‘I wasn’t looking to leave my work here’ says Rosa over coffee in a café in the village of Tonteg on the outskirts of Cardiff. ‘I think I had expected that I would stay here until I retired, to be honest! This is where we live as a family – we feel part of the community.’ But God opened a different door, in the first instance through the bicentenary celebrations of a chapel a few miles away in the city centre.
Rosa was invited to preach at the end of 2021 as part of the celebrations at Tabernacl in the Hayes, Cardiff and decided to challenge the audience by asking what kind of church would be there in another hundred years’ time. But after that service Rhys ab Owen, one of the deacons, contacted Rosa to see whether she would be willing to meet the church officers for a conversation. The church wanted to do more to reach the community, was looking for a new minister and wanting Rosa’s views as a result of the work in Tonteg.
‘I was happy to have a conversation with them, of course’, said Rosa, ‘but for me there was nothing more than that to it. But when I was there with them, listening, I suddenly felt God stirring something inside me – what was stopping me from going to them as minister?’
Another meeting was organized, and was accompanied by an unexpected dream Rosa had that seemed to confirm her growing sense that it would be OK for her to leave Salem. ‘And the questions the deacons in Tabernacle put to me were so good when I met with them! They clearly want to discern God’s leading, and were emphasizing that the church must serve the people around in the strength of the gospel and not just act as a social club – although I appreciate the fact that they love and enjoy each other’s company!’ They followed the normal process of meetings and sermons to test the calling, and by the time of the vote Rosa hoped that the church would call her. Hearing then that the result of the vote was unanimous seemed to be another clear indication of God’s leading in the matter. As Rhys ab Owen, put it, ”We are delighted that God has led Rosa to be the 11th minister in Tabernacl. The whole congregation is looking forward to an exciting new chapter.’
What did she think would be the biggest challenge, we asked Rosa over coffee. ‘Well, although I have learned Welsh and have served as minister for a Welsh-language chapel, there are things about the culture I haven’t understood yet! And the language question is a big one for a church like Tabernacl in Cardiff city centre. How can we reach the communities in the city through and not despite the fact that we are a Welsh-speaking church?’
She stresses that the vision for the way forward will be for the church to pray and discern together. ‘But there’s a lot of potential in terms of our location in the city centre, and the needs there. No other nonconformist denomination has a church in the centre now at all. So is there a way we can keep our doors open all week, perhaps? Offer something very different – a quiet sanctuary in the heart of the city’s bustle, and invite people to pray?’ Whatever the century ahead, the next years of Tabernacl are full of potential. May God bless the work!
Rosa Hunt’s induction as minister for Tabernacle, Cardiff will take place on Saturday 17 September at 3pm (Welsh-language service).