Many of us across Wales feel a sense of loss at the changes we have witnessed in our society and within our chapels in recent years. A period of decline has challenged us to go beyond the church in mission but in truth, we sometimes struggle to see a way forward. Breconshire Association – numerically one of the smallest in our Union – has been pioneering in this regard, having appointed Rev Ifor Williams as Missioner several years ago. Now this legacy is being built upon with the appointment of Paul Smethurst both to the post of Breconshire Missional Minister and to be Missional Ministry lead across the Baptist Union of Wales.
The idea behind ‘missional ministry’ – sometimes called ‘pioneering’ within other denominations – is to recognise that within our post-Christian society there is a need for missional work outside of established church structures that seeks to introduce people to Jesus. This is of course part of every Christian’s calling, but both within our denominational roots and overseas we have recognised the need to also set apart certain people to plant churches and bring the gospel to communities where it is little known. In practice, this means that the focus for Paul and others like him across the Union is not so much to minister a church as to reach out to those with little or no contact with church in new, missional ways.
Paul and Robyn are moving from Hope Gobaith church in Llanelli to Talgarth in Breconshire, where Paul has taken up the new post and Robyn will be working alongside him. ‘There are many unknowns,’ Paul said, ‘but it is exciting to recognize what God is doing in the county, despite the smallness of churches’ situations here. We’re open to his leading!’ Rev Anne Roberts, Association Secretary, noted how encouraged they are ‘that God has called someone new to us – Breconshire is still on God’s agenda!’
As well as this local ministry in Breconshire, Paul will be working at a Union-wide level to see how we can support missional initiatives across the country. The potential of seeing a new generation engaging in mission and sharing Christian faith is exciting and we as Union want to be part of all that God is doing across Wales in our valleys, towns and villages through the medium of both Welsh and English. Our hope is that we might see new and innovative ministry within our Baptist family that will bring life and hope to the communities in which they serve.