Tag Archives: TV

Aberfan: a hymn in remembrance

disasterjpgThe next two weeks are full of difficult memories in our family. The name Aberfan has scarred the whole nation of Wales but for my wife’s family there is a deeply personal resonance as the 50th anniversary of the tragedy is marked on October 21.

My father-in-law, the Revd Irving Penberthy (pictured below), was the Methodist minister in Aberfan when the disaster happened. Many of the 50-strong Sunday School died and he spent days comforting families as they discovered what had happened.

His immediate job was to go with them into the makeshift morgue and be with parents as they found their children. Then, as the village discovered how to live again, he rallied the community to build a community centre, to sing together, to learn how to laugh once more, to rediscover faith.


He now lives in Devon and is the only surviving minister from that day. He has been interviewed by a number of media outlets including the BBC and we will be taking him to Aberfan to speak at one of the 50thanniversary memorial services.

Next Sunday, Radio 4’s Sunday Worship broadcast at 8.10am will feature a short interview with Dad. On the same day, All Things Considered on BBC Wales programme at 09.03 will also be about Aberfan.

The following week, October 23, BBC TV’s Songs of Praise will be about Aberfan and will feature Dad reflecting on his experiences 50 years ago.

He has also been interviewed by a reporter for Wales Online, covering the Western Mail and South Wales Echo, so it’s likely there will be some coverage in those papers too.

On October 21 the BBC are also broadcasting a live Daily Service at 9.45-1000 on Radio 4 long wave. The Revd Roy Jenkins will be presenting.

As part of the reflecting on  everything that happened, I have written the following hymn. It will be sung at the service where Dad will speak and is being sung at the start of the service on Radio 4 on October 16 and also will close the Songs of Praise broadcast on October 23. On that occasion it will be sung by Treorchy Male Choir.


The tune, as fits a Welsh reflection, is Dim ond Iesu (Here is love, vast as the ocean).

God who knows our darkest moments

meets us in our brokenness:

walks beside us as a whisper,

holds our pain in his caress.

God, who leads through shadowed valleys,

where death’s bleakness dims our sight,

speaks a peace beyond our knowing,

floods our anguish with his light.


Far beyond our grief’s horizon,

as Creation holds its breath:

Love Divine, revealed in Jesus,

tears apart the chains of death.

Servant son and humble healer,

by your cross and life laid down

you have carried all our suff’ring

and you wear the victor’s crown.


Lift us up, now, risen Saviour

to the place where mercy plays,

where our broken hopes and heartache

find their healing in your gaze.

This is love, that God has saved us!

This is love, that Christ has died!

We rejoice that love has conquered

and has drawn us to your side.

Copyright 2016 © Gareth Hill Publishing/Song Solutions CopyCare, 14 Horsted Square, Uckfield, TN22 1QG www.songsolutions.org

Offerings that cost nothing

I’m not going to offer God, my God, sacrifices that are no sacrifice – 2 Samuel 24: 24 (from The Message*)

TorchwoodLast week’s Torchwood series on BBC1 TV was great fun for lots of reasons but featured a storyline of earth being visited by aliens who demanded the sacrifice of 10 per cent of all earth’s children. A tithe. That, of course, is just like the biblical figure that God expected his people to give in offerings although the connection was never actually made in the programme.

Among the great moral dilemmas running through the series were the questions of which children should be handed over: children from failing schools; troublesome children who wouldn’t be missed; surely not the children of government ministers?

At one point The Prime Minister instructs a senior Whitehall officer that his children will become “units” in the process … for the public good. A terrible outcome is inevitable.

The decision by the Prime Minister is one that costs him nothing. He has no children.

The conclusion to Torchwood: Children of Earth wove a satisfying thread around that dilemma, the deaths of some more of the main series characters and the character of Torchwood’s head Captain Jack Harkness, an undying time-traveller, whose daughter and grandson have been caught up in the madness.

In the Old Testament King David faced a desperate dilemma. He had done wrong and people were dying in his land. He came to make a sacrifice to God and was offered a threshing floor and ox by their owner. His response was “I’m not going to offer God, my God, sacrifices that are no sacrifice.” In other words, unless the solution had cost him something then it wasn’t a solution. So David bought the threshing barn and the oxen and the fuel for the sacrifice. Then his offering was heard by God.

The end of Torchwood involved a costly sacrifice.

It didn’t have the prospect of resurrection that Christians can hold onto with our Easter story but it showed again the truth that costly sacrifice is at the heart of God’s self-offering.


* The Message is a paraphrase of the Bible in contemporary language