My journey of faith – Peter Davies [Sandfields Methodist Church]

I would like to be able to tell you that in a certain place, on a certain date, at a certain time, my life was changed and I became a Christian – but I can’t, because my Christian journey did not begin like that. May I say that denominational Christianity has never been an issue for me – firstly I am a Christian and only secondly use a denominational tag.

Like most of us, my involvement in the life of the Church began in Sunday School – in my case at Wern Welsh Congregational Chapel in Aberavon. By the time I had reached my teens, most of my contemporaries had ceased to be interested and I was virtually alone continuing to attend chapel. I felt, even in those early years, that I needed and wanted to grow closer to my Lord and Saviour.

I was encouraged by my parents, and found enormous support amongst the people with whom I worshipped Sunday by Sunday. They must have seen something in me, and they encouraged me to become more active in the life of the church, and I eventually felt called to preach – something I was privileged to do for some 25 years until 1996. I am fortunate to be married to someone who is also a committed Christian, and am grateful to have shared most of my journey with her.

Following the closure of Wern to make way for the Town Centre development, a new Church – Christ Church – was opened on Baglan Moors and this became our spiritual home until it, too, closed in 1987. Christ Church was affiliated to the Welsh Congregationalists and English Baptists. For the final twelve months or so of Christ Church, I became virtually the Pastor there and led most of the services – including funerals and baptisms. At about this time, I was Assistant Secretary to the then active Port Talbot Council of Churches, and Christian Aid organiser for Port Talbot.

Following the closure of Christ Church we, as a family and along with others from Christ Church, joined Sandfields Methodist Church. We soon became full members, and my preaching activities continued inside and outside the then Port Talbot circuit, although I never became an accredited Local Preacher. My family also became immersed in the life of the Church, and it gives my wife, Cherill, and I great joy to see our daughter Emma fulfilling her role in the Church and Circuit, and our son-in-law Greg and grandchildren attending Church regularly. Our son Simon, his wife Sarah and their children are attached to Sketty Methodist Church (now Uniting Church Sketty). The Methodist Church and its doctrine has fitted me well, especially the emphasis on evangelism and on social justice at home and abroad.

I have to confess that in 1996, having received a promotion in my work with the local authority and going through a difficult period in work, I began to neglect my commitment to the Church and to the Lord Himself. I stopped preaching and didn’t attend worship, instead throwing all my energy into my job. Nevertheless, in quiet moments at home I would still seek to draw close to God.

This was a period which I now deeply regret. After a period of some years, and by the Grace of God, I returned to the fold of the Church and have since given myself, as best I can, to the work of the Gospel. I recognise that while I may have turned my back on God, He never turned His back on me, and I believe His Grace has made me a better person.

I will always be indebted to many Christian Ministers, and even more lay Christians, who have encouraged and supported me throughout what has sometimes been a turbulent journey, and I am grateful for the opportunities offered to me to be of service in the Methodist Church.  Most of all I thank God, for the Grace and Love He has shown to me throughout my life, even at those times when I least deserved it.

I believe with all my heart that Jesus Christ is God’s Son, that He went to the Cross to die for my salvation and the salvation of the whole of mankind, and that He rose again to offer eternal life to all those who believe in Him.

I may not be able to point to my ‘Damascus Road experience’, but there have been so many times during my journey that I, like John Wesley, have ‘felt my heart strangely warmed’. I am convinced that on those occasions the Holy Spirit has been very close to me, especially at times of worry and distress.

To paraphrase a sermon preached by one of our previous Minister’s, I hope to continue to seek to clothe myself in the virtues of the Christian life, while at the same time recognising that I am not, and never will in this life, be perfect (far from it!). I pray, and ask for your prayers, that God will continue to bless me on my journey.

My testimony of faith – Lynette John

My Testimony of Faith  by Lynette John [Neath Port Talbot Circuit ]

 In her on-line pastoral letter to the circuit last Sunday (July 19th) our minister, Rev. Rosemary, wrote of how Jesus never shied away from telling stories – some sad, some happy, some serious, but each one telling us that we should share our life stories with those who care to listen; (preferably before they hear them at our funerals) !

So I’d like to tell you mine (though 90 seconds isn’t nearly enough time!

I was nine when I embarked on the rocky road to discovering Jesus, God the Father, and the Spirit who was to become my Comforter and friend.

A Gospel Hall had started in our neighbourhood where we children were urged to attend. I went with  an older friend who told me they gave you sweets at  the end.  (Well, wouldn’t you?)

I came home, with not only sweets, but a small booklet that took me through the simple steps in getting to know Jesus as a friend; and thankfully, long after  the sweets disappeared I found I was saying my prayers, with just that tentative feeling that Jesus was a friend I just couldn’t do without.  Now, at the age of seventy-one, I still feel the same (only not quite so tentative.)

I became a local preacher in my fifties, & soon after, ill-health began to follow  me – two brushes with breast cancer, a hysterectomy, a bowel tumour (thankfully  all  with successful outcomes.)

God kept tapping me on the shoulder, to get on with what he’d asked me to do years before, and that’s been my aim ever since – to tell my story so that others can know him too.

So I did. My local preaching was a wonderful platform to announce how God  had pulled me through some of my darkest moments. What more need I do –  I was content.

Then, in 2014, horror struck again.  I started to lose my ability to speak.   ’Never mind,’ I thought, ‘I can use sign language’, and with the help of worship leaders  I still managed to preach, but slowly I got worse.

In 2016 I was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease.  The months of tests that followed were agonizing, but I still kept calm, and knew  God was working his purpose out for me – helping me cope with each step.

By 2018 I couldn’t walk, and my balance was compromised.  I asked God,                                 “Well, what now? How can you possibly use me in this feeble state?”

Still, his loving, immeasurable care endured – he has shown me that he uses all of us, however ‘feeble’ we think we are.

He blesses us with gifts we thought we never had – in my life I have my  wonderful husband David, and my home family, a church family, and a      motorised wheelchair.  With modern technology I can read and write, and use a computer, so I can still communicate.

My cup overflows, and with grateful thanks I urge you to look back on your life, and with pen and paper to hand, see where God has over the years helped you over the dark days as well as the good.

I have lots to thank God for – every day. And so do you.

Write it down for everyone to know who you are and what you and God have done together.     Will you?

A message from Neath Port Talbot circuit:

Although Lynette now has no speech at all, she is still on the circuit plan to lead two services each  quarter. She prepares them, writes them, (including prayers) chooses the readings  and hymns) Her sermons are written in the first person singular, and though they are delivered  by a worship leader, they require a minimum of editing (mainly so that an elderly male preacher doesn’t speak as if he’s  the mother of  three daughters!)

The churches in the circuit are always delighted to welcome her, and enthusiastic about being involved  in helping her to lead worship. Afterwards, they say almost inevitably how moving and uplifting the service has been, and that they want her to come back again.

But the most moving thing is always seeing Lynette herself sitting in the church, blessing everyone there with the biggest smile in the world.  We are very blessed to have her.

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