Crickhowell Evangelical Church was established on the 4th July 1976. Founded under the leadership of David Norman Jones, the church is still committed to the original vision of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ with confidence. The church is warm and welcoming; diverse in age, background, temperament and personality but passionately committed to serving Christ. Some of the original church members are still active in the church, and the newest to the faith quickly latch on to what it means to live and speak for Jesus.
Around 40 of us meet every Sunday morning in the village community primary school, which gives us the space for worship and enables us to enjoy fellowship and hospitality comfortably with the additional room needed for parents and children. It’s also at the heart of our community, and everybody knows where it is. We use our Church Centre in the middle of the town for all other activities. This Centre was once the GP surgery and is quite small. It strains with a growing congregation on a Sunday evening and struggles to host the many mothers and toddlers who come each week. It’s a good problem to have, and one to solve, as we work with the Lord to build his church.
A great place to live
Crickhowell is a historic market town that sits nestled in the Usk Valley within the Brecon Beacons National Park. It boasts award winning independent businesses, places to stay and a renowned reputation for fine dining. We’ve many treats on our doorstep, such as the world famous Hay Literary Festival, Abergavenny’s Food Festival and the nearby Brecon Jazz. We’re spoilt for choice for things to do, whether roaming the hills or more adventurous activities. If you’ve been here before, you’ll not be surprised the church youth prefer a swim in the river to pizza after a Sunday evening service! We live in a mostly green and pleasant land.
No wonder we see visitors, but by now we’ve also long-established links with friends across the UK and Europe. Indeed, some of our church members are those who once visited the area and attended church, came on more holidays and got to know us better, and in time, have relocated.
A great gospel to share
As disciples of Jesus, we’re commissioned and sent to engage those around us with the greatest news on earth, in the strength of the Holy Spirit. Rather than simply inviting residents to our services, we actively encourage our people to be involved in community groups, sharing the gospel naturally among those they meet. Though we are not a big church, we have 25 church members functioning as missionaries in our locality.
At present, we have some involved in the town choir, the dry-stone walling society, a pilates class, the visually impaired society, a local football and village cricket team, a few book clubs, the U3A (University of the Third Age), the local business community forum, art classes, language learners, a school governor, a couple of street pastors, a church warden and another on the town council. Of course, we must all love our neighbours and pray for them wholeheartedly, commending Christ to friends across the hedge, the allotment or at the school gate. How good to know that when bad news breaks and life’s uncertainties arise, there are local Christians at hand and known to so many! Oh, and we pray for some more.
One recent gospel project
Investing time and effort in our community has led to opportunities we might otherwise have missed. One we recently took up was with Crickhowell’s prolific art community. An Art Trail is arranged over the May Bank Holiday Weekend, drawing visitors from near and far. There are official galleries and unusual venues across the town with front rooms and freshly whitewashed garages showcasing many styles of art including pottery, precision wood-turning and sculpture. Having organised a pop-up art exhibition last year, we committed to being an official host venue this year. The Rev. Andrew Bowden was our Artist in Residence, who packed his camper-van full of easels, paint, brushes and enthusiasm. Most importantly, there was room for his beloved Gwyneth!
We rearranged The Church Centre meeting room with chairs and sofas, set up easels, hung pictures, displayed sketch books, printed advertising, invited friends and raised more than a little prayer. The plan was that Andrew would paint on the Saturday and Monday, and Gwyneth would meet and greet like a warm-hearted Swansea valley girl. And the people came.
Imagine our joy at seeing around 200 visitors to The Church Centre across the weekend. People were impressed with the quality of Andrew’s painting, especially with the speed at which he worked. Most would watch and want to talk about the way he painted or the type of paint he used. Andrew patiently answered questions and shared tips again and again, matched only by the indefatigable Gwyneth. One couple exclaimed, ‘We met you and prayed with you twenty years ago in Tenby. Your hair was black back then!’ Of course, a few wandered in and wandered out, but most stopped to find out more.
We invited visitors to an extended interview with Andrew on the Sunday afternoon and an hour-long watercolour demonstration to close the weekend. Both saw new friends coming, and Andrew introduced his story, his art, his inspiration and his Saviour. Thank God with us that as doors have opened with our creative fraternity, we’ll yet have many gospel conversations, bringing glory to Jesus Christ.
Our locals have been intrigued and encouraged by our church’s involvement in the community, when and where we can. Truthfully, it’s been a challenge to us as church members too. Daring to engage in evangelism beyond our comfort zone does not come easily or naturally but going through the motions as a church is neither our ambition or our goal. Being willing, faithful and unashamed requires an absolute confidence in the gospel, the courage to try and the belief that Christ will be honoured as we proclaim Him. The Lord will bless as He sees fit, and we pray that having witnessed His faithfulness in the past, we’ll be willing to follow His lead as He directs.