Guest Post: “Sermons, Sacraments, and Fly Fishing” Meet Father Selwyn by Jane Willan

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Guest Post

“Sermons, Sacraments, and Fly Fishing: Why Every Priest Should Know How to Tie Flies”

I mainly fish the River Towy and the River Neath, both in Northern Wales and not far from Pryderi, and I tie my own flies. I’ve been doing my own tying since seminary when I needed an artistic outlet to balance all that weighty theology. It’s not that I don’t crave a good row with Karl Bath and Paul Tillich on occasion, but moderation in all things. Seminary isn’t for the weak. For example, I spent an entire semester reading The Institutes by John Calvin and barely emerged with my wits still about me. If it hadn’t been for my Saturdays tying flies, I’m not sure I would have made it to ordination.

The book that I depend upon as my bible for fly fishing is A Concise Treatise on the Art of Angling- Confirmed by Actual Experiences and Minute Observations written by Thomas Best, first published in London in 1787. I suggest any serious student of fly-fishing go immediately to their vintage bookstore and buy it. You shall find that when the winds howl and the water too cold for even the hardiest, you can sit by the fire and allow the writing of Thomas Best to transport you to the river. I like to pour myself a nice Penderyn single malt and read a bit from Thomas Best on a dark January night. A few lines of his engaging prose and I can nearly hear the loon crying across the River Neath and or see the flash of a silver sea trout as it flips and dives in the River Towy.

Thomas Best is both practical and poetic. He provides useful information such as can be found early in the book

The Lob-worm, the Dew-worm, the Garden-worm, the Twatchtl or the Treachet [are] Found in a garden or church-yard, late in a summer’s evening, with a lantern; when the summer proves a very dry one, they may be forced out of their holes with the liquor produced by bruising walnut tree leaves in water.”

Such prose! Only a fly fisherman could write so eloquently about worms. A fly fisherman who has stood for hours casting out and catching nothing but using that opportunity to absorb the majesty of the natural world. Although bruising walnut leaves and extracting liquor is harder than Best makes it sound.

Every priest needs to learn to tie flies. Tying a fly teaches one patience, perseverance, and the joy of the small success. And what could describe my job as a vicar more precisely than that? It is nearly forty years since I graduated from seminary full of knowledge and little else. In my first parish, I learned quickly that serving a parish as vicar required a careful application to learning and to my youthful surprise, to failure.

Not all ties are beautiful in the beginning. In fact, some of my own efforts were downright disastrous and ended up in the bin. Failing gracefully paired with a bit of optimism and hope for the next tie is essential. Over time, with patience and focus, I began to tie ties that not only were little works of art, but that occasionally even caught fish!

I think I can say the same for my efforts in the parish.

Sister Agatha puts on her detective’s hat, and finds herself in the midst of a tangled murder mystery… In Abide With Me by @Jane_Willan

About The Book

About The Book:

Change is afoot at Gwenafwy Abbey. Ten new nuns from a convent in Los Angeles join the community of Anglican sisters bringing energy, youthful enthusiasm, and more electronic equipment than Sister Agatha could have imagined. The arrival of the new nuns brings something else to the Abbey—a bit of unexpected notoriety. Claire MacDonagh, an ambitious young reporter for The Church Times, interviews the new sisters for a feature story.

Murder is the last thing on anyone’s mind when Claire is found dead on the beach, her mobile phone in the sand. A tragic death, says Constable Barnes. A selfie gone bad. Meanwhile, Sister Agatha is unconvinced and puts on her detective’s hat, only to find herself in the midst of a tangled murder mystery. Her suspect list includes everyone from the new sisters to Reverend Mother to the beloved archbishop of Wales. Time is running out as Sister Agatha uncovers a shocking reality. Will she reveal the truth hidden in an ancient document before it is too late?

Book Links: AMAZON 

My Thoughts

A young journalist is visiting Gwenafwy Abby, presumably writing a story on the new directions the church is taking. When she is found dead, Sister Agatha does not believe the theory of an accidental death. She starts a new notebook and dives into the case chasing down clues. Does the young woman’s death have something to do with scathing articles she has written in the past? Or, could it be an ex boyfriend who just happens to show up in town, and just who was it seen entering the woman’s cottage after her death?

Sister Agatha is a bit of a handfull. She doesn’t do anything by half measures. One simply has to adore a nun who writes detective romance stories, has a murder club to help her with amateur sleuthing, and looks to famous literary detectives for advice. What would Miss Marple do??? Agatha’s weakness for cake lends itself to wonderful descriptions, by the author, of mouthwatering traditional Welsh food. In this story, nearly everyone close to the abby is a suspect. As much as Agatha and the reader want the killer to be found out and caught, it is likely that it will be heartbreaking for the nuns. Agatha keeps her moxie to the the thrilling end of the investigation though.

These are characters I would love to sit and visit with. From the put upon police department and store clerks, to the individual sisters at the abby. Maybe spend a few days learning to make cheese, especiallly since Gouda is my family’s fave.

I loved the social commentary on modern technology and how it fits into a cloistered setting. Mostly I just giggled over the names of the shops in town, I won’t spoil them all, but, my favorites are The Fatted Calf farm to table market and Lettuce Eat Vegan.

So why should you read this book? Because it is quirky, brilliant, softboiled Cozy at its best. The cast of characters and their personal stories will have you scrambling to read the first two books, or waiting impatiently for the next one.

I received a copy of this book for the purposes of review. all thoughts and opinions are my own

About The Author

About The Author:

Jane Willan wants to live in a world where everyone has time to read their favorite books, drink good coffee, and walk their dog on the beach, but until that can happen she enjoys life as a pastor and writer. When she’s not working on a sermon, or hiking with her husband, Don, you can find her rereading Jane Eyre, binge-watching Downton Abbey, and trying out new ways to avoid exercise.

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