We came to Llanfairfechan in September 2014 in a bit of a pickle. We’d been living in North Kent, just outside the always pleasant M25, in a mid-terraced house with thin walls and six children. I was commuting into central London where I worked in the Met police’s Anti-Corruption Command. The triad of a large family, a consuming job, and an engaging role in the local Anglican church led to a pretty exhausting existence. When paired with some challenging issues with our neighbours, Lucy and I decided to do something a bit rash – we upped sticks and ran away. I applied to transfer to North Wales Police and started to learn Welsh while Lucy set up a Rightmove house search alert.
A persistent question
Once we arrived, we started attending a church in Bangor about twenty minutes away. It was lively, evangelical, and missional, and we, with our newborn seventh child, were welcomed among them. Six months later, we heard about a youth club in Llanfairfechan and decided to take our eldest two, assuming it was run by the local council. However, we discovered that the club was run by Libanus Baptist Church, a local church that was planted in the late 1990’s by a team of American missionaries. There were over 45 teens at this youth club. The next Sunday I went to their Sunday meeting.
In many ways it was not a church Lucy and I would have chosen, in part due to our own spiritual formation and upbringing. Yet, God was clearly working. There was a thriving youth event that included a clear gospel call and the church was keen to reach the village for Christ. We couldn’t stop asking ourselves the question, ‘If God is working in the village we are living in, how can we keep leaving to be part of a church in Bangor, irrespective of our comfort or even some of our theological and denominational convictions?’ The following week, Lucy and I spoke to the elders in Bangor who agreed with our unspoken answer – we should go where God leads. Two weeks later we began attending Libanus Baptist Church.
A surprising question
Fast-forward to December 2016 and there was a knock at our front door. It was the pastor telling us he was planning to go back to the States. He had a question: ‘Would you become the pastor of the church?’ Years ago, Lucy and I had investigated seminary and gospel ministry, envisioning some kind of ministry training scheme or a pastoral understudy. We had never envisioned this! What did pastoring even look like? I deferred my answer.
In March 2017, after much prayer and trusted counsel, we discerned God’s call on my life to shepherd his people in Llanfairfechan. This was somewhat of a trajectory shift for us and there were also some practical challenges. There was no money to pay me, as the pastor’s wages previously came from the States, so I carried on my work as a detective sergeant in the child protection team. There was no eldership and only very limited relationships with any other churches in North Wales. The church constitution had been lifted from a church in the States in the early 2000’s and needed a rewrite to fit our North Wales context and allow for elders among other things. It became apparent that the church needed renewal – constitutional, organisational, and spiritual renewal.
Thanks to God’s grace and faithfulness, we now have a team of three elders leading the church and we’re affiliated with the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches (FIEC). We’re also engaged in a youth ministry partnership with another local FIEC church. In December 2022, the church voted to change its name from Libanus Baptist Church, to Hope Church, Llanfairfechan, and we accepted our first members having adopted a new constitution in July this year. Amazingly in May 2022, a combination of financial support from a growing team of gospel partners and significant growth in church giving meant I could step away from the police.
Reading Renewal by John James provided some real clarity to what felt confusing and new to me, and inspired me with a vision for church revitalisation. I thank God for that book and would encourage anyone to read it. There are many chapels around Wales with a harvest of souls waiting to hear the gospel. It’s an exciting prospect!
I did not choose this church renewal ministry and I have a tendency to like comfort. I would rather have been part of a mature and established church that ticked all the boxes of my theological perspectives. Therefore it has been, and continues to be, a challenging adventure, both painful and joyful. Yet it’s been so beautiful to see nominal church goers meet Jesus and I’m in awe of our God who has brought us on this journey. It’s a different church and Lucy and I are different people. One thing I’ve learned is that church ministry is always a ministry of renewal and I’m so glad for the work of patient renewal the Lord goes on working in me and his church.