‘I lift up mine eyes’ – Senana Cymru annual meeting

People from across Wales came together to Caersalem chapel, Cilgwyn, near Newport Pembrokeshire in May to see one of the church members honoured as national president of Senana Cymru – something that should have happened back in 2020. The history of Senana Cymru goes back to 1906 but since 1948, when the practice of having the incoming President sign her name on the Movement’s Bible, this was only the eighth time that the meetings had come to Pembrokeshire. On average, therefore, a president will come from Pembrokeshire Association once every ten years, and this year it was Bonni Davies’ turn, Penlanwynt, Cwm Gwaun.

The meeting was opened by Anne Lapage of Ruthin, the current president of the Senana, before the Rev. Alwyn Daniels, the church’s honorary minister, extended a warm welcome to everyone to the day. Six of the Caersalem sisters, Joyce Evans, Enfys Howells, Menna James, Sandra Llewellyn, Marian Rogers and Yvonne Williams were responsible for the devotion and two others, Merryl Roberts and Glenys Williams, presented hymns.

The new Presiding Officer was inducted up when Bonni signed her name on the Welsh Senana Bible and was gifted with a beautiful gold trophy with the picture of a wheatsheaf, decorated with pearls. This was a trophy given as a gift to the Department by Mrs Evan Owen who had been treasurer of Senana Cymru between 1906 and 1917. The prayer of induction was presented by the Rev Judith Morris, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Wales, before the new president introduced the vice-president Menna Machreth Llwyd, Caernarfon. Menna extended a warm welcome to everyone to Caersalem Caernarfon in the year, when the practice of holding two services would return. This event was limited to just one due to uncertainty following the pandemic.

Bonni was then delighted to receive a cheque of £5,860.00 from the Rev Geraint Morse, to be sent to the BMS Ukrainian Appeal following a walk he organised. Greetings were brought to the new president on behalf of Senana Pembroke by secretary Llinos Penfold, Mynachlog-ddu; and on behalf of the Welsh Women’s Movement by the Presiding Officer, Eleri Lloyd Jones, Bangor. The Baptist Missionary Society (BMS) report was presented by Sarah East, Morriston, a Welsh representative on the BMS Reference Council; and a report on behalf of Senana Cymru by the Secretary, the Rev Suzanne Roberts, who lives in Newbridge, Gwent.

As the new president grew up in Newport at the foot of Carn Ingli, living in the shadow of Foel Eryr for over fifty years but continuing to live within sight of Garn Ingli, her address was sealed on the first verse of Salm 121, “I Lift Up My Eyes to the Mountains”. She shared with the audience many experiences she had when going on walks around the farm over the period of the ‘Lockdown’ during the Covid-19 pandemic. She came to realise that just as Carn Ingli Mountain had always been part of her life, that God had also always been there for her along her journey. She compared the resilience of the mountain to the robustness of her faith in God and encouraged the audience, in the uncertain times in which we live, to be firm as the mountains. She also urged the audience in raising their eyes to the mountains to raise their voice to stand up for what is justified in an extremely selfish world by doing what God wants us to do and who God wants us to be. The best way to do that is to press on God in our prayers as our strength comes from there. She ended by challenging everyone to continue to elevate their eyes to the mountains, to remember in doing so where our help comes from; to be firm in our faith as the resilience of the mountains; to speak out for what is just and correct; and most particularly and most importantly, to stay in the company of our Guardian, to talk to Him and to listen to His voice as “Surer than the mountains are his words”.

The Rev Sian Elin Thomas, the new minister of Ebeneser Dyfed and Y Graig Newcastle Emlyn, and the part-time chaplain of Glyn Nest, brought the day to its end. A lovely and joyful afternoon ended by socialising around the tables at Llwyngwair Manor from where William Williams Pantycelyn is said to write the hymn “Over the dark hills” – a very suitable ending to the theme of the day. 

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