‘This is our life’s work now,’ muses Danni as we sit in a café off the central square in Dolgellau. Danni – a Baptist minister -, her husband and two primary-school aged children had just moved to the town earlier in the summer, and the kids were nearing the end of their first week at Ysgol Bro Idris. But there is currently no Baptist church in Dolgellau, Judah chapel having closed three years ago. ‘But I believe God is committed to this place and its people, and that is our calling too.’
Danni and her husband’s relationship with Dolgellau as a place has been strangely interwoven with their walk with Jesus. Both became Christians as adults, after Danni had had a background in New Age practices. ‘I had been independent, so self-sufficient – and then we had such a dramatic crisis as a family, and God intervened really miraculously. It was shortly after that that I came to know Jesus, and a Christian couple I had started getting to know offered us a holiday on them in their cottage in Dolgellau. It was just such a healing gift – the gesture, the time, and the place itself. And we kept coming back – little realising at the beginning that God would then call us to move and minister here!’
Like many in full-time ministry, Danni was initially reluctant when she started feeling the call to become a minister. But as she embarked on training and placements, she gradually realized that the call was not to serve in the area they were living in eastern England at all. They kept coming back west to Wales and to Dolgellau, and Danni fondly remembers how her husband – not yet a believer – would exclaim as they entered Gwynedd that ‘if God created this, he both terrifies and excites me in equal measure!’ When he came to faith himself, and a long process of discernment with BUW dovetailed with the family being able to buy a house in the town for unforeseen circumstances, they saw how the pieces were falling into place.
Hazel Williams-Jones from Denbigh, Flint and Meirion Baptist Association said that ‘the Association is delighted that the Baptist witness that had been so strong in the town will now continue with a new guise.’ Despite now having four years’ experience as a church minister in Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire, Danni explains that she’s not looking to plant a church congregation in the town in any kind of rush. ‘I am a Baptist minister, and I’m very happy to tell people that. But for the time being, that means a ministry of hospitality; giving and receiving, serving people in the town as I get to know them and listening to them. I will pray for them – and when people want to know, I will tell them about Jesus.’ As a primarily Welsh-speaking community, what that also means for Danni and the whole family is the need to learn the language to fluency, and really get to know this new culture for them. ‘It’s such a privilege,’ Danni says with a twinkle in her eye, ‘and I believe the time will come when this town once again has a reputation for its spiritual life in Christ!’