On a wonderfully convenient corner in the student ends of Cardiff (just off grey Woodville Road and onto the bottom end of Crwys Road) lay a church which didnít really look church. That is, there were no stained-glass windows and there seemed to be no saints or angels in sight. Woodville Baptist Church was the name. Standing at the entrance to this green building were hospitable Church members, waiting to welcome new-comers. A patterned carpet spread across the foyer and spilled over into the main room. Years of use made the Persian rug lend an irresistibly homely feeling to the place. This was complimented by the quiet buzz of members greeting other members. Noticeboards dotted the foyer walls and announced church events such as Alpha courses and Student Bible-study. Most interesting of all was a notice with the acronym HOTS. Healing on the Streets. The notice went on to invite people, non-believing or otherwise, suffering from back pain, arthritis, cancer or depression to come for prayer and healing.
On we go into the main room with its fluorescent lights and neatly ordered blue and silver chairs. But where were the candles, the pews and the hymn books which always smelt of sacred bread, wine and tradition? They called this the morning worship service. Worship. An interesting word which helped conjure up visions of prostrating oneself before an Unseen Almighty, begging for his favour. There was an occasional ping from the musiciansí guitars as they warmed up. Not an organ in sight, only a sleek Samsung keyboard. They began to play a modern version of William Reesís Here is Love. I have never been one for superstition but there was something of a quiet and gentle holy spirit which seemed to enter the room as they sang. Worship was made to seem the most natural thing in the world and like something you could go on doing forever. One left the service feeling strangely comforted. There was a sense of their being something awesome, loving and good available for the taking. ďHere is love, vast as the ocean, love and kindness as the flood. When the prince of life our ransom, shed for us his precious blood.Ē Ironically, just opposite the church lay a black and gold pub. But maybe not so ironic as after all, didnít Jesus fraternize with sinners?
Onto a green and yellow bus and into the city centre we go. Queen Street was lined with numerous well-liked stores on either side of it. Nearly every person was with family or friends and you felt quite conspicuous if you were shopping alone. Most stores blasted out popular dance songs and their glistening windows displayed trendy clothing and irresistible bargains. The signature Cardiff rain had failed to act as a deterrent to the Sunday shoppers-they would not be stopped. Umbrellas of all shapes and sizes sprang up, black for the elderly lady in grey, clear with pink polka dots for the teen and classic Burberry for the "fashionista".Several coffee shops were strategically placed between the shops and made you crave a flat white, even if you hadnít really been thinking about it before. Furthermore, each table seemed to tell its own story and made you want in on the scoop. You imagined the woman drinking alone in the corner to be going home to nine cats and potted plants. The tired-looking man with jam stains on his shirt was almost certainly a stay-at-home dad who was taking a break from his rowdy triplets. For the homeless person suffering from depression, the humming shops made them feel lower than ever. Their position on the cold street made them privy to the eyes of curious children and more importantly, easily avoidable by the grown-ups who didnít quite know what to make of it all. Didnít being homeless signify a failure to cope with, well, life really? But there was something wrong with this picture, so many Visa-happy shoppers and a man without a home. Cardiff, capital city of Wales, with her buzzing shops, her panini bars and her homeless men and women with lifeless eyes.
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