Ieuan Wyn Jones is well known as the former Deputy First Minister until 2011, but his activity alongside a crew of other local people from the chapels in the Llangefni area is less well known– though they are opening a new furrow for the future.
‘There were traditionally five nonconformist chapels here in Llangefni’, says Ieuan, ‘but as in many parts of Wales, their story was one of gradual decline.’ When the Wesleyean Ebeneser chapel closed some ten years ago, he and many in the area began to think about the future. They could see the way things were going, and the danger that all the chapels would close one by one if they continued down the current trajectory. ‘And really, it had become a fairly dismal situation given that these buildings had been put up to be used throughout the week, but they were now in use for only two hours or so on a Sunday’, he adds.
The Baptists and Independents in the town had worshipped together for some years, and we then opened discussions with other denominations. They wanted to reach out – there were so many needy groups in the town and they saw an opportunity in uniting to do something new and so make the church more relevant to the community. They assessed the buildings the different chapels owned and even considering building a new building, but decided in the end that the site of Moriah, the Presbyterian church, was the most suitable to adapt to community needs.
They then ran a fundraising campaign and the necessary income came from many directions, including from the sale of the Penuel Baptist building. And now in spring 2022 the transformation of Moriah into a multi-use centre – the Glanhwfa Centre – is underway.
‘We already have three partners who want to use the building during the week,’ explains Ieuan. ‘Age Cymru (Gwynedd and Anglesey) will run a day centre for older people, Bwyd Da Môn want to run a lunch club providing fresh food for people on low incomes as well as cooking lessons, and then there’s Ty Cana, who will use the space for musical work with young people. So there will always be something going on here!’
But he is keen to explain that the churches want to ensure that this will not just be a community centre; ‘the missional side is very important to us. The Glanhwfa Centre will serve the community but we as a church want this new-look building to be a means of bridging between the chapel and the community in a way that the old buildings did not permit. We already have a service for children once a month or so that is more informal, and we have seen the fruits of that. We really hope that this venture will open up a new, innovative and different pathway for us as nonconformist churches in our communities.’