Row over Welsh language provision at Wales’ premier Cathedral
Concerns have been raised about an apparent decline in the provision for Welsh speakers at Wales’ premier Cathedral at St Davids.
Retired public affairs executive John Pockett, a longstanding Anglican who lives in Pontypridd, raised the issue on Twitter after reading a list of services for a week that gave no indication of any Welsh content.
He tweeted: “Do I read this correctly – there is no provision for Welsh speaking worshippers, or indeed, anyone, to receive communion in Welsh at Wales’ premier cathedral, dedicated to our Patron Saint (and St Andrew)? If so, the anglicisation of the @ChurchinWales is complete.”
Gwilym Dafydd from Cardiff commented: “They are working hard to ensure a million Welsh speakers there by the middle of the century!”, to which Mr Pockett responded: “I don’t see that the Church in Wales is doing much at all to achieve that goal by curtailing Welsh in our main Cathedral. And me speaking as a former Welsh tutor at Coleg Mihangel Sant in Llandaf over 35 years ago!”
We sought comment from St Davids Cathedral, and a spokeswoman said: “Our Welsh language, culture and heritage have always been integral to our worship and practice at St Davids Cathedral, with increasing use in recent years. We are committed to using Welsh in all our services – from our daily Offices and Eucharists, to services for national occasions, which are generally bilingual. Currently we hold a wholly Welsh-language Communion service once a month. We also have a significant number of Welsh speakers and learners among our clergy and lay leaders.”
Mr Pockett responded:”I fail to see how the Cathedral can say that the use of Welsh has increased. What’s the extra use to which they refer? The only concrete thing that is irrefutable is that there always was a 09.30 Welsh Eucharist every week, which attracted a number of Welsh speakers. It’s now once monthly, so that’s a 75% reduction. I’ve not detected any increase in the use of Welsh in their normal run of services, including the broadcast Choral Evensong on Radio 3.
“National services, which the Cathedral mentions, would always be bilingual, in any case, just as they always are wherever they’re held, usually in Llandaf Cathedral. And on a weekly basis, until the pandemic, there were two Welsh services in Llandaf each week – now reduced to one.
“I’ve had a direct response to my tweet from a Welsh speaker from Cardiff who says he goes to St Davids once a year and he notes that there are virtually no Welsh notices or information of services etc readily available.”
Responding further to Mr Pockett, the spokeswoman for St Davids Cathedral said: “Our Welsh language, culture and heritage have always been integral to our worship and practice at St Davids Cathedral, with increasing use in recent years. We are committed to using Welsh in all our services – from our daily Offices and Eucharists, to services for diocesan and national occasions, which are generally bilingual.
“Currently we hold a wholly Welsh-language Communion service once a month – a frequency agreed with those who regularly attend. However, we are stepping away from just ‘English’ or just ‘Welsh’ services in favour of weaving both languages through all our services, supported with bilingual service booklets. We believe this approach encourages everyone to engage with Welsh, including the large numbers of visitors who join us from outside Wales and from overseas.
“We review our services regularly and if there were demand for more Welsh-only services we would, of course, respond. We are fortunate in having a significant number of Welsh speakers and learners among our residential clergy and lay leaders. In February 2023 we appointed a new Canon Pastor who is a fluent Welsh speaker.
“The Revd Canon Sheridan Angharad James is keen to develop and grow Cymun y Plwyf, as well as support the increase in the use of Welsh in the other services. Having a natural Welsh-speaker on the team is increasing the use of Welsh within the Cathedral in formal and informal settings. She also sits on the Diocesan Committee for Welsh culture and bilingualism and will be looking over the next year to implement strategies developed by that committee at the Cathedral.”
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