant leper window in the chancel wall? There they witnessed John Petts’ gift to the church to remember – the outcast, the alien, the nameless. The sun broke through and crimson flooded frame and floor. Stunned by the beauty of the window and its reflection on the floor, like Moses, they asked, ‘Who are you Lord?’ The reply came in the two words carved in glass. Câr Di is the Welsh for the command of Jesus: ‘You must love… love is the sum of the Law… this is the one commandment.’ Jesus calls us to love God … our neighbour … ourselves.
The window was created and presented to the church in 1972 by John Petts, one of Wales’ greatest glass-artists. Petts intended the window to reflect the words of Christ ‘Câr Di.’ This was designed so that ‘the colours would stretch across the altar to coincide with the afternoon service.’ The glass fitted into this ‘leper’s window’ through which in ancient times, lepers, the untouchables observed the celebration of Holy Communion.
In 1963, Petts had created a stained-glass window featuring a Black Jesus for the 16th Street Baptist church in Birmingham Alabama. It was his response to a racially motivated bombing that killed four African-American girls aged 11–14. Petts was motivated by his conviction that ‘An idea doesn’t exist unless you do something about it. Thought has no real living meaning unless it’s followed by action.’ Working with the Welsh newspaper, The Western Mail, to raise funds, donations from thousands of Welsh people paid for the window. No-one was allowed to pay more than 2/6d (12½ pence ) – it was the gift of the people of Wales, not wealthy donors.