Saturday 14 June saw approximately 150 people make their way up one of Wales’ eastern valleys to the village of Abersychan and church of Noddfa. It was the end of a journey, yet at the same time the start of a new venture with God. John Funnell was recognised as part-time pastor of the Noddfa church.
John began attending Emmanuel Evangelical Church, Newport, in 2008 and came to faith in 2009. Soon after, his wife Harriet, having seen the complete difference in John, also came to faith and they were baptised together in January 2010.
From the start, John devoured good books and enrolled in various distance-learning programmes. At the Aberystwyth Conference in 2011 he was asked by one of the elders at Emmanuel, where he thought his study was leading. They agreed to meet the week after Aber to discuss the matter more fully, not knowing God’s plan.
On the Friday morning at Aber, David Jones of Hobart, Tasmania, issued a call for all present to consider the needs in the South Wales valleys. That call struck a chord in John’s heart and, after discussion with Harriet, there began a year of discussions within the leadership and members of the church at Emmanuel.
Visits were made to a number of reputable theological programmes and, as a result of various providences, it was agreed that John would begin preaching at Emmanuel and other churches that expressed a need, while following the Theological Training Course of the Evangelical Movement of Wales.
A number of churches expressed an interest in John joining them in ministry, but the eldership at Emmanuel recognised that they had a responsibility to continue supporting and preparing him for ministry, so were not prepared to release him without ongoing support.
Noddfa was one of those churches, so the leaders of Emmanuel and Noddfa met, agreeing that since Noddfa had been without a full-time pastor for about two years, it would be good if our churches could cooperate in furthering Noddfa’s work.
That journey of preparation was completed on 14 June 2014, when we met to set John aside for this ministry.
The service was led by Peter Milsom, current chairman of the Associating Evangelical Churches of Wales, and he led the act of recognition, questioning John and both churches. He then led us in prayer, as John, Harriet and their children were committed to the care of God.
The service also contained a personal testimony from John, a history of the call from Peter Sweeting, deacon at Noddfa, and a statement of commendation by Ian Davies, an elder at Emmanuel.
Bernard Lewis, pastor of Emmanuel, preached from 1 Chronicles 28:1: ‘The work is great, for the palace will not be for man but for the Lord God’. He exhorted all present, and especially both churches, to continue to support John and each other in this great work.
John remains a full church member at Emmanuel, with special responsibility for Noddfa, and the churches agree to work together, maintaining their autonomy until John’s study period is complete.
We trust that this will be the beginning of a very special venture with God and we covet the prayers of all who know the needs of this area of Wales.