Today we went to the Oakley Arms for lunch. Very nice. I can’t remember going there to eat in the days when I sometimes used to come to work at the nuclear power station. The long gone Abbey Arms and the station canteen – that was about it I think. Although I think I did have some chips in Blaenau Ffestiniog, and I went into a pub in Trawsfynydd village, though I can’t remember why: all I remember is that the conversation switched from English to Welsh as soon as I went in the door.
I used to stay at the Abbey Arms. One time, I thought I’d arranged to get back in in the small hours of the morning. It turned out I hadn’t and I was locked out. I don’t know why, maybe it was the onerous security demands of Wynford Vaughan-Thomas’s bodyguard.
So, with the light of a May dawn just creeping into the sky, I decided to go for a walk. I walked up the road which overlooks Manod Mawr and watched as it changed from a sketchy silhouette to a solid form.
On the way down the road I met a stray sheep. I didn’t want to force it down the road away from its field – that would have been good neither for the farmer, nor for the gardeners of Llan Ffestiniog. So there were a few minutes of a cat and mouse game, with me trying to hide in hedges in the hope the sheep would walk past me back into its field.
This didn’t work. The sheep kept going down the hill.
I thought the sheep was trying to get away from me, so I decided that if I could get past it, it would then run away in the correct direction, back up to its field.
So I ran as hard as I could down this hill at about five or six in the morning, and with a supreme effort managed to get past the sheep. I ran on and turned round. The sheep was still running towards me. Only with a lot of jumping around and waving my arms did I eventually persuade the sheep to head for home.
My point is that the sheep persevered in running down the hill, even when it shouldn’t have done, because of the changed circumstances. If you think this makes sheep stupid, then so am I, because I have done the same thing.
Some time back, I used to live round the corner from an elderly gentleman. One time, he rang, telling me of symptoms I thought might be a stroke. I rushed round the corner, and when I got there it soon became apparent that this was just a bit of an aggravation of a long standing medical condition. But I rang the ambulance anyway, because I couldn’t change my mindset.
And I want you to consider it possible that churches are like that too. We keep on trying to do the same thing, even when it isn’t working. Don’t give up on the gospel. But if it isn’t working, just try doing it differently for a change.