Mancot Presbyterian Church
One of the good things about the Covid lockdown was that when our churches were closed, I was able to visit other places online. I was a regular visitor to Blaina Evangelical Church, to Llanelli Evangelical church and sometimes went further afield to London or to Scotland. It was lovely to dip into other situations and I was encouraged to see how others were taking the opportunity to preach the gospel and maintain their witness. This encouraged us to do whatever we could to keep in contact with our own church members in our small village of Mancot in Flintshire.
On that first Sunday back in our own church building, we were excited to see people again face to face. We were only eleven people, and of those, seven were from our own family and I sensed that there was a lot of work to be done. Yet, Sunday by Sunday there would be one or two more of our old members present and we were pleased to be together again.
Bringing people to us
Then some very unusual things started happening. One Sunday a lady stopped to read the notice board. We invited her and her two children into the service and she told us that she would love to come in because she had become a Christian during the lockdown. She was a Thai lady and had been a Buddhist but she had become a Christian through a dream. She woke up and asked her husband to collect all her idols, put them in a black bin bag and take them to the rubbish dump. As the service was starting, an eighteen year old boy came into the church and sat at the back. At the end of the service, he told the minister that he had become a Christian during lockdown because he had experienced a dream. He had been cycling down to the church every Sunday hoping that it would be open and he had read the Scripture text on the notice board which thankfully we had changed each week! The two newcomers had never met one another and had no idea that they had similar experiences.
The young man had been heavily involved in drink and drugs before his conversion and he found Friday nights a particular struggle, having had to leave a lot of his friends behind. We were pleased to send him and some other boys from the church to the Friday night youth group at Deeside Evangelical Church. Matt Francis, the pastor at Deeside, was very welcoming and patiently worked with him through many battles, helping to shepherd him in those early days.
As well as being involved in the Deeside youth group, some of our members started to attend Sunday night services at Deeside. Even with masks and social distancing we felt welcomed and grew closer as churches such that we meet regularly now at special meetings, quiz nights and fellowships. It was great to have members of the Deeside youth group present when our two converts were baptised.
Both of these people have been a wonderful blessing to our church and now two years on they have grown as Christians and are actively working in our church.
A spirit of generosity
Another huge surprise came shortly after that in a members’ meeting. An international incident had hit the news and the country was being asked for money. It was on my heart that the church should give some money but I was nervous to ask in case other people felt it wasn’t a good use of church funds. I remember tentatively asking if we might give £100 to which an old member baulked. ‘Oh no!’ he said, ‘I think we should give £500!’ It was so out of the ordinary as to be miraculous. It remains in my mind as part of the beginning of this lovely season of blessing.
Over the months since lockdown, we have seen a steady stream of newcomers to our services. We have baptised and welcomed into membership two friends from Poland. We have been thrilled to welcome a couple from France who came looking to have their wedding vows renewed and have continued to worship with us ever since. They are both excellent cooks and one of the joys of having them attend is the interest they take in church hospitality. So many of the people who have started coming are keen to get involved in church life and it has made us think seriously about the gifts people bring to the church and how to use them.
Having a significant number of people whose first language is not English has made us think about how we do our services. Our Thai friend found English extremely difficult at first. One week she was praying that God would help her understand what was being said perhaps by the use of some kind of screen. She felt God tell her to ask for one but she was too afraid. Incredibly, that same week, another new member installed PowerPoint in the church and put the Bible readings on the screen. Our Thai friend was blown away when she arrived at church and saw an answer to her prayers at the front of the church!
Seeing God at work
Before lockdown we had linked up with a local nursing home. Last year, we restarted that monthly service and were delighted to find that one of the nurses was a Christian. Originally from India she is now living here and has started coming to the church with her eighteen year old son. It has been lovely to see the younger people building a relationship with him.
Others in the local area are coming to our coffee morning and some have now started to attend regularly on Sundays. Some have become Christians, including a nurse in her twenties who just turned up because she felt that God was speaking to her and she wanted to become a Christian. She came to the Aberystwyth conference for a day, and made a profession of faith. She is making good progress in her Christian life attending Sunday services and the Prayer Meeting.
Week by week, in ones and twos, new people have come to the church. Not all have stayed, but it has been wonderful to see God working in this village drawing people into the fellowship. We feel a sense of excitement each week as we meet together. In fact, one observation from all of this is the impact it has had on the younger people in church. They have been thrilled to see numerical growth and are young enough to assume it is normal. It has encouraged them to think about their own faith, to ask friends to church events and to get involved in Christian Union at school. One of them has come into membership.
I write as someone who has worked over many decades in small churches, and experienced a ‘day of small things’. It has been wonderful to see God working in a surprising way and we pray that he will continue to do the work that we cannot do and bring light and life to the hearts of people around us and throughout Wales.
We have started a monthly Saturday morning prayer meeting to give thanks for all of these encouragements and one of the common refrains is that God would protect us and preserve unity. We would value your prayers for unity as we go on working in Mancot.