Fake News and the church

fake-news

Since the beginning of time mankind has spun the truth to adhere to the rhetoric of its day. For example, in the first century Octavian lead a propaganda campaign (Fake News) against Mark Anthony in Rome. King Harold died by a lucky arrow through the eye (1066 Battle of Hastings), but in France the report was “William’s brave men slayed the King of England during the heat of the Battle”. The Historians job is then to grapple with the differing accounts of “truth” to actually find it.

We must then acknowledge that all accounts are weighted in the favour of whoever the sponsor/ benefactor maybe and such motives will never change. “Fake News” is here to stay, red top papers will continue to publish scandal and embellish the “truth” to sell more papers and online media will continue to do the same to battle for clicks and advert impressions.

Pope Benedict XVI checks the new Vatican web portal on an iPad device at the Vatican

President Trump’s “Fake News” claim is nothing new, but there has been one significant development in recent times that is worthy of the fuss. “Average Joe” can now broadcast their own versions of the “truth” to the masses, whether in the form of a styled Instagram picture (intended to fool the viewer on the credibility of your appearance), or an uploaded video reporting no seats on a train during rush hour! As a result the plebs view of the world has now been equated with the media elite.

Such constant exposure to endless versions of “truth” (from either the once trusted media  or from random strangers through a hashtag), has made us (the masses) naive, cynical and dismissive of reality.

For decades the West have feared the Orwellian (1984) view of an “information-censoring, movement-restricting, individuality-emaciating state”[1] (a threat made real during the Cold war). But such fear has driven us to the Huxleyn view (Brave New World) of a “technology-sedating, consumption-engorging, instant-gratifying bubble”[2] .

This is all a result of such media saturation, increasingly consumed via image based mediums.

context

It is often said that a “picture is worth a thousand words,” but are these words of truth? Does a picture really tell the entire story?

A picture can define a moment without context and thus it is more susceptible to manipulation (see above), but a “word” never stands alone! The word is always given in a context and can always be reviewed, critiqued, verified and once written the author is accountable.

As we continue to move away from ‘word based knowledge’ and embrace real-time graphic media consumption, credible broadsheets are going to be replaced by picture filled red tops and image based mediums such as TV or online video. As a result the quality of journalism will continue to decrease and we will have a society filled with people that make “informed” decisions based on the “Fake News” shared by celebrities on Twitter (a benefit of the 140 character limit).

Modern publishers and technology firms have created this Huxleyn predicted society, where questionable imaged based media not only resides in the corner of your front room, but follows you around all day on your handset or tablet. Because the truth is often boring this media saturation has driven journalists and production companies to get creative with reality in order to win more viewing figures,clicks,impressions,shares,likes,retweets etc. “Fake News” is simply an inevitable consequence to this “enlightened age” of technological advancement.

A social condition best described by Neil Portman (Amusing Ourselves to Death)

An Orwellian world is much easier to recognize, and to oppose, than a Huxleyan because everything in our background has prepared us to know and resist a prison when the gates begin to close around us … [but] who is prepared to take arms against a sea of amusements?”

Putting my Ministerial hat on for a minute…is the church not the answer to this “Fake News” catastrophe?

The church is a set apart (Holy) people, chosen by God to be a counter-culture from the world (more on this here “Dealing with change – thoughts on BEXIT”). Is it then our generations calling to fight against the sea of amusement, the “Fake News” and stand for truth?

As a church we should be offering an escape from such modernity, a ‘wifi free world’ where “Fake News” is left at the door and replaced by the unchanging word of God! A sanctuary against a world that defines you by what you can produce and consume, a world that at best offers you scandal, lies and death.

The church should be the place for people to unplug, switch off and come to meet the God of life, love and a truth, a place for people to come and make real meaningful relationships within a humble community of believers who are defined by their fresh start and future with Jesus?

Christian, is this not our calling today? and are we (the Reformed church) not the best equipped for such a task?

For centuries the privileged few manipulated God’s Word so the plebs would follow their agenda’s, they hid the truth behind an elite language (Latin) and supported their “Fake News” narrative behind image based media (stained glassed windows). All until the Protestant Reformation five hundred years ago, where the word of truth got out and it was preached FREE from mans sinful agenda (warts and all)!

The reformed church rushed through Europe deposing the priests and began to empower and educate the people to read God’s Word for themselves and ensure those in the pulpit had no other motive than to stick to the Bible and save souls for Jesus!

Christian! In this media saturated world of “Fake News” are we not called to drive against the oppressive forces of modern, meaningless amusements and liberate the lost into the Kingdom of God? Are we not to stand as a counter-culture against such delusion and be ever more resolute to the eternal truth found only the Bible? A truth that does not hide from evil, but explains it, a word that does not hide from the inconvenient truths of immorality from its patriarchs but wilfully admits them, a word with only one agenda, to save souls and bring them into a loving fellowship with God so that they can be a force for good in this world of deceit, corruption and “Fake News”!

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.” (2 Peter 2:1-3)

..

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/feb/02/amusing-ourselves-to-death-neil-postman-trump-orwell-huxley

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/feb/02/amusing-ourselves-to-death-neil-postman-trump-orwell-huxley

The Llanerch colliery disaster

On February 6th 1890 176 men and boys (fathers and sons) died in a tragic mining disaster at the Llanerch Colliery, Abersychan.

Since its 125th anniversary Councillor Giles Davies has organised a service at the pit head to remember the lost and I have had the honour of leading those gathered in prayer and worship.

An earlier methane explosion  (October 1889) that lead to two casualties, raised concerns about the colliery’s safety. Mine inspectors suggested the use of closed safety lamps, but the Managing Director of the pit approved the use of open flame lamps (December 1889) on the belief that the mine was “well ventilated”. Eight weeks later the explosion happened and 176 men were dead. So severe was the blast that it echoed down the valley and could be heard for miles around. Many of the casualties could not be identified.

The incident itself stripped the local community of an entire generation of men, leaving their widows and family desolate. You can read a list of the deceased here, many are buried in our graveyard at Noddfa.

The inquest ruled the explosion was caused by the men using “naked lights”.  No one in management was found responsible and no one was fined. The mine was reopened and back in business just 13 days after the incident.

7

Survivors of the Llanerch Colliery Disaster – “Back to Work”!

At its peak (1918) the Llanerch, Havod Van and Blaenserchan pits that filled this little valley employed 2,060 people. It was a booming place of industry with several pits, furnaces, brickworks, roads, trains and other amenities.

Sadly it all closed shortly after Nationalisation in 1947. Nature has now reclaimed the fair country and all that is left of the pit head at Llanerch is the bottom of the girder that once held the shaft pully.

15.jpg

During the short service, we prayed, the children, Mayor, MP and Councillors placed daffodils on the pit head and I spoke from the text 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14.

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.”

The men and boys of Llanerch left their wives and children in the early hours of February 6th 1890, fully expecting to be back for supper, but they never made it home. They were taken in an instant. As we remember their sudden deaths, we need to ask ourselves whether we are ready to face our own? As it could come as suddenly! Do you know peace with God? Do you have hope in the risen Saviour Jesus Christ?

8

The Llanerch Colliery

12

A drone image of the Llanarch Colliery site during today’s service (by Gwyn Jenkins)

 

After the service I then took a welcomed walk around the derelict and dismantled sites through the little valley with friends.

Chris Tew (the Sherriff of Abersychan) kindly guided me through the small valley and told me what went where. A forgotten past hidden amidst the rubble and thorns.

11

This often unheard of tragedy is currently marked by a small memorial. The local community are fund raising to build something of more significance that will keep such a dark history in memory. You can find out more about the fund here

A big thanks once again to Giles Davies for organizing such a wonderful morning, including lunchboxes for all the children.

9

 

Break in at Noddfa brings out the best

toddlers

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20

I had just arrived home from our church Christmas meal, well fed and ready for a lazy evening (thanks Gabby’s). Sadly this did not happen! Long story short; the Mothers and Toddlers fund had been stolen from the church and the perpetrator(s) had broken out through my office window.

We keep nothing of worldly value in the building (1 John 2:15) , other than a (well hidden) box that contains the Mothers and Toddlers collection. The fund goes towards toys, books, biscuits, drinks and snacks for the children. At the end of term the surplus is then spent on a party and goody bags for those who come.

toddlers2

I do not want to go into too much detail, but, we have been told that the extensive movements of the perpetrator(s) throughout the church building left many clues for Crime Scene Investigation who are hopeful.

With Police support we published what had happened on our Facebook page. The community quickly rallied around their local church, setting up a crowdfund page that has raised nearly £600 in less than 24 hours. As a church we are terrifically humbled by this gesture and thank all those who donated, offered their support, encouragement and prayers. We are so blessed to be in such a community, surrounded by so much love and generosity.

We are just a small independent church supported by our members. We are not part of a larger denomination, we do not have fancy ornaments and relics to maintain, and you do not see me walking around the village with costly ministerial garb (more like trainers, jeans and a Parker jacket). The little money we take in during the Sunday collection goes on the facilities maintenance and bills, to ensure it remains a safe and welcoming place for all those who come throughout the week. The rest of the funds go towards serving the local community God has given us.

As a church we love everyone in our valley just as Christ loved us (1 John 4:19). We long for opportunities to show this love, by sacrificially giving and supporting the community we have been called by God to serve (1 Peter 4:10).

This is why I am so horrified by such a crime and pray deeply for the perpetrator(s).

I grieve for them and for the desperate situation that they must be in this Christmas, to risk so much for such a small collection box. If they had simply come in to see us, we would have rallied around them and supported as best as we could. They simply did not need to break in.

So, on behalf of the church I would like to reach out to the perpetrator(s) and say:

  • We understand that everyone faces difficulties in their lives and that these often lead to misjudgments and mistakes. I have made several myself (1 Timothy 1:15)! The Bible tells us, that this is human nature, none of us are perfect (Romans 3:10).
  • Please know that church is not a museum for saints, but a hospital for sinners. We are not a place of duty driven religious nuts, but a loving community of grace who gather in thanksgiving.
  • As we gather knowing that none of us are perfect, we do not judge anyone who comes in (Matthew 7:1).
  • Our unlikely unity as a family of all ages and backgrounds, is a unity unseen by worldly institutions, radiating from the love of Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
  • For these reasons we welcome all who wish to come, whatever the circumstance and this means you to!

During this festive season we remember how low God came, in love, to raise the weakest of us up. He (Jesus) left the glory and perfection of Heaven to be made in the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3). He chose to be born into the lowest of families, spending His first night on earth in an animal feeding trough (Luke 2:7). He grew up to live a life of poverty (Matthew 8:20) and suffering that peaked in the most unimaginable pain of crucifixion. Where on that Cross He took on Himself the justice we deserve for our failures, the consequences for our sins and gave us His perfect life despite our imperfections.

By accepting that God has done the “religion for you” (In Jesus Christ) and repenting of your ways, seeking to follow Christ’s example, Christians can know a fresh start. A clean slate that we as a church offer (by God’s grace) to you today! What a gift this Christmas  (John 3:16) .

I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Isaiah 43:25.

As Christians we do not come to a God who cannot sympathies with life’s difficulties that you maybe facing, because in Christ Jesus, He faced the world at its very worst! (Hebrews 4:15). In Christ, we do not come to a God of judgement but one of love and compassion (Psalm 145:8). The God who by His grace (not by our merit) forgave us for our failures (Ephesians 2:8-9) and in this same strength, we as Christians can forgive all those who have caused us pain to.

This is the real meaning of Christmas! Hope, in our loving God, who paid the price for our failures.

It is a shame that such profound love that we are reminded of at ‘Christ-mas’ has been replaced by a big red man that shows no mercy to those on his naughty list. It is a greater shame that Christmas has driven such social pressure on families that some have had to go to extreme lengths simply to fund the season.

If the perpetrator(s) is reading this, we have a number of events going on over Christmas and you (as well as all the community) are most welcome to come and join us to find out more about a love that you will not receive anywhere else, a love that can forgive and forget all things. (1 John 4:8).

noddfa-church

A rigorous morning at Victoria Village School

I have just returned from a wonderful morning at Victoria Village school.

As ever I was warmly welcomed with smiles from both the children and staff (partly because I am funny to look at).

As regular readers may know, I am a proud governor of the school and had reason to be there in that capacity, but I was also asked to go and speak to the year 6 class about our worship practice as a church and the differences between Christianity and Judaism.

These are huge topics I know, but I tried to keep my presentation as light as possible, so not to engage in deep theological teaching that I could not give any justice to in just an hour slot. The children listened intently and were engaged for the ten minutes I spoke for.

The Q&A began and I was clearly not prepared for what was heading my way!

Each child had between 10-20+ questions written in their books ready to take me to task!

The depth of questioning was astounding. We discussed the historicity of the Bible, Scriptural inerrancy, Science, and Salvation by faith, Heaven, Hell, Sin, morality, angels, Christianity and other religions, pets in Heaven…and even the role of women in ministry!

I answered as best as I could, bringing the children back to the Cross of Christ amidst the apologetics and I will no doubt spend the rest of the week either regretting some of what I said, or wishing that I answered some questions a little differently.

What I am most encouraged about, is that these children are thinking and are being allowed to take Christianity seriously, approaching the subject with respect.

We could have spoken for hours!

image1-2

Such reasoning will never bring anyone to faith without the work of the Holy Spirit in their young hearts.

Please pray that the Lord intervened between the weakness of my tongue and the willingness of the hearts of these wonderful children.

Please pray that God would water the seeds that were planted today so that the church of tomorrow will reap a bountiful harvest!

Please pray for this most wonderful school! They are all so committed to the children and it is such an amazing place for them all to come and learn, if only I was 25 years younger,(i’d probably be enjoying detention there)!

In the next few weeks we are starting a club for “young people” at Noddfa, where such discussions can take place, as well as games (table tennis, pool, Nintendo Wii, DVD’s and food).

Just like Church, this club is not just for Christians, or young people from Christian families, it is open to all, from whatever background or philosophy!

The poster is below – if you are interested to send your children, please email pastor@noddfabaptist.co.uk and I can inform you of the start date!

clwb-noddfa

 

Let there be Light!

Last week we welcomed over 40 local children (many un-churched) to our light themed holiday club.

Each morning began with games around the chapel; from guess what is in the boxes, to blindfolded ‘put the flame on the candle’, shadow puppets, Simon says and activity sheets.

We then gathered to hear God’s Word and I gave a brief message.

lp13      lp9

Monday we took the children time travelling, back to the very beginning of everything, where God said let there be light (Gen 1:3). Tuesday I shared my difficulties on going to the bathroom during the night, treading on Lego and tripping over toy cars and doll houses, and how I need a torch to help guide me through safely. The world is a dark place and Jesus is a lamp to our feet (Psalm 119:105). Wednesday Peter spoke on the Parable of the ten virgins, digging out an old mining lamp to show the children (Matt 25:3). Thursday I tried to light up the church by putting a lamp under a chair (Matt 5:15) and on Friday I showed the children that a flame on a match casts no shadow, there is no darkness in light, we have nothing to fear in Christ (Psalm 27:1).

After the message, we all conga’d up to the hall for craft, where the children made light/dark plates, lighthouses, lanterns, light jars, sparkly footprints and candle stands.

lp8   lp6

We then played various games and had refreshments. 

Each day finished back in the chapel, we’d go through the memory verse (which they all remembered the following day), a quiz and prizes. On Friday the children enjoyed a “treasure hunt” to find logs (brown painted toilet rolls) which were brought back to a fire and we all had marshmallows on sticks during the message.

lp4

We then finished with a presentation back up in the hall. The children all received a copy of Matthew’s Gospel and the parents came in to see their child’s craft and have a cup of tea.

lp5

The week concluded on Sunday with our (light themed) Look Up family friendly service.

These evenings are intended to be a “church taster” so we can build bridges with the community. We sang two hymns, read God’s word and I spoke briefly.

lp3

We welcomed many from the community, most from outside the church. They came into the chapel (a big step for some of them) and I believe we broke down their assumptions that church is a boring and fearful place, but a Christ centered community of love.

lp1

Fellowship continued, where we gathered outside to see the chapel lit up with lazer’s, the children enjoyed sparklers and lanterns were let off into the night sky.

We then retired into the back hall, decorated in fairy lights and LED balloons, where we enjoyed hot-dogs and spent well over an hour getting to know people from the community. The Lord seems to be softening hearts in what is a very dark valley. 

Prayer requests

Please pray for all those who came, that we will see them again. 

Pray for all those that thought about coming, that we may welcome them next time. 

Pray for all those who chose not to come, that they will see Noddfa as a home for people who once thought church was “not for them”.

A big thanks to my loving wife and everyone in the team who helped put on a wonderful week for our local children. May the Lord Bless the seed that was sown. To Him be the Glory. Amen

 

 

New Term and we are Open for Business.

“Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Ezekiel 37:3

The new academic year has begun and after a long summer break our various meetings are now back!!!! We are open for Business!

All are welcome, you do not have to be a Christian to come to any of the below!

Please take just a few minutes to watch our “Year in Picture” at the bottom of the page to see what you missed last year, and hopefully we can welcome you to join in the fun over the coming weeks.

Noddfa’s week.

Sunday

11am- 12:30pm – Morning service and Sunday School

Take a break from the world, recharge your batteries and enjoy time with you maker. We sing hymns, pray and share a message from the Scriptures. The children are taken to Sunday School during the service, to have a story and craft. Tea, coffee and biscuits after the service for us to chat and meet new people.

5pm (when advertised) “Look Up”

A monthly Family Friendly service, where we sing hymns, share a short message followed by a seasonal activity. (Fireworks, Christmas Party, Valentines Craft, seed planting etc).

Monday

6-7pm Monday Club

For Primary School aged children. A story, quizzes, games and refreshments. Prizes at the end of term and special “cinema nights”. Children”Graduate” after six meetings and receive a Bible of their own.

Tuesday

10am- 12 noon Mothers and Toddlers

Pre-school age meeting for the community, includes lots of fun toys to play with, games and activities, refreshments including toast and fresh fruit for the children, a short story (and a good opportunity to catchup with friends and meet new people from the community). We ask for a £1 donation per child to cover some of the cost.

Wednesday

11:30am-12:30pm Prayer meeting

The engine room of the church, where we meet to hear a short message and to share prayer points, concerns and encouragements. We then set aside quiet time to be with God and pray for the work and the community we serve. All are welcome.

Thursday

10am- 12 noon Mothers and Toddlers

Pre-school age meeting for the community, includes lots of fun toys to play with, games and activities, refreshments including toast and fresh fruit for the children, a short story (and a good opportunity to catchup with friends and meet new people from the community). We ask for a £1 donation per child to cover some of the cost.

Coming Soon……

Friday 9am – Clinic, held at local cafe for people that want to chat over a cup of tea in neutral surroundings.

Friday 7:30pm – Youth group (name TBC) – Teenagers welcome, a safe place to discuss topical issues with of course games (we have a pool table), been bags to sit in and refreshments (probably chips….i like chips).

Sunday 5pm – An informal evening service, Bible Study or DVD and discussion.

And a half term Holiday Club!

Life is like riding a Bicycle….Welsh Velothon 2016

It is often said that “Life is like riding a Bicycle”…..all you need is; a bit of balance, keep yourself strong and healthy to get up those tough valley climbs and be prepared for the dangers ahead. Keep on peddling and you will get to the finish line and all will be fine!

But sadly life is not all that simple, the road often gets bumpy and you can lose your balance and fall off, or the hill is too steep and you have to give up, or at the slightest distraction the dangers ahead pop up before you notice them and CRASH you are out of the race.

We have all fallen off at some point and have suffered life’s cuts and bruises as a result.

The truth is, by our very nature we cannot cross that finish line in our own strength, the course of life is too difficult, none of us are perfect.

Even the greatest men of the Bible fell off their “bikes” at some point.

Adam disobeyed God, Noah a drunkard, Abraham lied, Moses a murderer, Gideon an idolater, David an adulterer, Peter denied Christ three times and Paul persecuted the church. Yet the Bible tells us that they all got to the finish line! Not by their own strength and ability but by trusting in their Saviour, Jesus Christ the Son of God, who by His Grace picked them up when they fell off, washed away their dirt and guided them safely through to the finish line.

The church at Noddfa does not claim to be a home for the yellow jackets, although those who know Christ have been given His.

Noddfa is a place for those of us with scruffy knees, bent frames, flat tires and sore limbs who keep falling off and are looking for help. Noddfa is also home for those who think they are doing fine, but are simply lost and seeking a purpose and direction in life.

If you want to find out more about Jesus Christ and how He can help you get you through life’s Velothon, why not come and join us at Noddfa? Because of the road closures for the Velothon we can’t meet on Sunday (22nd May) so we are holding a family friendly service on Saturday 21st May (5pm) instead. If you can’t usually make Sunday mornings, it is a great time to come and have a taster! Come as you are, all are welcome!

though we may stumble, we will not fall, for the LORD upholds us with his hand” Psalm 37:24

We look forward to welcoming the Welsh Velothon back to our village (Aberyshcan) on 22nd May 2016.

 

velothon

 

 

Well Done Giles

Let me start by stating clearly that I follow King Jesus. I am not a proponent of “church and state,” neither is the below piece intended to show any favouritism or indeed affiliation toward any political party. With that now said… let us begin!

It was over a year ago now that I was asked by Councillor Giles Davies to join Rev. Martin Freeman as his chaplain during his tenure as Mayor of Torfaen. I was flattered and put it to prayer.

I agreed and by God’s Grace the year has been a real blessing. Giles has given me the opportunity to meet and engage with people in the community that I might otherwise not have had the chance to.

Picture6

The role began at Giles’ induction (May 2015) where I was brought in before the Council to accept the commission and pray for the new Mayor, a daunting task that ended with a rather serial applause from the council – I get myself into some crazy situations!

A few weeks later I received a call from Giles, inviting me to join him at the Blaenavon World Heritage Carnival. This was simply to show support (in his guise as Mayor) and for a walk around the shops for a meet and greet. I dressed accordingly (jeans and a short sleeved shirt). To my surprise, I ended up leading the parade down the high street alongside the Mayor and our MP. As I walked past the many faces in the crowds lining the road I was told to wave and smile, I felt so out of place in my casuals and could not hide my embarrassment, repeating Isaiah 61:10 in my head as I walked. To my horror, later that week, a picture of us all appeared in the Free Press, front page! It was a privilege to be part of such an occasion.

Pastor John with Mayor of Torfaen, Mayor of Blaenavon and Welsh Labour MP for Torfaen

Pastor John with Mayor of Torfaen, Mayor of Blaenavon and Welsh Labour MP for Torfaen

Another duty of the Mayor is to go to parliament and it was a pleasure to accompany Giles. I had a great day walking the halls where many a hero such as Oliver Cromwell, Lloyd George, Winston Churchill and Nye Bevan once walked. I was humbled to sit in the viewing area to witness our democracy in action (you can read more about the day here – A day in Parliament). To the “enjoyment” of the Mayor and Mayoress, the car journey to and from London was filled with theological debate with my Methodist brother Rev. Martin Freemen.

IMG_6058

Together we have judged painting competitions in Pontypool Park, shares a cream tea in the museum, enjoyed garden parties, fireworks at the Golf club where Giles arranged for Folly Tower to be lit Purple (in support of Pancreatic Cancer UK), we have supported and been part of local concerts, memorial services, school plays, fundraisers, memorial services and pub quizzes. I have had a chance to meet and work alongside Churches and Ministers from across the county, something I longed to do.

All of this was just the tip of the Iceberg of the Mayor’s role. Between the Ministry and secular employment I simply could not accompany Giles to everything, my entire year’s service could be compressed to just one of his active weeks, he truly embraced his opportunity to be the first among equals of Torfaen.

The year has not been easy for Giles. He has been one of the faces of a council faced with great austerity; we have both campaigned vehemently to save our local Victoria Village School and Brynteg Nursery (that has not been easy and put him in an awkward situation at times).

oam8

Giles has had to balance his work as Councillor for Abersychan as well as Mayor (alongside the “day job”). This left little time for his family, including his wonderful daughter, who has supported him all the way. I am surprised Giles has not burned himself out with the workload and I have prayed that God would uphold him. A prayer answered.

Whatever you’re political or personal view of the man, I can say he worked hard for our county and I am pleased to call him friend.

Giles brought the office of Mayor into the 21st century, being the first in history to have a twitter account desiring to be both transparent and approachable through all communication channels; he worked with the greatest sincerity aiming to achieve the impossible task of pleasing everybody.

Giles took his duty seriously (with his heart on his sleeve) and whilst out on engagement would always seek to support local businesses, purchasing goods (from his own pocket) to buy anything from cheese platter’s to commissioning paintings from local artists. He worked with a humble spirit and saw his position as a privilege and raised thousands of pounds for his chosen charities; Alzheimer’s, Llanerch Disaster Memorial fund, British Heart Foundation and Pancreatic Cancer UK.

Folly Tower World Pancreatic Cancer Day

Giles has regularly supported the outreach at Noddfa, attending special events in a personal capacity and in his guise as Mayor, for that I am grateful. The last function he attended at the church as Mayor was the Queen’s birthday party where he and Gwyneira shared my vision to bring the local churches together and show our unity in Jesus.

Queen1

Giles would be the first to admit that his efforts were could not have been achieved without his team, I did not have the pleasure of meeting them all, but would like to thank them all especially Hywel (chief advisor, security, chauffer, guardian of the chain, comedian and all round legend) and the wonderful and hardworking Chris Slade.

Sadly I could not attend the handover as I have just returned home from a family holiday, but delighted to hear that the baton of “Chaplain to the Mayor” has now been past onto another Evangelical Rev Johnny Raine at Pontrhydryrun Church.

I will continue to pray for Giles and all the other Councillors, as well as our new Mayoress Veronica Crick, may the Lord bless you in your service.

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior. 1 Timothy 2:1-3

Eastern Valley Superhero Holiday Club

But Jesus said,Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14

The Gospel witness in the Eastern Valley is close to extinction, in our own community of around 10,000 people it is safe to assume that less than 100 of them attend church regularly (1% of the population). The majority of which are elderly in small congregations (I hear as low as three people) across a handful of churches. Without God’s intervention, we can assume that most of this witness will not be with us in the next ten years. Now is the time to Sow with Tears!

When the Lord brought my family and I to Abersychan just two years ago, Noddfa seemed to be coming to an end. It had just fifteen members, all (bar five) were in their 70’s and over, some were even too frail to make church on a Sunday.

Regular readers will know that since then the Lord has blessed us. Last year we had six baptisms and the congregation has grown significantly made up of all ages, matching the demographic of where God has called us to serve.

The auxiliary ministries have also grown; Sunday School, Monday Club and the Mothers and Toddlers have welcomed a five-fold increase. By God’s Grace we are now in a healthier position.

We have tried many different activities to reach out to the community over the last two years, all with mixed results; family friendly services, BBQ’s, Firework nights and this week we put on a holiday club for the children.

Unlike the other evangelistic meetings (that I have forced onto the community), the holiday club was different, we were asked by the community (at the school gates) to run it, so we joyfully obliged.

The theme was a Superhero Training Academy and the lessons were based on Ephesians 6, the Armour of God.

5

The children would register each morning before starting a ten minute sing-a-long. The groups were then split into two. One would stay in the chapel to learn the memory verse (Ephesians 6:11), then hear a story (relevant to the days piece of Armour). Then the children would take part in a treasure hunt, quiz, word searches or colouring in.

Meanwhile group two would be in the back hall building craft (the Armour of the day) and enjoying a drink and biscuit.

3

Then after 45 minutes, the two groups would swap (via a conga line) and we would repeat.

For the younger children, we provided a crèche area for the parents who wanted to stay.

11

At the end of each day we asked the parents to join us for a recap of what was taught and gave out the worksheets and prizes for the children to take home with them.

4

(To avoid copyright issues) Monday was ‘flying-black-rodent-man’ utility belt of truth, Tuesday was ‘Viking-Thunder-god’ helmet of Salvation, Wednesday was Sword of the Spirit (there is no Superhero I know of with a Sword, so I wowed the children with a perfectly safe replica). Thursday was ‘Captain star spangled banner’ shield of faith and we finished on Friday with ‘Ferrum-man’ Prayer in the Spirit.

7

On Friday the children all went home with their Armour of God (modeled below) and a keep sake book with all that they had learned this week.

hc1

I have to admit that I did very little towards this week. I currently have to balance the ministry with secular work, so I could only be there on the Wednesday. All the hard work was done for God’s Glory by church members and some of the mum’s (you know who you all are – thank you so much).

The Wednesday Team

9

I also want to thank Councillor Giles Davies for his support and promotion, Emmanuel Newport for their prayers and Ebenezer Cwmbran for all the Superhero decorations – the church looked great!

My wife is now looking forward to putting her feet up for a day or two after a busy week, but the fun has only just begun! We welcomed over 30 children over the course of the week and now we seek to build on these relationships with them and their families, so they can feel welcome to join our other activities and ministries and Noddfa.

10

When we were planning this week, we wanted to get the parents involved as much as possible. We did not want to fall into the trap  of providing a drop off centre for children but give ourselves the opportunity to interact with their wider family as much as possible.

Teaching the Gospel should never be reduced to simply a children’s activity, parents need to hear about Jesus to, so we worked very hard to invite them in and get them involved as much as possible (even if it was just at the end). All in the hope that they will see that church is not just for the very young or for the very old, neither is it boring, but it is a welcoming place of learning and of family that radiates the love of God.

As fun as we tried to make this week for the children we need to remember that what we are teaching them is not simply moral lessons, but serious truths that have eternal consequences.

Our Valley is arguably ‘post-Christian’, we are back to an Acts situation. We can no longer rest on society to bring people to us, neither assume Bible knowledge on those outside the church – the Gospel is simply not getting taught anymore.

People need to hear afresh that there is a God and that He loves them, He is worthy of their time and worship, His Word is truth and that the Bible is not simply about good moral teaching but an important message of Grace needed to be heard by all, “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”  1 Tim 1:15.

A super huge big thank you for all those who helped and came along, you made it a very special week for us all. (We are hoping to do another in October).

We run a similar ministry every Sunday Morning during the service (11am-12noon) for the children feel free to come and join us for some quiet time under the teaching of God’s Word.

For more information visit our website: www.NoddfaBaptist.co.uk

 

Time Flies

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

I have just returned back from the EMW Theological Training Course (TTC) in utter disbelief that it was my final session. I have a summer of essay’s to write and then we are all done, the last four years have passed in a blink of an eye.

The course runs in a four year cycle (A-D) with the Systematic Theology and Biblical Studies working alongside the chronology of church history. I was fortunate enough to start in year A, so have had it all in order, learning from the revelation and mistakes of our forefathers to get my doctrinal ducks in a row.

This final session was most enjoyable as it brought everything to a rounded conclusion. We went through the 19th and 20th century church (with Roger Welch), covering world mission and (my favorites) Spurgeon and the good Dr! Stephen Clarke took us through an in depth study of Eschatology, Chris Bennett gave us great insight into Colossians  and both letters to the Corinthians. Phil Swann lectured Pastoralia where we discussed Cultural Context in Evangelism and Spurgeon’s sermons to win soul’s.

The evening discussions looked at the New Testament in the Old Testament and Dispensationalism, the Pastoral issues and battles with Pornography and we closed on the Thursday evening with the usual question and answer session  (a debate that usually continues to the early hours).

I went to Bala in the final stages of what was a bad bout of the flu, it had me bed bound for the week before. I was exhausted so had to manage my time better. I went to bed earlier and woke up later than usual and rested in the afternoon break, this included an advised Sauna in the local leisure centre (to clear my chest) in Phil Swann’s trunks that he kindly lent to me. This strategy paid off as I got to Thursday without feeling like my brain was in a cement mixer.

I have said this in previous ‘write-ups’; The TTC offers a study like no other I have experienced, in that it is not just head knowledge but also heart knowledge. This is tremendously challenging because as you grow in the knowledge of Christ, your failures and imperfections become clearer. The conviction you undergo at times can be unbearable, yet you leave feeling refined and strengthened in the Lord as His Grace overflows.

I have enjoyed the four years of the course; the challenge of the lectures, the fellowship with my brothers (and their families) I have made friends for life, the discipline of writing the essay’s and working through the quality reading lists.

The TTC has been a real journey, knowing what I know now, I can look back and see how young I was as a Christian when I started, how worldly and skewed my reasoning was. But by God’s Grace this course has knocked me into shape. These four years have given me a better understanding of Scripture which has had wider ramifications in both my ministry and in my home life.

As Harriet and I have grown in head and heart knowledge of Christ together, because of His love we love each-other more today than I thought possible and the children are also flourishing as a result.

With that all said, I must be clear the job is far from done, I am still a baby and need your prayers!

I started the TTC paddling in the shallows, still with dry sand from the beach life I left behind stuck to my knees. The course has done an excellent job in giving me the confidence to brave deeper waters and its lecturers and mentors have taught me the basic swimming strokes. I do now feel more at home in the water, but remain humble as I look out at a deep dark ocean of life long study, filled with dangers and threats. As I begin to think about leaving the shallows, in faith I go out to swim holding onto verses like Isaiah 41:10.

I want to publicly thank my wife for her love, support and grace as we have worked through the challenges of this course together, Pastor Bernard for his constant support and regular meetings, all at Emmanuel and Noddfa for your prayers, support and for all the book donations (you know who you are).

Please continue to pray for all the men that remain on the course and for their families, also for the hosts Gwydion and Catrin Lewis who have been so loving and welcoming in their service at Bryn-y-Groes.

image1