The diocese covers the whole of the north-western quarter of Wales, taking in the old counties of Anglesey, Caernarfon, Meirionnydd and the northern portion of Montgomeryshire, and is roughly coterminous with the ancient kingdom of Gwynedd. It extends from the port of Holyhead in the north to the rural market town of Llanidloes in the south; from the holy island of Bardsey in the west to Llandudno in the east, along the North Wales coastal strip; behind which lies Snowdonia and the most mountainous areas of Wales.
Distances traveled by diocesan staff are considerable: one can travel for three hours without leaving the diocese to minister to small rural communities, across mountainous terrain and through some of the most spectacular landscape in Britain. Around its coasts, the diocese has numerous small communities, seaside resorts, and ports. Inland, there are a large number of small post-industrial communities (following the collapse of slate mining), and a variety of rural and agricultural communities, where unemployment is high, much of the agriculture is on marginal land (except for a small area in Powys) and populations are small and scattered. The whole area has Grade 1 status as a deprived area of the EC. Culturally, there are huge differences between the seaside towns, the mountain village communities and those in the fertile valleys of mid-Wales.
Gifted young people leave for higher education and to find careers. Although light industry projects have been established, problems of employment continue the drift away. There is very little manufacturing industry. Tourism, the local authorities, government departments, public services, and agriculture provide most employment. The City of Bangor benefits greatly from the University, now with nine thousand students, the tertiary college and the Gwynedd Hospital. Large numbers of people continue to come from other parts of the country to retire here, with consequent demands on services and changes to local communities. A major role for the Church is to affirm and build confidence and self-belief in such communities so that their voices are heard and their real needs met.
More recent social and economic change has contributed to problems and tensions within the communities: the decline of traditional industries, unemployment, rural de-population, the drift of local Welsh-speaking people away, the continuing influx of retired people from the Midlands and the North, the weakening of village and community life by the growth of second homes, the North Wales Expressway now causing commuter homes for Chester, Manchester and Liverpool; the closure of local hospitals, the shortage of industry, geographical isolation, poor communication, lack of adequate public transport and other amenities and services, are problems which affect all people and impinge heavily on the life and witness of the Church.
The Diocesan Division for Social Responsibility has been involved in many of these issues and in projects such as “Cywaith Joseff”, the Bangor Credit Union, helplines, parent training courses, and work with local authorities and employers, has tried to bring help and support. For all the difficulties noted here, the general mood is up-beat and optimistic among the local authorities as the area gradually seeks to evolve into a new diversified economy.
Welsh is the first language and natural means of communication for three quarters of the population of the diocese as a whole, rising in some areas to in excess of 90%, with proportionally larger English-speaking communities in the seaside resorts, the historic towns, and the Deanery of Arwystli in the south. With the exception of Arwystli, almost all parishes need to provide for both languages.
The diocese has adopted a Language Policy, approved by the Welsh Language Board.
The diocese of Bangor has established a diocesan link with the diocese of Dublin and Glendalough in the Church of Ireland. The Mothers’ Unions, the Licensed Readers, the Cathedrals, and many deaneries and parishes have formed links.
A formal link was established with the Diocese of Lango, Northern Uganda, in 2003 and was the culmination of reciprocal visits by people from Bangor and Lango since 1994.