Clockwise from top-left: Village March (circa 1945), Sunday School outing (circa 1950), Trinity 50th anniversary celebrations (1966, both pictures), Bethel Adult Sunday School class (1996).
Red Cross Hall (1971-73, 1989) Trinity, Sybil Street (1940-71) Bethel (1973-2005) (2006-present)
Community Hall (2005-6) Military Hut (1921-40)
Public Hall (1916-21)
Clydach Ordnance Survey data (c) Crown Copyright 2010
CLYDACH FOR CHRIST Godâ€™s dealings with Trinity Forward Movement Chapel and Bethel Independent Evangelical Church, Clydach
by Rev. Mark Barnes
ÂŠ Bethel Evangelical Church Clydach, 2011 Published 2011
Written by Rev. Mark Barnes Co-researched by ShĂ˘ron Barnes Thanks to all current and past members of Bethel and Trinity who contributed their recollections. It would not have been possible to write this booklet without them.
Published by Bethel Evangelical Church Heol Y Nant, Clydach, Swansea, SA6 5HB 01792 828095 www.bethel-clydach.co.uk
Preface Compiling this booklet has demonstrated just how many of God’s people have given so much to Him in Trinity and Bethel. Each one deserves to be named, and thanked. But they say that discretion is the better part of valour, and once a list of those who deserved thanks was begun, it would be impossible to end. Some would be embarrassed to be mentioned, others may be disappointed if they were not. Therefore individual names are usually only mentioned when describing what God has done for them. When discussing what people have done for God, generally individuals are not named. By now, many of those who deserve thanks have received it from a far better source than these pages. They have been welcomed home with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” To those who have yet to hear those words, remember our Saviour’s promise, “Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” It goes without saying that we, the present congregation of Bethel, are deeply thankful to God for His grace over the years. And to those stalwarts of the faith, whose names are not mentioned in these pages, we want you to know that we are deeply thankful for you, too. In the decades still to come, we pray we will continue to reap the harvest that you have sown.
Sources The earlier chapters of this booklet were compiled mainly from written sources. Later chapters were compiled from church records, and from oral testimony of current and past church members. Chapter 1 Welsh Calvinistic Methodism by William Williams (Bridgend: Bryntirion Press, 1998 ) The History, Constitution, Rules of Discipline and Confession of Faith of the Calvinistic Methodists by The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Wales (various printings) Chapter 2 Grace, Grit and Gumption by Geraint Fielder (Fearn: Christian Focus, 2000) Chapter 3 Trinity Presbyterian Church of Wales: A Short History of the Cause by D. Leslie Jones (privately published, 1966) Chapters 4-6 Minute books of Eldersâ€™ Meetings of Bethel Independent Evangelical Church and Trinity Presbyterian Church of Wales, Clydach.
Contents The Beginnings of Calvinistic Methodism .......................... 1 The Forward Movement ............................................................ 6 Trinity Chapel ............................................................................. 12 Painful change ............................................................................ 21 Blessing in adversity ................................................................ 27 Strengthening the work .......................................................... 35
Chapter 1 The Beginnings of Calvinistic Methodism
ethel Evangelical Church was established as an independent church forty years ago, on 1st April 1971. But our story begins not then, but 200 years ago: June 1811, in Bala, at a crucial meeting of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists. The Calvinistic Methodists had been at the heart of the eighteenth-century revivals in Wales. Led by Howell Harris (left) from Trefecca (1714-1773) and Daniel Rowland from Llangeitho (1713-1790), the Calvinistic Methodists combined a love for biblical doctrine (Calvinistic), with an absolute conviction that religion should be experienced or â€˜feltâ€™ (Methodist). It was theology from the heart. They believed that true Christianity meant that in the gospel the Word and Spirit come together, avoiding the twin errors of intellectualism and moralism. Both Harris and Rowland were Anglicans, and Calvinistic Methodism was a movement within Anglicanism. But the Anglican Church never quite knew what to make of these fiery preachers
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who placed so much emphasis on the primacy of the gospel and the need for true conversion. Harris himself had been converted in 1735, and immediately began to preach itinerantly around Wales, often in Baptist and Congregational chapels. When he began to see people converted, he realised that in many parts of Wales the local Anglican minister would be of little help to new believers — indeed, he would often be a hindrance! So Harris formed religious ‘societies’ where new converts could encourage one another in their new-found faith. Perhaps understandably, this incurred the wrath of the local Anglican clergy, and bishops: several times Harris applied for ordination in the Anglican Church, but despite being one of Wales’ best-known preachers and leaders, every time he was rejected. He remained a committed Anglican until his death aged 59, but the commitment was not mutual. Daniel Rowland (right) was ordained as an Anglican priest in the same year in which he was converted (1735), following in both his father’s and his brother’s footsteps. He met Harris in 1737, and he also travelled thousands of miles around Wales preaching the gospel, and forming ‘societies’ to help those who had been converted. Rowland served as a curate to his brother, and following his brother’s death in 1760, might have expected to be offered the living himself, but he was ignored and remained a curate. Then in 1762 there was a remarkable revival in Llangeitho, with Rowland’s preaching to the fore. The established church responded a year later by depriving him even of his curacy, and whilst the parishioners petitioned the Church to allow him to return, the appeals fell on deaf ears. Forced from the Anglican pulpit, Rowland
The Beginnings of Calvinistic Methodism
instead preached the gospel in the Dissenting Chapel in Llangeitho right up until his death aged 77. All this put the Calvinistic Methodist Connexion in a curious position. On the one hand it was firmly committed to remaining part of the Anglican Church; on the other, many Anglicans would rather be rid of them. In the mid-eighteenth century it had not been unusual for meetings of Methodists to be broken up by parish priests, and sometimes even by mobs. The Connexion was neither recognised by the State as a dissenting denomination, nor by the Church of England as an authentic expression of Anglicanism. In parishes where the local priest refused to allow gospel preaching to be heard from his pulpits, the Calvinistic Methodists felt they had no choice but to preach regardless, in farmhouses or barns, or often in the open-air. These ‘unauthorised’ preachers — and their congregations — were liable to be heavily fined, or even jailed. By the early nineteenth-century, partly as a consequence of the many revivals, violent hostility was rarer. Some Anglican clergy and at least one bishop were openly sympathetic to the gospel of the Calvinistic Methodists. But these clergy could actively support the Connexion only by breaking the rules of their own Church. Clergy were forbidden from preaching outside their own parish, and from preaching in ‘unconsecrated’ buildings. But how was the gospel going to spread across Wales if it remained prisoner in a handful of parish churches and chapels of ease? So in 1795, the Calvinistic Methodist Connexion applied to be recognised as a separate grouping under the Toleration Act. This meant it was acknowledged by the State, even if not yet by the Church. Methodist buildings were recognised as Dissenting Chapels, and preaching meetings could be convened without fear of prosecution. Even so, the Calvinistic Methodists still did not see themselves as a separate denomination. They had no separate statement of faith, no colleges, or even any ordained ministers.
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Despite all the hostility and indifference, they remained committed to the established church. But whilst the Anglican Church could tolerate priests who converted to Calvinistic Methodism, unordained Methodist preachers found it almost impossible to become ordained within the Church of England, and it was this that ultimately became the defining issue. Unordained men were not permitted to baptise, officiate at the Lord’s Table, or even to preach in Church of England buildings. Just 10 miles from Clydach, the Anglican chapel in Gyfylchi, managed to get around the latter problem by constructing a separate building that adjoined their chapel. With the permission of the sympathetic clergyman, from time to time a Calvinistic Methodist exhorter would preach from the doorway that linked the two structures, taking great care not to cross the threshold into the forbidden consecrated building! But as the Calvinistic Methodist Connexion grew, the lack of ordained men became an increasing problem. Evangelism could be done by itinerant preachers, but as part of the established church, the Calvinistic Methodists were still relying on Anglican clergy to administer the sacraments. However, converts were understandably reluctant to have their children baptised by unbelieving clerics, and equally disinclined to share communion with those who showed disdain for the gospel. As William Williams put it in 1872, “Was it right, they could not help asking, that, after withdrawing from the ungodly and immoral people of their neighbourhood, they should meet them again at the Lord’s Table?” By the end of the eighteenth-century, there were thousands of Calvinistic Methodists all around the country, but still less than 20 ordained men who identified with them, and little hope that there might be more. The Methodists knew that ordaining their own men would mean de facto secession from the Church of England. Seceding would be particularly difficult for those already ordained.
The Beginnings of Calvinistic Methodism
The status quo meant it was possible to be both an Anglican and a Calvinistic Methodist, but secession would mean everyone would have to choose one or the other, and many did not want to make that choice. The discussions continued for many years. Slowly, but inexorably, the continued growth of the Connexion, the persistent reluctance of the Anglican Church to ordain those with Methodist sympathies, and the occasional expulsion of men who had already been ordained, all combined to force the vast majority of Calvinistic Methodists to understand that they had little choice. There was no option other than full secession. In North Wales, where there were far fewer ordained men, the decision was unanimous, and even in the South there were only a few dissenters. And so the date was set: 20th June 1811 at the Annual Meeting in Bala. After 75 years of faithful labour within the Anglican Church, the Calvinistic Methodists knew they had done all they could. Reluctantly, but with a sure conviction that this was the will of God, it was time to separate for the sake of the gospel. History vindicated the decision. The gospel prospered, and Calvinistic Methodism grew, whilst the established church declined. Looking back sixty years later, William Williams realised that the decline was not due to the Methodists leaving, but was the inevitable consequence of abandoning the gospel: Let not our brethren of the Establishment imagine that, if that step had not been taken, the Church would have been one whit strongerâ€Ś it is the other Dissenting denominations, and not the Church, that would have been more numerous. The position of the Church has been made, not by any steps which have been taken outside of it, but by the character of its own ministers.
Chapter 2 The Forward Movement
ur story now jumps forward 80 years to 1891, and we move from a mid-Wales market town to the city slums of Cardiff. The Calvinistic Methodist Church grew over the intervening years, and is now often known by its more formal title, ‘The Presbyterian Church of Wales’. Wales itself has also changed. Increasing industrialisation drove growing numbers of men into the towns and cities. Out went the farms and the cottage industries. In came railways, docks, steelworks and of course the mines. South Wales was a thriving industrial heartland. For some this economic boom meant massive riches — but the riches of the few came at the expense of the many. In the rapidly expanding towns substandard over-crowded housing was the norm, poverty and ill-health were common place. Few were prepared for this rapid change, least of all the Presbyterian Church of Wales. The Calvinistic Methodist movement had developed largely in Welsh-speaking agricultural Wales, not in English-speaking urban slums. Into the breach stepped three men: John Pugh, Seth Joshua, and Seth’s brother, Frank. They were concerned about the poverty and the terrible conditions, but above all they were concerned about the godlessness they saw all around
The Forward Movement
them. John Pugh (right) was converted in his teens and immediately left the rebellious lifestyle he had adopted, and threw himself into the Calvinistic Methodist church his parents attended. Soon he was the unofficial leader of a group of young Christians leading open-air services near Tenby. At 23, he was training for the ministry in the Calvinistic Methodist College in Trefecca, and soon took up his first pastorate in the new mining town of Tredegar. He began as he intended to carry on. Abandoning the relative calm of the tin hut that served as a church building, he assembled his congregation outside the Town Hall, and held an open-air service. He unashamedly aimed his preaching not at the ‘respectable’ members of his congregation but at the working-class men who frequented the pubs in the area. It was a tactic that was not universally welcomed — the opposition did not come from the unconverted miners but from his own church. He was charged with lowering the prestige of the denomination, though it seems his detractors had forgotten the Connexion’s own history of open-air preaching. A senior minister within the church and the principal of Trefecca College were sent to investigate. They arrived by train at one of the open air services, with what seemed like an entire carriage full of deacons. Thankfully both had better memories than those who had lodged the complaint, “Had I and others done this [preached the gospel like this] in our life,” one said, “Glamorgan and Monmouthshire would not be in the grip of the evil one… You are the true Methodist”. The commendation was generous, but it was also a
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clear acknowledgement that the newly English-speaking counties of Wales had been largely unreached with the gospel. After nine years in Tredegar the church had grown from 16 to more than 400 members, and Pugh felt it was time to move on. In 1881 he began a new work out of a rented room in a Pontypridd school. By this time opposition from within the church had been replaced by apathy, but the same could not be said for the publicans of Pontypridd. Having seen at first-hand the damage that alcohol was causing, Pugh was a fervent supporter of the temperance movement. His answer to the demon drink was not the mere signing of a pledge, but the transforming power of the gospel that would change lives. He found a public square surrounded by 17 pubs and despite having little support from his church, he made that square his pulpit. The publicans, seeing a marked dip in their profits, sent thugs to intimidate him, and even a brass band to drown him out. But Pugh stood firm against the thugs, and simply waited for the band to run out of steam: “when they got puffed, I preached”. God was using Pugh’s preaching to change lives that most preachers simply weren’t reaching. One such life was that of Seth Joshua (right). Seth thought he was respectable, but he wasn’t being honest with himself. He sang in the church choir, but also as an entertainer in the local pub, and there was no question in Seth’s mind as to which was the more enjoyable place to spend a free evening. So when John Pugh invited the Salvation Army to Pontypridd, Seth rounded up his friends from the pub to go and have some fun at the expense of the girls with the tambourines. Instead he was astonished to find his brother Frank at the front of the marching
The Forward Movement
band — he had been converted the previous evening. Incredulous, he accompanied his brother to the chapel that night, and almost despite himself became convinced that his lifestyle must change. He signed the temperance pledge, gave up swearing and smoking, but succeeded only in making himself unhappy. He’d given up the things he’d lived for, but replaced it with nothing. After three months of misery he was persuaded to return to the chapel for the first time. Still kicking against the goads, he realised that a lifestyle change was not enough, and that night, he finally submitted to Christ as Saviour and Lord. Within 24 hours he was back in his old pub – but this time not as an entertainer, but as an evangelist. Seth and Frank were soon off to Neath to work full-time as evangelists. They threw themselves into the work, without any training, and learned on the job. They saw dozens of remarkable conversions. Their methods were instinctive, and often unorthodox, but there was no doubt that God was with them. In the meantime, John Pugh brought his work in Pontypridd to an end, and in 1889 began pioneering a work in Cardiff. Few in the UK had reached the people Pugh wanted to reach, but he knew of one: William Ross of Cowcaddens in Glasgow. They had first met in 1877, and Ross shared Pugh’s ideals. He was older though, and had already seen great success amongst the working classes in Glasgow. Ross and Pugh became firm friends, and Pugh often preached at evangelistic campaigns in Cowcaddens. Ross also visited Cardiff, and was even invited to address the General Assembly of the Welsh Church. Ross’s work had involved working out of existing buildings, but Pugh did not have that luxury. So he formulated the bold idea of planting new Calvinistic Methodist churches by first using a tent as a base. If the ministry proved successful a wooden hut could be built in its place, and the tent moved to another location. Pugh knew that the Joshua brothers were already using tents to great
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effect in Neath, so in 1891 he went to visit Seth. During a long walk in the hills overlooking Port Talbot, Pugh suggested that Seth join him in Cardiff. He spent a week praying it through, then readily agreed. Seth took his tent with him, and on 5th May 1891 they erected it in Splott, Cardiff. It was the beginning of the Forward Movement. Within a few months the tent was destroyed by a gale, but it had already served its purpose. Just as Pugh had planned, it was replaced by a ‘hut’ – an inadequate name for a building that seated 500. Less than a year later the hut was replaced by a more permanent Mission Hall seating 1,000. The Calvinistic Methodist denomination wasn’t quite sure what to make of this new Forward Movement, but it was too big to ignore. A special committee was set up to investigate, which to its eternal credit and Pugh’s great relief, concluded “we greatly rejoice at the success of the new and strange enterprise commenced in Cardiff”. Pugh was released from other responsibilities and set apart as a special missioner, and the ‘Forward Movement’ was officially adopted by the denomination. For the first time in its history, the Calvinistic Methodists were demonstrating commitment to reach working-class English-speaking men. A new hymn summed up the mood: For a work of grace we pray For the Spirit’s power each day Turning souls from sin’s dark way Wales for Christ. The Forward Movement rapidly spread to other towns in Wales, and God’s blessing continued. Thousands, perhaps tens of thousands professed faith. News of the Movement spread even to the United States where the principal of Central College, Kentucky exclaimed, “The account of the Forward Movement reads almost
The Forward Movement
like a fairy tale. The reality surpasses any fiction.” But it was no fairy tale. Mission Halls were springing up and being filled, often with new converts. Their legacy has lasted. Many evangelical churches that are still strong today were first planted by the Forward Movement in the early 1900s: Malpas Road, Newport; Bethlehem, Sandfields; Heath, Cardiff; and — on a rather smaller scale — Trinity Chapel in Clydach.
Chapter 3 Trinity Chapel
unday 3rd September 1916 marked the invasion of Romania by the Central Powers during the Great War. The Battle of the Somme had been raging for two months, already claiming hundreds of thousands of casualties, and the British generals were pinning their hopes on their latest secret weapon — the tank — that will make its debut in just a few weeks’ time. But the date also marked the first services of Trinity Forward Movement Chapel, Clydach. The Chapel came about because two men (Thomas Williams and Thomas John Williams) shared John Pugh and Seth Joshua’s vision for seeing new churches planted in English-speaking industrial working-class communities. Until recently Clydach had little in the way of an Englishspeaking industrial working class. But 14 years earlier the German industrialist Ludwig Mond established a nickel refinery in the village. The factory was almost entirely responsible for the doubling of the population in the Parish of Clydach over the next 20 years, from 4,462 in 1901 to 8,789 in 1921, and many of these new residents were English-speakers. The two Thomases were both elders in Salem, Faerdref (Vardre) — a Welsh-language Calvinistic Methodist Chapel on Lone Road, which sadly closed in 2008. The two men were concerned
about the spiritual needs of the increasing number of Englishspeakers in the village. By 1916, Clydach had at least seven Welshlanguage chapels or churches: Bethania and Calfaria (Baptist), Bethel (Wesleyan), Carmel and Hebron (Annibynwyr), Salem (Calvinistic Methodist), and St. John’s (Church in Wales). But there were only two English-language places of worship: a Wesleyan chapel on the corner of Quarr Road at the Morriston end of the village, and St. Mary’s Church in Wales on High Street. The two men therefore petitioned the Forward Movement to establish an English-language chapel on the Pontardawe end of the village. The Forward Movement agreed, and Rev. James Blackstock Thompson was appointed as the first minister. The church began with a membership of 22, including the two Thomases: Thomas John serving as treasurer, and Thomas as secretary. Thompson was the perfect choice to reach the Englishspeaking working-class — as a Scot, born in 1879 in Glasgow, he spoke no Welsh. He understood working-class men: like his father before him, he had worked in the Glasgow shipyards. But he left Glasgow for Cardiff, and by 1909 was living in Canton and working as a Calvinistic Methodist minister, possibly at Clive Road Hall, or perhaps even Memorial Hall. One wonders what brought him to Cardiff to serve with the Forward Movement. Sadly, the records don’t tell us. Is it too fanciful to speculate that as a young man he made the four-mile trip from his home in Dumbarton Road, Partick to the church of William Ross in Cowcaddens, and was there captured by the fervent gospel preaching of a visiting Welsh evangelist called John Pugh? For the first five years of its life, Trinity met at the Public Hall opposite Quarr Road (now the Dynamic Rock Climbing Centre). Church records show the rent was two shillings and sixpence for a Sunday, and a shilling for a midweek meeting. Rev. Thompson was paid £10 a month from the Forward Movement’s Church Extension
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Fund. By 1919 membership had more than doubled to 58, helped perhaps by the returning soldiers from the Western Front. But it was time for the church to say goodbye to Rev. Thompson who emigrated to Canada with his wife, Esther, and their four young children. His replacement was Rev. Llewellyn Evans, though he stayed only a little over a year before himself emigrating to Detroit. By this time the congregation wanted a permanent home, and in 1919 they purchased a piece of land for £500, although it was a further two years until an exmilitary hut was purchased from Aldershot, assembled on the new site, and officially opened in September 1921. The total cost of the building and land came to £1,964 — an enormous sum for a small congregation — and largely met through a loan from the Forward Movement’s building fund. The land itself was triangular in shape, on the corner of High Street and Vardre Road. The hut has
long gone, but the plot can still be seen today, although its current use is not quite as distinguished as it once was: it is now home to Clydach’s public toilets! The new building was built during an interregnum, as it wasn’t until August 1921 that Rev. Richard E. Jones (Portmadoc) became Trinity’s third minister. He served for five and a half years until his death in February 1927. A lady worker, Sister Lydia Lewis assisted him as a ‘sister of the people’ from 1920 to 1924, and during this period the church thrived numerically, with both the Sunday school and the Sunday congregation seeing rapid growth. One memorable Sunday in 1922 saw 230 children in the Sunday school – with only 12 teachers on duty! Yet there are often downsides to rapid church growth, and Trinity was no exception. Sadly, the number of members in the church fluctuated rapidly during these early decades. Periods without a minister could see membership drop by almost half, only to pick up when a new minister was appointed. For example, membership rose from 48 to 89 in 1920-1921, and dropped from 101 to 42 in 1927-1928. Such a rapid rise and fall suggests that many in the church would not attend without the encouragement of a minister, and reminds us that despite the apparent numerical strength, the work was relatively fragile and still in its infancy. Trinity’s fourth minister stayed only for a little over two years. Rev. John Harries, from Wrexham arrived in November 1928, but at the New Year’s Social in January 1931, his wife collapsed, and died within hours. The tragedy shortened his ministry, and he left to live with his daughter a few months later. The inevitable sadness was tempered for the church when in that same year they called Rev. J. Lewis Evans from Llanilar, Cardiganshire (pictured overleaf). He continued the Wrexham connection, having previously ministered both there and also in Ely.
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During the 1930s and 1940s, Trinity matured into a strong, developed church. There was pain along the way: in 1932 Thomas Williams passed away, and the church felt the loss keenly. But there were other, more positive changes. The temporary exmilitary hut was not going to last forever, so a building fund was established in 1931 to be available when needed. It wasn’t possible simply to rebuild on the existing site, as the increasing amount of motorised traffic on all three sides of the triangular plot meant the existing location was no longer suitable. That led, in 1938, to the purchase of two adjoining houses on St. John’s Road (numbers 14 and 16), near the junction with Sybil Street. The houses were both owned by Alderman W. B. Williams, Briton Ferry, who generously sold them to the church at cost price. (Alderman Williams was a relative of current Bethel member Huw Jones.) Trinity was particularly interested in the houses because both had very large gardens. The most part of two gardens were duly separated from the houses, and formed a very suitable plot of land, large enough for a church building with an entrance to Sybil Street. Number 16 was also earmarked as the church manse. Work began on 22nd May, 1939, three months before the outbreak of World War II, and was completed in nine months, at a total cost of £4,278 7s. 2d. The building was officially opened on Wednesday 21st February 1940, by David Owen Evans, the Liberal MP for Cardiganshire and Chairman of the Mond Nickel Company.
In the evening Rev. D. Wynn Davies, President of the Forward Movement preached. The majority of the funds for the new building again came from loans from the Forward Movement, though the congregation themselves raised ÂŁ730. During this period the church began regular evangelistic campaigns which would run for a week every year or so. One particularly memorable campaign was held in the autumn of 1943, fully supported by the members of the church. Two student missioners preached, J. Glyn Owen and Ernest J. Ridout, and that yearâ€™s annual report to the Forward Movement notes that their ministry was of great benefit to the church. J. Glyn Owen would go on to succeed Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones as the minister of Westminster Chapel, London, and concluded his ministry as the pastor of Knox Presbyterian Church in Toronto. As the church continued to grow, more changes followed, not all of them welcomed. In 1946 came the news that the Presbyterian Church of Wales considered Trinity sufficiently well-established to
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leave the oversight of the Forward Movement, and become part of the denomination proper. This was not something the members or the minister particularly wanted. They were glad to be part of the Calvinistic Methodist Church, but it was the aims and ideals of the Forward Movement that they particularly treasured. Despite their appeals for a delay, the transfer to Presbytery took place in October 1946. Then, in March 1948, Rev. J. Lewis Evans brought his 16½ year ministry in Clydach to an end and returned to Ely. After a short interregnum Rev. E. B. Goronwy was called in January 1949. In the same year, David Phillips was called to the ministry from Trinity. He was the third man to have done so, the others being J. Lewis Evans’ sons, Ieuan and Ceridwyn. Like Rev. Evans, E. B. Goronwy (right) was a Welshspeaker, a keen evangelical, and eager for church unity. He was particularly interested in the Keswick Movement, which meets under the banner “All One in Christ Jesus”, and was secretary of Keswick-in-Wales for many years. Relationships with other local churches had been good in the 1930s and 40s, with Christians from many local churches meeting regularly in Trinity for a Saturday night prayer meeting. But whilst unity with other evangelicals in Keswick continued to be a joy, the 1950s proved more difficult for local unity. Liberalism was by now firmly established in many churches in Wales. When, at an inter-church service, it was discovered that the
invited preacher took radically unbiblical views on the sufficiency of Scripture, and of faith in Christ for forgiveness of sins, Trinity realised that local unity may no longer always be possible. Unity in the faith was to be encouraged, but unity at the expense of the faith was a price not worth paying. Rev. Goronwy did not live to see the extent of Wales’ slide into liberalism. He had always had a weak heart, and he died in May 1957, aged just 50. The growing weakness of Christianity in the nation and in the denomination showed itself not only in theology, but also in the numerical weakness of many of the churches. So a few months after E. B. Goronwy’s death, the Presbytery asked Trinity to discuss the possibility of a joint pastorate, and it was eventually agreed to join with Llansamlet. The Presbytery also insisted that the new minister must come from within the Presbytery, or be a student. The church itself drew up its own short criteria: top of the list was that the minister must be an evangelical. As the church had done throughout its history, the emphasis was on the authority of the Scriptures and clarity of the gospel: the conversion of sinners through faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ. The combination of these strict criteria from the church and the Presbytery did not make the search for a minister straight forward, but in September 1959 the two churches (Trinity and Llansamlet) unanimously called Rev. D. Leslie Jones (Pentyrch, pictured right), who became particularly remembered for his pastoral care of those in need. There was much to thank God for. During this period one of the church members was Annie Pugh-Williams, who provided yet another link to the early days of the Forward Movement — her
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father was John Pugh. In 1965, Geoffrey Fewkes (who was E. B. Goronwyâ€™s son-in-law) was called to the ministry. By this time the church was debt free for the first time in 40 years. The next year, Trinity celebrated its 50th anniversary. Both David Phillips and J. Ieuan Evans were invited back to preach at the anniversary services. The commemorative booklet produced for the occasion ended with these words from D. Leslie Jones: As we start a new period in our history as a church, our prayer is that we might know in deeper measure the glorious work of God the Holy Spirit in convicting men and women of sin, and in His work of conforming the believer to the image of Jesus Christ.
Chapter 4 Painful change
hen Leslie Jones wrote about a new period in the churchâ€™s history, in May 1966, he was not exaggerating. The Presbytery had already added Grove Place, Morriston to the existing joint pastorate, and expressed a keenness to merge in yet more struggling Morriston churches. Trinity, however felt that even a three-way pastorate was more than enough for one minister alone. D. Leslie Jones himself was in a particularly difficult position. He not only needed to speak for what was best for Trinity, but as the pastor of Llansamlet and Grove Place needed also to consider what was best for them. Even more difficult, he was Secretary of the Pastorate Committee of the Presbytery. Trying to find a solution that would be of benefit to Trinity, Llansamlet, Grove Place and the Presbytery was going to be very difficult indeed, but that was the unenviable situation Leslie Jones was in. Before the year ended, he stepped down from Trinityâ€™s pastorate, and took up a position in Carmarthenshire. The problem of joint pastorates affected nearly every Presbyterian Church in Swansea, and throughout 1966 the list of possible permutations increased rapidly. By December, the elders at Trinity together with representatives from the other Swansea
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churches agreed to ask the Presbytery for a joint pastorate of Trinity, Llansamlet and Port Tennant, although initially Trinity’s preferred option was to keep the status quo. Geographically, the inclusion of the church in Port Tennant made little sense. But the attraction was not only that it solved the problem of who would join with whom, but it also solved a far more pressing problem: who would serve as Trinity’s pastor? Port Tennant was currently in a joint pastorate, whose minister was Rev. John M. Davies (right). He was a firm evangelical, and a minister who preached the gospel that the members of Trinity loved so much. On Monday 5th December 1966, before the proposal was voted on by the churches concerned, he preached at a joint service in Llansamlet. The subsequent minutes of the elders’ meeting record his text (Exodus 17:11), and notes that his sermon “was preached with conviction, expository in nature, and, we believe, prompted by the Holy Spirit”. It should be no surprise therefore that Trinity gladly accepted Rev. Davies as minister. When D. Leslie Jones learned of the appointment he wrote a warm letter offering his prayerful good wishes. The new three-way pastorate meant that Rev. Davies was only able to preach in Trinity for the equivalent of 11 Sundays a year, plus a weekly Bible Study. He remained in the manse in Port Tennant, and Clydach’s manse was sold to E. B. Goronwy’s widow. In 1967, the minister and elders identified two areas of particular concern within the church. The first was the urgent need for a close study of the Scriptures by all church members as the primary method of being grounded in the faith. The second was to
encourage more prayer amongst the members. By 1969, a third concern had arisen — that the church was not reaching the vast majority of the population of Clydach with the gospel. These concerns should not be taken to mean that the church was declining. In fact there was a deepening sense of the presence of God within much of the fellowship, and particularly amongst the young people. God was blessing the church, but there was an increasing desire to see even greater blessing. Likewise, the concern for evangelism did not mean the gospel wasn’t being preached — it was. In addition to the Sunday preaching, evangelistic services were held each month on a Saturday evening, again often with a tangible sense of the presence of God (a sermon on Jehoshaphat by Rev. Eryl Davies from Maesteg on 20th April 1968 was particularly notable). But the gospel concern was not only for those who were in Trinity, but for the whole of Clydach — most of whom were not attending any church. These three concerns — the study of the scriptures, prayer, and the proclamation of the gospel —were ones shared by the founders of the Calvinistic Methodists, and by the Forward Movement pioneers. So it was doubly painful that it was patently obvious to all the elders that Trinity’s hopes and aspirations were at variance with those of the denomination. The church was also increasingly embarrassed by the activities and statements of some of the leaders of the denomination. Consequently, by 1970, the problem was becoming a crisis. The Presbyterian Church of Wales’ slide away from the gospel had been going on for many decades. In the 1920s and 30s the denomination discussed and then adopted a new ‘Shorter Declaration on Faith and Practice’, which essentially replaced the evangelical 1823 Confession. Evangelicals at the time, notably Rev. Nantlais Williams (Ammanford), had to fight fervently even for the inclusion of such central doctrines as the resurrection of Christ and
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substitutionary atonement, but even with these additions the declaration was a significant watering down of the original confession. Whilst in the 20s and 30s liberalism (the rejection of the Bible as the Word of God) was one influence amongst many, by the time of the 1960s and 70s it was endemic. Like the Calvinistic Methodist fathers of old, Trinity had remained within the Church for decades, continuing to preach the gospel and hoping the denomination would return to its confessional basis. But by the 1970s it became clear that the denomination was not going to reform any time soon. Even more importantly, the denomination’s stance was making it increasingly difficult even for Trinity to do what it believed God had called it to do. In 1811 the defining issue was over the sacraments and the ordination of ministers. In Trinity in the early 1970s, the defining issue was even more central: the preaching of the gospel Sunday by Sunday. On particular Sundays in every Presbyterian church (called ‘rota’ Sundays), preachers would be sent from the Presbytery, rather than being specifically invited by the local churches. Despite repeated requests for preachers who shared Trinity’s love for the gospel, the Presbytery frequently allocated liberal preachers who denied the Word of God and ignored or dismissed the central tenets of the faith (though often such preachers were just as reluctant to come to Trinity as Trinity was to receive them). All those who denied the gospel but were allocated to Trinity by the Presbytery were sent their preaching expenses, but told that an alternative preacher had been invited in their place. Slowly, but inevitably, it became apparent that the church would have to part company with the denomination which had given it birth. But from Trinity’s perspective, it was not the church that was leaving the denomination. Rather, it was the denomination that had left the gospel and in doing so it had also
left those churches like Trinity which stood on the gospel. Consequently, the issue was not one that faced Trinity alone. Many other evangelical churches within the Presbyterian Church were facing the same agonising decisions, and these churches provided mutual support for one another. Ministers’ conferences, such as those organised by the BEC (British Evangelical Council), also provided an opportunity to seek counsel from others, and one address at a BEC conference by Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones contributed significantly to Trinity’s thinking and debate. As the crisis deepened, the elders went to the church with their concerns. Initially the congregation was not sure how to react, but the majority confirmed that if the minister felt that he could not remain in the denomination, then they would go with him. If some in the congregation were initially hesitant, their doubts were soon removed — not by arm-twisting from the elders or the minister, but by a visit from the moderators of the denomination. They sought to persuade the church to stay within the denomination, but tried to do so without addressing the primary concerns. So when the meeting was opened up for discussion, one member, Oliver Williams (the father of present Bethel member Marlene Llewellyn) asked simply “Do you believe the Bible is the Word of God?”. The moderator equivocated; he couldn’t give the answer that he knew was needed. Several other members asked equally vital questions, and had similar replies. So on 20th October 1970, a church meeting was held where a large majority agreed to write to the denomination, formally seceding. (The letter is reproduced on the inside back cover.) And so the date was set: 31st March 1971. After 55 years of faithful labour within the Calvinistic Methodist Church, the members of Trinity knew they had done all that they could. Reluctantly, but with a sure conviction that this was the will of God, it was time to separate for
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the sake of the gospel. For John Davies it meant leaving Port Tennant and his home in the manse. For Trinity it meant leaving some old friends who felt unable to sever their ties with the denomination, and it was likely to mean leaving the building they had laboured for so long to erect. Leaving a denomination which the church and its minister still felt deep affection for was a difficult, and in some ways heartbreaking period. The church did not set out to leave the denomination, but increasing demands came from the Presbytery to the minster and elders. They studied the proposals being made by the Presbytery, and reported their findings faithfully and diligently, but after one Association meeting in particular, it became clear that there would be no alternative but for the minster and elders to leave. When they explained the position to the congregation, the church gave them full support and voted overwhelmingly to withdraw from the denomination. History vindicated the decision. The gospel prospered, and gospel churches grew, whilst the denomination declined. Looking back 40 years later, itâ€™s easy to adapt the words of William Williams to fit this new situation. The decline in the denomination, and the subsequent closure of what was left of Trinity in the 1990s was not due to evangelicals leaving, but was the inevitable consequence of abandoning the gospel: Let not our brethren of the denomination imagine that, if that step had not been taken, the denomination would have been one whit strongerâ€Ś The position of the denomination has been made, not by any steps which have been taken outside of it, but by the abandonment of the gospel within it.
Chapter 5 Blessing in adversity
he previous chapter documents the struggles of the late 1960s, but it only tells half the story. Often in the Christian life, we find that it is in our periods of greatest difficulty that God is most at work — and so it was at Trinity during the late 1960s. In December 1965, whilst D. Leslie Jones was ministering in Trinity, Brian Nott was converted. Brian was brought up in Clydach, and then became an art teacher in Clydach Comprehensive School. He therefore knew most of the children in the area well. Soon he was involved in the Young People’s (YP) group at Trinity, and also with a Christian Union in the school. Those involved at the time consider these days to be remarkable days of blessing, with a very real sense of the presence of God. Rev. John Davies would often come to preach at the Christian Union, to children of all ages who wanted to hear the gospel. They outgrew Brian’s art room, and had to move into the larger science classroom. Two girls who were particularly touched by the gospel in the school were Judith Minshull and Gwyneth Rees (who would later become Gwyneth Bowden). The work continued in Trinity. The YP would meet in the vestry at 7pm on a Friday evening, but many would come an hour
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earlier in order to pray for their unconverted friends. At times there could be up to 50 children and young people in Trinity with John, with a further 30 outside with Brian. On a Saturday night, those who wanted to hear even more would then go to Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Swansea, and to Trinity on Sunday. On one memorable occasion a youth rally was held in Fitzclarence, Port Talbot. Transport would be needed to get the youngsters there. Such was the expectation that it they did not hire a minibus, nor even a coach, but a double-decker bus! The bus was duly filled. The blessing did not abate following secession, and if anything it increased throughout the next few years. In the summers, under the leadership of Pastor and Mrs. Davies, the young people would spend a week’s holiday on the farm of John and Mari Jones in Llanymawddwy, near Bala, providing further opportunity for fellowship, teaching and prayer (pictured). One particularly memorable year was 1975. The theme chosen was ‘Knowing God’, and from the first meeting the presence of the Holy Spirit was evident. Eight young people professed faith that week or immediately afterwards, and the impact was felt by the whole church. The concerns and prayers of the late 1960s were beginning to be answered in a remarkable way. As an indication of the importance that the elders placed on the work of the Spirit, a report of the spiritual impact of the camp is by far the longest minute in all the surviving records of the elders. In part it records:
Blessing in Adversity
The whole church gave much praise to the Lord for His goodness and grace. The first communion service attended by these young people was a memorable occasion. The Minister… was unable to continue the reading of the Word at the table, and the presence of the Lord was most pressing with all affected. Many tears of joy were shed… It was a time of great spiritual earnestness. Many times the YP leaders were asked, “What must I do to be saved?” Certainly not everyone who asked about salvation was converted — but many were. From the mid-60s to the mid-70s, dozens of young people were converted, including Andrew Bowden, Alison and Helen Davies, Gareth and Joy Davies, Steward Davies, Pearl House, Debbie James, Ian Jenkins, David Llewellyn, Judith Minshull, Gwyneth Rees, Ellis Williams, Dawn and Michelle Wooldridge, and many more. Almost all would move away from Clydach to marry, find work, or go to college and so the ripples of what the Lord was doing in Clydach would spread throughout the UK. The conversions were not only amongst the young people, either. Colin and Jean Wooldridge saw the change in their daughters and were themselves converted. Will Thomas, a notorious figure in the village, was wonderfully saved. Lynn Edwards (now Brandrick), a neighbour of John and Joan Davies also found forgiveness. Colin Wooldridge was converted at a watchnight service. There were many others. There can be no greater joy in the life of the church than seeing sinners come to repentance, but almost as encouraging is seeing young men being called into the ministry. In March 1969, Brian Nott was called. He was sent to Barry Bible College, and then went on to serve as Rev. Leith Samuel’s assistant in Above Bar, Southampton, before ministering at Central Baptist Church, Tredegar and Noddfa, Abersychan. Since 1985 he’s been the minister of Calvary, Ogmore Vale.
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In 1972 Andrew Bowden (who had likewise been converted at Trinity) also felt the call to the ministry. He too studied at Barry, and went on to minister at Ackhill Baptist Church, Dolley Green, Presteigne; Aenon Baptist Church, Morriston; Bethany, West Cross; Emmanuel Baptist Church, Cardiff; and New Hedges near Tenby. In 1975, Nigel Clifford was similarly called. He had been converted from a hippy lifestyle in 1973, and caused quite a stir when he turned up in Bethel a few weeks later still looking very much like a hippy and a potential troublemaker! He was given opportunities to preach, and was sent by the church to the brand new London Theological Seminary, in 1977. He later ministered at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Cardiff, preceding Andrew Bowden. Nigel is now back in Bethel, serving as an elder. Such gospel blessing was obviously an enormous encouragement. Leaving the denomination was a massive step of faith for a relatively small church. Trinity’s membership was less than a quarter of what the denomination deemed necessary to support a full-time pastor. When they seceded, John Davies lost the manse in Port Tennant, and the congregation lost the church building on Sybil Street. Everything that belonged to Trinity — even the name — had to be left behind. They had a minister, but no manse; a congregation, but no church building. How would the new church survive without a building, organ, hymnbooks, a manse, and a savings account, in a year of national strikes, and inflation running at above 9%? Several onlookers predicted the new church would close in a matter of months. That it didn’t close was a tribute to the sacrifices and generosity of church members, and of course, to the grace of God. When the congregation were preparing for secession, many put money aside to be ready when it was needed. Money collected in Trinity’s building would belong to Trinity after secession, so two offerings were taken each Sunday — one in the building, for Trinity;
Blessing in Adversity
the other on the road outside for the as yet unnamed ‘independent evangelical church’. One of the first gifts received in this way was for £500 — four months wages in 1971. The most pressing concern for the church was to find a home for John Davies and his family. Two elders, Hubert Davies and Dick Field took responsibility. (Hubert and Dick are the longest serving elders in the church’s history. Dick served for nearly 40 years until his 80th birthday, and remains a faithful member. Hubert has served for more than 50 years and is still counting!) Eventually they persuaded the council that he was a ‘key worker’ and should be given a council flat as a priority. He was offered 23 Tyle Teg, Graigfelen, and gladly accepted. It was not really big enough for a family of five, but it was home. In all, around 35 regular attenders of Trinity came to form the independent church, less than 10 felt unable to join them. The first meeting was scheduled for 1st April 1971, in rented rooms at the Red Cross Hall on St. John’s Road. Mid-week meetings were held at the home of Georgina Lloyd or the old manse. (The Red Cross Hall has since been demolished, but stood opposite Down Street.) The weekly offering that first Sunday was just over £50. It was far more than would be expected on a ‘normal’ Sunday, and enough for the elders to tell Rev. Davies that he did not need to look for part-time secular work to supplement his income. There was still much to do following secession. Other evangelicals offered support in different ways. Rev. J. Elwyn Davies and the Evangelical Movement of Wales gave advice and practical help. To encourage the church, Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones came to preach in Bethel on 17th February 1974. He asked that his presence at the Sunday service was not announced in advance to ensure that the church was not swamped with visitors from other churches! A permanent home for the church was needed, as was a manse. Equally important was the establishing of the new rules for
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the church (how members would be admitted, elders appointed, baptisms performed, and so on). The first prayers to be answered was for a manse. Because Rev. Davies would being losing his home on the date they left the denomination, a house called ‘The Elms’ at 13 High Street, near to St. Mary’s Church had been identified prior to secession. Purchase was finally completed in November 1971, though it needed a substantial amount of renovation, so couldn’t be lived in immediately, and it wasn’t until early 1974 that the Davies family could move in. Church members threw themselves into the renovation project, and also lent the church money on an interestfree basis. When it came time for repayment, many loans were generously converted into gifts. In June 1972, the labour exchange on Heol Y Nant closed and came up for sale. The building was known locally as the ‘Pegging Office’, as unemployed men would collect their dole from pegs inside. But the building had a previous life. Although it was currently owned by the Church in Wales, it had once belonged to the Welsh Wesleyan Methodists: and so with the building came a name for the church — for on the stone work above the door was the name of the congregation that once met inside: ‘Bethel’. The asking price was £4,000. The church offered £2,000 (which at the time they didn’t have!) and eventually got it for £2,700. The elders’ minutes note that no-one in the church asked where the money was going to come from: ‘We all realise that we must wait on the Lord for our supply and His guidance and leading.’ By the time the vendors were ready to exchange contracts, enough money have been given or loaned on an interest-free basis to complete the purchase. Bethel too needed lots of work, and again much of it was carried out by members. Whilst the building had been empty, the toilets had been set on fire. The floor collapsed and had to be
Blessing in Adversity
completely replaced with a concrete structure. The whole building needed painting and decorating — though the damp meant no-one could actually get the wallpaper to stick to the walls! Various items were purchased second-hand or donated. Two members purchased an organ from Port Tennant. A communion set was donated by Libanus Church, Morriston. Pews came from a church in Ystalyfera. The first service was held in the new building on 9th September 1973. The building (subsequently extended) is pictured on the back cover. Finally, it was possible to think through the biblical teaching on all aspects of church life. The scriptures were searched, other evangelical churches consulted, and over time a constitution emerged. On gospel matters Bethel continued as Trinity had always done, but on other matters there was an opportunity to think afresh. The Calvinistic Methodists had been content to be part of an episcopalian church, but as soon as they seceded they adopted a Presbyterian form of church government — they had long been Presbyterians at heart. And so it was with Trinity and Bethel. They had been content to worship as part of a paedobaptist church, but many in the church had long been baptistic at heart. The new constitution reflected that. Of most importance was the statement of faith — the declaration of what the church believed and would preach. It included the Scriptures, “both infallible and authoritative… our sole authority in all matters of faith and practice”. On salvation, it affirms, “We believe that through faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ, whose death was a perfect oblation and satisfaction for our sins, the sinner is freely justified by God who, instead of reckoning to us our sins, reckons Christ’s righteousness to our account. Salvation is therefore by grace and not by human merit.” Written into the constitution, and forming part of the confession of faith, is the simple phrase, “The Church accepts the 1823 Confession of Faith of the Welsh Calvinistic
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Methodists”. Bethel is no longer part of any denomination, but at heart it is still a Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Church. In less than five years, the church had moved from having no manse, no building, and no funds, to being a healthy, vibrant witness to God in the community of Clydach, with all the facilities it needed. In the eyes of the law, Bethel was an entirely new church when it was established in 1971. But in the eyes of God, it was not new at all. By 1975 Trinity/Bethel had met in five buildings, under seven minsters. It’s gone from being part of the Forward Movement, then part of the Presbyterian Church, and it’s now independent. It’s had a new name, and a new constitution. Is it really the same church? New churches are not created by a change of building, or a change of minister. That had happened several times in the life of Trinity, and Trinity never stopped being Trinity. Neither does a change of name create a new church. Important though all those matters are, they’re secondary. The essentials in church life are the people and their faith. That is what really matters. And by and large Trinity people stuck together to become Bethel people. As they did so they created a new constitution and statement of faith, which was certainly different in places from that of the Presbyterian church they left. But in all the essentials, Bethel’s beliefs were not new at all. Trinity had always been an evangelical church. The beliefs of Bethel were the beliefs of the Calvinistic Methodist fathers, of the Forward Movement pioneers, and of the founders of Trinity. So Bethel is not a new church — it is an old church rediscovered. The same people. The same faith. The same commitment to the gospel. The same dependence on God. And in that sense 2011 does not mark Bethel’s 40th anniversary, but its 95th.
Chapter 6 Strengthening the work
n the summer of 1978 Bethel was continuing to grow. John Davies and his family were well and truly settled, and he was looking forward to continuing his ministry for many years ahead. So when he was approached by Peniel Church in Maesteg to ask whether he might be available to them, he said “No”. But as he and the elders prayed about his future over his summer holidays, it became clear to him that the answer he had given was not God’s answer. By the end of September, and to his great surprise, he realised that his work in Clydach was done, and that the Lord was indeed calling him to Maesteg. He began his work there on 1st April 1979, exactly eight years after the establishing of the independent church in Clydach. 1 Corinthians 3:6 says “I [Paul] planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” The 1960s and 70s had been times of planting: a new building, a new constitution, new converts, new ministers of the gospel. In God’s providence, the 1980s and 90s would be times of watering: nurturing and feeding the flock. In every decade, Bethel’s faithful God gave the increase. The man whom God had called to do the watering was Rev. John Mainwaring. John was originally from Gorslas in
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Carmarthenshire, and was called to the ministry from his job as a school teacher, and was ordained into the ministry at Bethel on 6th September 1980. John, with his wife, Elizabeth (both pictured below), served the church for 20 years until his retirement in 2000, and is the churchâ€™s longest serving minister. These years were characterised by the discipling of the saints, in particular those who have been converted in the 70s. Many of the young people who had been converted during that time met in the manse each Sunday evening for fellowship and teaching. Others were added to the church, with God demonstrating that He has many ways to reach the lost. Matthew Humphreys was converted as a boy. The change in him was so apparent to his family that mother Marlene, father Brian, and brother Lawrence were all later converted and baptised. Brian now serves as a deacon in the church, whilst Lawrence is an organist and Sunday School teacher. Val Hughes started attending after receiving a leaflet through her door, and began regularly attending the prayer meeting, until she too found the grace of God and forgiveness of sins. She is now a childrenâ€™s worker in the church. Keith Chapman found himself coming into Bethel one Sunday and was shocked to discover that according to Godâ€™s standards he was a sinner. In time, he asked for forgiveness, and had peace in his life for the first time. He too serves as a deacon. A highlight for many during the 1990s was the annual historical trip. On the last Saturday of July each year, the church
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would visit a site that had been touched by revival, or was of historical importance — often one associated with the Calvinistic Methodists — and Rev. Mainwaring would give a talk about the history, drawing out spiritual lessons for today. The church would then enjoy a meal together. The church building itself began to prove inadequate, and in 1989 extensions were added on each side to accommodate everyone. The church met temporarily in the Red Cross Hall during the rebuilding work. The weekly prayer meetings held in the building were also blessed times of refreshment. As the decades wore on, the children and young people of the 70s grew into spiritual, mature adults. Despite the ‘loss’ of key young leaders who went to minister at other churches, and other young Christians who had moved away to find work, God blessed Bethel with more souls. As some other churches struggled and closed, or others continued the slide into liberalism, Christians from those churches found Bethel a haven where the truth was preached and the gospel loved. Like any church in any decade, there were difficulties and struggles too. But the overwhelming memory from that period, is a tangible sense of the goodness of God. In July 2000, Rev. Mainwaring retired. When he had given his response to the call at his induction service 20 years earlier, he had concluded his message with these words: Unworthy as I am for the task ahead, I know that my God shall supply all my need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. In those twenty years, neither Rev. Mainwaring nor the church found their God wanting. Following his retirement, John and Elizabeth moved away to Carmarthen, and back to the rural Wales they loved so much. But after only a little time away, they found they missed the people of Clydach even more then they had
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missed the Welsh countryside. So John did what few ministers ever do — he went back to the church he had pastored for 20 years, and it felt like he was going home. John and Elizabeth are both still members of the church, and John frequently preaches — often in Welsh — in many of the local churches. Whilst he had been away, the church struggled to find a minister who could come and serve in the church. But they also realised that the building they were worshipping in required significant maintenance and may not be suitable for too much longer. Money was put aside, and the vacant manse sold. By this time Nigel Clifford had retired from pastoring Emmanuel Church in Cardiff, to become an itinerant preacher and house-builder. He drew up plans to demolish the building and erect a two-storey, purpose-built structure in its place. In October 2005, the church moved into a temporary rented accommodation — the Community Hall on Vardre Road. The new building (below) was completed in September 2006, without incurring any debt. By this time the church had been without a minister for seven years, though several retired ministers had settled in the congregation! As well as John Mainwaring and Nigel Clifford, Peter
Strengthening the Work
Clement, Paul Clement, Andrew Davies and Owen Milton were also part of the church. These men and their wives contributed significantly to the church over this period. Nigel became an elder, and Andrew the interim moderator. Peter took responsibility for the midweek prayer meeting, whilst Paul and Owen joined the others in preaching regularly on a Sunday. On 6th May 2007, Mark Barnes (pictured below, with his wife, Shâron) was invited to preach in Bethel. Originally from Wrexham, at that time Mark was serving as assistant to the pastor in St. Mellons Baptist Church in Cardiff. Bethel expressed an interest in Mark preaching again, and because another church was considering calling him, this was scheduled as soon as possible. Over a three week period Mark preached six times, and had three meetings with the church or the elders. On 14th June, just five and a half weeks after that initial Sunday, Bethel invited Mark to become their minister. God’s providence seemed clear, and five days later he readily accepted, and was ordained and nd inducted on 22 September. But three weeks before the induction, there was an extra privilege: to preach at the baptismal service of two of Bethel’s young people, Elizabeth Clifford and Elizabeth Chambers. As the long period without a minister came to an end, the service was a glorious reminder that “neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:7). In 2009 and 2010, evangelistic campaigns (now called missions), similar to those of Trinity days were wholeheartedly
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supported by the entire church, and proved fruitful. In May 2009, Anna Ayling (nĂŠe Clifford) returned to the church from London with her husband Nathanael. In July baby Ethan was born and in February 2010 the three of them (right) left the UK bound for Japan to begin language study to enable them to work amongst students. Nathanael and Anna are members at Bethel, and our support of them is in partnership with OMF, and Grace Church Hackney. The photograph on the front cover was taken at their last Sunday in Bethel. In September 2010, the church took on their first evangelist. Paul Daniel was born in India but spent most of his life in South Wales. In 2009-10 he had worked for the church on a voluntary basis as part of his training at WEST (Wales Evangelical School of Theology) in Bridgend. So as we look back at the last 40 years, and at the last 95 years, the testimony of this little church is of the grace of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Bethel and Trinity will probably never be considered important enough to feature in a history of Clydach written by others, nor even in a history of the church. But to those of us who have had the privilege of calling Bethel or Trinity our
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home, what God has done here is extraordinary. When Rev. John Mainwaring retired from ministering at Bethel in 2000, he wrote a hymn to mark the occasion. It captures the central pillars of Bethel and Trinity over all these years: the wonder of grace, the glory of the gospel, and the keeping power of God. With it, the story of Bethel’s past is told; and its future placed into the sovereign arms of a gracious and good God. By grace this Ebenezer, By grace these many years, Such grace was all-sufficient Though joys were mixed with tears; By grace our prayers ascended, By grace the prayers were heard, And converts gazed in wonder At grace so undeserved. The Cross, the theme of preaching, The Cross, the theme of song, God’s ransom for the ruined, God’s righteousness for wrong; The crucified Redeemer Atoning for the lost, And justifying freely At infinite a cost. By faith we face the future, Uncertain yet secure, Our Shepherd is the Almighty Whose promises are sure; From foes He will protect us, The wolves He'll keep at bay, And goodness and great mercy Shall follow us all the way.
Appendix Ministers of Trinity and Bethel Rev. J. B. Thompson (September 1916 – March 1919) Rev. Llewellyn Evans (March 1919 – June 1920) Rev. Richard E. Jones (August 1921 – February 1927) Rev. John Harries (November 1928 – March 1931) Rev. J. Lewis Evans (November 1931 – March 1948) Rev. E. B. Goronwy (January 1949 – May 1957) Rev. D. Leslie Jones (September 1959 – Autumn 1966) Rev. John M. Davies (January 1967 – March 1979) Rev. John Mainwaring (September 1980 – July 2000) Rev. Mark Barnes (September 2007 – present)
Those sent to labour in the gospel Ieuan Evans (c. 1935) Ceridwyn Evans (c. 1935) David Phillips (1949) Geoffrey Fewkes (1965) Brian Nott (1969) Andrew Bowden (1972) Nigel Clifford (1977) Nathanael and Anna Ayling (2010)
In the midst of the First World War, a new church met in the Public Hall, Clydach for the very first time. Called Trinity Forward Movement Chapel, its aim was simple: to bring the gospel to the English-speaking industrial workers who were flocking to Clydach to find work at The Mond nickelworks. Their story is one deeply rooted in Wales’ industrial and social history. It’s a story of extraordinary faith, of setbacks and breakthroughs, of bold decisions, of pain and joy, of confident trust in God. Trinity Forward Movement Chapel became Trinity Presbyterian Church of Wales, and is now Bethel Evangelical Church. Their testimony is that in every circumstance and in every situation, their God was with them. He never let them down, He never disappointed, He always remained faithful. The story of Bethel and Trinity is far from complete. Their witness goes on, and their prayer is that this booklet contains just the opening chapters of a story that will continue until He comes.
Pictures: 1919 Building Fund (top); Poster advertising opening of Sybil Street building (above); some Trinity members circa 1944 (left upper); Bethel congregation circa 2000 (left lower). Front cover: Trinity, Sybil Street (top); The ‘new’ Bethel, Heol Y Nant (inset); Bethel congregation 2010 (bottom).