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Event – Thanksgiving in Aberystwyth

January 2018 | by Gwyn Davies

In June 1967 four men came together in Aberystwyth to pray for guidance. Three of them, Ieuan Jones, John Ifor Jones, and Wil Morgan, attended different chapels in the area, but were increasingly uneasy, because the Word of God was not being preached there.

The other was Gordon Macdonald, a Welsh Wesleyan Methodist minister near Machynlleth. His doctrinal beliefs were at odds with the Arminian and paedobaptist stance of his denomination, and he was suspicious of the ecumenism then fashionable. Eventually, he came to the conviction that the biblical response to blatant theological and moral error within the church was to separate from it.

After praying together in that June meeting, the four men and their wives fully agreed that God was leading them to establish a non-denominational, Welsh-language, evangelical church, with Gordon as minister.

The first services of Eglwys Efengylaidd Aberystwyth were held on Sunday, 1 October 1967, at the YWCA building on North Parade. This was a landmark event in twentieth century Welsh-language religious circles. The new church — the first of its kind — attracted critical press comment and marked hostility from some ministers.

But it grew, partly through an awakening among Welsh students at the university. By 1974, the YWCA had become too small, and the church moved to a building owned by the Urdd, a Welsh cultural organisation.

Gordon ministered faithfully for 30 years, until his retirement in 1997, and was succeeded by Ifan Mason Davies. During Ifan’s ministry the church moved to Saron Chapel, Llanbadarn Fawr, where it still meets.

Ifan retired in 2005, and in 2007 Derrick Adams became minister, moving from Penrhyndeudraeth, with his wife Llio and their family. Both Gordon and his wife Rina, and Ifan and his wife Anne, remained members of the congregation; Gordon died earlier this year.

Welsh ministry

In using Welsh as its language of worship and witness, the church has sought to bear testimony to the gospel primarily among the large numbers of Welsh speakers, who regard English-language churches with some reservation.

At the same time, the church has consistently supported gospel work overseas, with particular focus on missionaries from Wales. There has been a particularly valuable relationship with generations of students, a number of whom have stayed on in Aberystwyth, enriching the life of the congregation.

On 30 September 2017, a large congregation gathered at Alfred Place Baptist Church (kindly lent) to give thanks to God for his goodness during the past 50 years.

The preacher was Gwynn Williams (Cardiff), whose links with the church go back to the early years. His message, based on the words ‘Let us…’, found three times in Hebrews 10:22-25, was a stirring encouragement to the church, as it faces the challenges of the future.

There were also valuable contributions from Ifan Mason Davies, John Ifor Jones and Keith Lewis. It was good to be able to welcome so many former students, family members, and others whose association with the church has been valued over the years.

On the church’s 25th birthday, a plate bearing the words ‘Hitherto has the Lord helped us’ (1 Samuel 7:12), in Welsh, was presented to Gordon and Rina.

As the church gives thanks now for the past 50 years, it trusts the Lord will grant his help and blessing again in days to come.

Gwyn Davies

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