Community Saints Awards 2022
On Saturday 5th March, St. David’s Uniting Church held the inaugural Community Saints Award in which we thanked and celebrated those in our community who ‘do the little things’ to make our community a hope-filled place to live. For those who couldn’t make the event – in person or online – below is an extract of Phil’s opening speech:
These past couple of years, through the darkness we’ve encountered, we’ve seen how our neighbours – some of whom we didn’t even know before – have shone brighter than ever. As we’ve endured austerity and divisive political rhetoric; as we’ve faced local flooding, a global pandemic, a continuing climate crisis…there have been those amongst us who have countered conflict with kindness, who have shown courage and compassion, who have been brave and beautiful as they’ve demonstrated us that we truly are stronger together…and here at St. David’s Uniting Church, we wanted to celebrate these amazing folk. So way back last year, we decided to put on some kind of event to say thank you and we were inspired by a vegetarian from West Wales!
There he is – Dewi Sant – who, in this image, always makes me feel slightly better about my receding hair! Now, there are some things St David and I might not agree on – he was a teetotaller for one! – but as we were thinking what we could do to highlight the amazing individuals who help make Pontypridd the wonderful place it is, we couldn’t help but by inspired by our patron saint and particularly by some of the last words that he said to his followers.
Be joyful, keep the faith, and do the little things.
I’m sure all of us have learnt that phrase over the years. Perhaps you even said it on Tuesday. Like any well-known phrase, we can say it unthinkingly but actually, it’s an incredibly radical challenge.
Be joyful. Be joyful? How on Earth can we be joyful in our current climate?
How can we possibly seek or share joy at a time like this?
Well, perhaps we might be inspired by this guy – the late, great Desmond Tutu. Spending much of his adult years fighting the obscenity of Apartheid in South Africa, Tutu was someone who knew injustice and violence all too well…and yet he was also a man of great joy. His religious faith, his love of people, his belief that every single person has worth, deserves dignity, and are loved, seemed to give him an infectious joy that it was impossible to resist. And amongst our award recipients today, there are those who have spread joy in our community – friends, neighbours, employees who, through quizzes and competitions, food, fancy dress and more, have helped to keep spirits up during the pandemic and at other times of hardship – and we will celebrate them today. So diolch yn fawr to you joy-givers.
Be joyful and keep the faith. St David said. For David, of course, that meant his Christian faith but for all of us, keeping faith – keeping away from apathy, despair, or even strident certainty at a time when it feels like the world is burning…sometimes quite literally…is a bit of a tall order. And yet, at St. David’s Uniting Church, despite everything, we still want to affirm the goodness at the heart of humanity that is planted more deeply than all that is wrong. We want to celebrate the individuals who share and show hope when hope is fragile. We want to believe that, paraphrasing St Julian of Norwich (pictured), all shall be well in the end – that love, not hate, will have the final word. And again, we have some well-wishers, some hope-carriers, faith-keepers, receiving awards today. Individuals who have encountered loss and hardship themselves but have refused to be defeated and instead used their experiences to inform their actions and help others who are facing what they once faced. So diolch yn fawr to you, faith-keepers amongst us.
Be joyful, keep the faith and do the little things. As we planned this celebration event, it was this part of St. David’s teaching that stood out the most. For the crucial point is that you don’t have to be canonized or own a Nobel Peace Prize – like these guys – to make a difference in our town, or in the world today. As Tutu himself said – ‘do your little bit of good where you are for it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world’.
That’s what today is all about. Celebrating those Community Saints amongst us who have given their time and energy, doing the many little things that make life that bit brighter and better. The litter-pickers and poppy-sellers; the food bank collectors and fundraisers; the enthusiastic employees, giving guide-leaders, benevolent businesses and all others who are receiving a Community Saints Award today. You who make us smile, bear our load, protect our planet, and give us hope. We are grateful; we are inspired; and we thank you today.
Throughout March, there will be a prayer station in the St. David’s Uniting sanctuary to help us reflect on how we can be community saints today.