St Mellons Baptist Church, Cardiff
Christmas is a time that brings openings which other seasons do not. Some people are ‘traditionalists’ who are happy to hear the message of Christmas, giving them a sense of nostalgia. Others may be prepared to tolerate hearing the Christmas message just because it is Christmas and some may be dragged along by family or friends. It is good to make the most of this relative openness to the message and pray that the God of salvation would reveal himself to them.
In St Mellons, we are blessed to have a Sunday School that has a number of children from outside the church. Christmas gives an opportunity to invite their families to hear the gospel in the form of a carol service delivered by the children. They share the story of Christ’s incarnation through Bible readings and songs they have learnt, followed by a gospel address from the pastor.
For the first time last year we held a Carols by Candlelight service following the nine lessons and carols liturgy with a gospel address. This shows the big picture of God’s redemptive plan through the lessons and it appeals to traditionalists familiar with the readings and carols. It was so encouraging to have many locals join us and we were able to spend time with them afterwards. We pray for blind eyes to be opened as we attempt it again this year.
There are other opportunities for more informal gatherings such as men’s and ladies’ meals and family Christmas craft evenings, all of which include short gospel messages. We join with the local Parish church for an evening of singing traditional carols with our local neighbours and our minister is able to bring the gospel in as each carol is introduced. All these events are helpful for fellowship and good to invite friends and family to since they are conducive to conversation and can help to develop relationships that can lead to further gospel opportunities.
We are to take each of these opportunities prayerfully, remembering that the Lord gives the increase. Whether or not we see souls saved, it is good to lift high the name of the Lord amidst all the distracting voices of the world around us!
Christmas is a particularly busy time for those in the ministry, so please remember them in your prayers and be mindful of the additional burdens of the season.
Rich Webster is an elder at St Mellons Baptist Church, Cardiff.
Ebenezer Baptist Church, Swansea
Ebenezer Baptist Church is tucked away in a side-street opposite the railway station in Swansea. It is in one of the most deprived areas of the city. As with most churches, Christmas time is seen as a great opportunity to bring the message of the gospel to the local community in ways over and above our normal weekly efforts.
For several years now, Year 2 children from local schools have come to the church to take part in Christmas Wrapped Up, a programme specifically designed to help the children realise the centrality of Jesus to Christmas. Both staff and children appreciate the various activities, some of the children never having been in a church before.
In the early weeks of December, we distribute a calendar in the area advertising the carol service and the regular meetings and activities of the church. A carol service is held on the last Sunday before Christmas. It has been thrilling to see people from the local community, friends and family of church members, and families contacted through the children’s work and parents and toddlers group joining in the service and enjoying supper together afterwards.
Two other carol services are held on weekdays, both followed by food. Office workers are invited to the lunchtime service, while the one at tea-time is aimed at the local community, some of whom may be homeless.
For a great number of years, a group from the church sang carols in the town centre one Saturday while the Christmas market was taking place. Others gave out suitable literature and invitations to the carol service. Last year, however, having obtained permission from the station master, we sang carols on home territory in the railway station concourse and gave out leaflets and invitations there.
Please pray for us as we endeavour to use this Christmas time to reach out with the message of the Gospel in this needy area.
Shirley Towers is a member of Ebenezer Baptist Church, Swansea.
Carols under the Arch – Noddfa Baptist Church, Abersychan
Three years ago Noddfa Baptist Church decided to hold a carol service under the Big Arch in Abersychan. A relic of the heavy industry that once thrived in our dear valley, the arch once bustled with trains above and workmen’s stalls and busy labourers below. Today the Big Arch is home to dumped white goods and sofas, the odd dog walker and boy racers.
We initially approached Councillor Giles Davies, a dear friend of the church, who gave us his immediate backing. He then got the council to approve the event, but they clearly underestimated its potential. They must have thought, ‘It’s that crazy preacher again with a few old women singing around a torch.’ They did not even ask me to write a risk assessment!
Together with Giles and the other councillors, we partnered with Melin Homes, Bron Afon, Torfaen Play Services, Gwent Music, South Wales Fire Brigade, the Scouts and local businesses. To our surprise over five hundred people attended. The following year the council gave us a project manager and I spent three months in various panels and meetings, making up for the previous year’s lack of form-filling! We welcomed six hundred souls to the event in 2017. I joked with the crowd, ‘All year I try and get you into our nice, warm, cosy church and you refuse, but when I ask you to meet us under a grubby, wet and cold arch, you all come.’
Between each carol, I gave a short gospel presentation. Our voices were supported by Gwent Music brass band made up of many local school children. Local businesses provided lighting, security, park and ride and most importantly mince pies. We even had an Elvis impersonator in 2017! I wept thinking about when the last time so many in our valley sang praise to our Lord and I was grieved that most of those gathered did not know him.
We have already begun to plan our third Carols under the Arch and are seeking support for a stage, reindeer and projection on to the walls. But none of this matters if the greatest attraction of them all, Jesus Christ, is not present. Please pray with us at Noddfa that when the community rally together for this annual event they would be met with a most profound and tangible presence of God that will fill their hearts with joy this Christmas.
John Funnell is the pastor of Noddfa Baptist Chapel, Abersychan and a member of the Editorial Board.