Hope is in the air in Wales!
Hope is in the air in Wales!
This story features the work of one of the EBF member bodies, the Baptist Union of Wales. This is a bilingual Union with both English-speaking and Welsh language churches. Wales was once part of the industrial heartland of the UK and had thriving Baptist and other nonconformist churches - or ‘chapels’ as they are called there - with a great tradition of preaching and song. Now both the nation and the churches face the challenges of post-industrial decline and rural depopulation that are being seen in other parts of Europe also. The Baptist Union of Wales has sought to face up to these challenges with courage and vision, and the following is just one story of the signs of renewal and hope that the Union is seeing in these days. Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ in BU Wales.
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European countries have seen a frightening decline in the percentage of population who are Christians. Wales, a Celtic country, to the west of England, and one of the four home nations in the British Isles was in the 1860s able to boast 65%-70% of its population who were members of a church. Sadly, that statistic is down to less that 20%. Rural and industrial communities were blessed with many churches and most of them enjoyed the leadership of trained full-time ministers and clergy. We ask our church communities for God to call church leaders anew, and for mission to be in the forefront of the church agenda.
Mid-Wales has seen serious decline in population, mainly because the agricultural industry has declined and young people have moved away to find employment. Tourism draws visitors to the mid-Wales areas but the economic circumstances cannot be expected to sustain a buoyant economic environment. In consequence to population issues and a decline in spiritual conviction, such as that faced across Wales and Europe, the number of churches have depleted and mid-Wales became a challenge for a mission conscious Baptist Union of Wales.
The wonder of the story was hearing of God calling an experienced Baptist minister and his wife to move from a healthy and vibrant church in the idyllic location of Broad Haven, Pembrokeshire, to encourage the remaining churches and do pioneering mission work anew.
Ifor and Penny Williams resigned their ministry in West Wales and sought accommodation and income in rural Breconshire. The Baptist Union of Wales were able to offer a basic grant in 2010, and seven years later, they sense positive stories amongst some of the churches where they have been ministering.
Disheartened churches have been encouraged and individuals have rediscovered a living faith. There is hope in the air, and God’s people are seeking his blessing afresh. Wherever there are churches that are despondent and sensing inevitable closure, then there are new stories to tell of God seeing the needs of his people.