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.