In the second week of August each year some 1300 Christians of all ages, often in family and church groups, from all parts of the British Isles including the Republic of Ireland, descend upon Aberystwyth for the annual English Conference of the Evangelical Movement of Wales. This is followed by the Welsh Conference in the third week of August. The fact that there are conferences in two different languages reflects the nature of the Evangelical Movement of Wales as a body committed to making its Christian witness to both language communities in Wales.
Both conferences have grown over the years since they were started. The first Welsh Conference was held at Bala in 1952, and the first English Conference in 1957 at Port Talbot.
Both conferences are now held at Aberystwyth, which is a seaside resort and a university town, with good access to the mountains of North Wales. Many attending the conference are housed in self-catering accommodation in the University of Wales halls of residence, whilst others prefer to stay in hotels and boarding houses. All these arrangements require a great deal of organization which is undertaken by the conference secretary, Rev. Ken Stockley, and his team of helpers.
Though the conference does not begin until the Monday evening with a preaching service, many who attend it arrive on the Saturday and join in fellowship with local believers on the Sunday. This year the Alfred Place Baptist Church arranged for Dr O. Palmer Robertson to speak at its Sunday services and at an extra service on Monday morning. These were held at Bethel, Baker Street, in order to accommodate the enlarged congregation.
One of the striking features of the conference is the high proportion of young people attending. Some of these will have been converted at the camps run by the EMW during the summer months, others will be students on vacation from college or university. Their presence is a great encouragement to the organizers because the conference meetings are devoted to preaching without any supporting gimmicks whatsoever. The hymns sung are taken from Christian Hymns.
The same pattern is followed each year. From Tuesday to Friday the conference addresses each morning are given by one speaker. This year he was Geoff Thomas, the minister for thirty years of Alfred Place Baptist Church in the town. In his four addresses he spoke on the life of Daniel under four kings — Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Cyrus and Darius. He emphasized Daniel’s faithfulness to God in a challenging pagan environment, and drew many helpful parallels between his situation and ours.
The evening meetings are addressed by a different speaker each night. On the Monday evening Dr Eryl Davies, Principal of the Evangelical College of Wales, spoke on the missionary obligation of the church. The other meetings were evangelistic with the gospel being preached with power and with definite conversions.
Very much part of the conference is the missionary exhibition which was held at St Paul’s Methodist Centre. Twenty-six societies were represented featuring many different aspects of mission. Open each afternoon from Tuesday to Friday the exhibition was visited by hundreds of people. A ‘late night special’ for young people prepared to consider the call to missionary work attracted over one hundred.
Undoubtedly the conference is a great encouragement to many believers from small churches. To gather together in the Great Hall of the university to sing God’s praise and to hear inspiring preaching is a tonic to many a soul. There is always the challenge to seek a deeper experience of God and to pray for a heaven-sent revival — twin notes which have characterized the Movement from its beginning nearly fifty years ago.