Sept 2012 (written by Ifor)
And then things started going wrong. Or so it seemed. Quite unexpectedly, the other church said a unanimous 'No' to the amalgamation. When I heard the news I had an immediate sense that this was a 'God thing'. I prayed and asked God what he was saying through this, and I began to sense quite strongly that he wanted us involved in Glasbury. In the middle of the night I found myself wide awake thinking about the possibilities. I got dressed and went downstairs, and got out a local map. I discovered that if you draw a circle with a 4 miles radius around Glasbury, it includes 12 separate villages, including the small towns of Hay and Talgarth, with a combined population of over 5,000 people, but little effective Christian witness. What if we sold the house and garden and used that money to repair the roof and modernise the whole chapel? What if I became the minister of the church, and the chapel building became the centre for a new form of church to serve the whole area? It was an exciting possibility and seemed to make a lot of sense. I shared the idea with Penny the next morning and she responded positively. Then we spoke to the Church Secretary and her husband, and they too were very positive.
I knew that God had spoken, and that night as Penny and I prayed it through, it all became clear. God didn't want us to get bogged down with a building project. He wanted us to restart the church, but in a completely different form. A church based on small groups where people could grow as disciples.
God made it clear to us both that he wanted me to become minister of Glasbury Baptist Church. To become minister of a church with no building, no Sunday service, and precious little congregation. Why? So that I would have the credibility of being minister of the local chapel. That may not mean much in some places, but here in rural mid Wales, in a very conservative and traditional society, it means a lot. People may not go to church or chapel, but they still value the whole concept. They may not attend the Sunday service, but they respect what it stands for. If a stranger started a new church in the village, the locals would be suspicious and even negative, but if I become the new minister of the old chapel, then I immediately have credibility.
If you are surprised to read this, it's even more surprising for me. In our call to start church from scratch, the last thing I expected to do was to get involved with churches that were about to close. And yet biblically it makes a lot of sense. It's resurrection. You can't have resurrection without a death, and when a church has come this close to closing, then the church can be resurrected in a completely different form. It's also very practical. One of the things I have been hoping to do is to start Alpha courses. For all sorts of reasons, it's a lot easier to start an Alpha course when you're the minister of the local chapel. And if we can start an Alpha course, that's a great way to initiate and establish small groups of disciples.
So there we are. We are planning a 'closing service' for the old chapel, and perhaps combining it with some form of induction. Or that may happen later. Someone suggested that 'Pioneer minister' might be an appropriate title for this rather unique situation. And if this proves to be an effective way of working out our vision, then I can already see the possibility of repeating this scenario in other parts of Breconshire. There are a number of chapels that are virtually but not technically closed, and which are ripe for 'resurrection'. If I became pioneer minister to three or four different churches in different parts of the County, then I would have distinct bases to work from. I could, for instance, spend a day a week in each place, look to gather a small group in someone's home, and perhaps have some sort of outreach service in each place once a month. Watch this space..........