The Welsh Baptist Chapel, in Hengoed in the Rhymney Valley, looks like many traditional chapels. However, Kath Miller, a student at South Wales Baptist College, is serving as minister-in-training and, alongside her husband, exploring new ways of helping people connect with God. We caught up with her to find out more.
What is a ‘typical’ meeting like?
On a Sunday morning we meet at 11am for an all-age worship service. The service style encourages everyone to be involved and contribute in some way, with the people who worship with us ranging from aged 6 years to in their late 70s. We have a time for singing and prayer, but there is no sermon – instead, we will have a time for discussion around scripture verses or life issues. We also use craft or drama to explore the issues raised and make sure that all activities in the worship are as multi-sensory as possible.
Young people are invited into the chapel on Sunday evenings to have refreshments, chat and take part in Christian craft activities. On a Tuesday evening, we offer a safe place for the local youth to gather off the streets and give them free refreshments. Thursday afternoon sees a local community Food Co-op use the building, which sells local fresh fruit and vegetables at cost price. We also run a film club and a monthly community volunteering group. We try to be a presence in the community as much as possible, joining in with community events and activities.
What is going well?
Our work has been community led, responding to the locally identified needs. We are making contact and building relationships with more and more people in the local community. In this way we have had the opportunity to work alongside other organisations, but to do so in a distinctively Christian way.
The chapel has a reputation among the local youth as a good place to be – our experience over the three years that we have been there is that many of them have gone from being guarded and suspicious about what the church is all about, to being open, happy to be a part of the community of people that meet there and trusting us enough to be able to invite their friends to come along.
What challenges are you facing?
Whilst our priority has never been to maintain a building, it has become a place of importance to the youth in particular. For them, it is the one place that they can be themselves and be welcomed as they are. As it is an old building, we are facing some significant challenges to make it fit for purpose long term.
The main challenge is that we don’t have a toilet or running water. Also, during the service, everyone sits in the ‘Big Seat’ area around a small table, because it’s more informal, but it is not accessible for anyone who uses a wheelchair and the space is getting too small to accommodate all of us.
The challenge for all of us, therefore, is to do all we can to ensure that the premises are fit for use. We are waiting for permission to build a toilet onsite and get running water. We have also asked if some of our pews can be removed. As we are Grade II listed, this is still going through the consultation process. We also have to raise the funds.
How could we pray for you?
Please pray that the gracious, outrageous love of God will be made known throughout the whole community and that lives will be transformed.
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