Nestled in a deep valley on the Wales/ England border is the town of Knighton (Trefyclo) with a population of 3000 or so souls, and further up the same valley lies the village of Knucklas. This is the home of Knighton and Knucklas Baptist church, which as we emerge from Covid is pioneering new ways of reaching the community.
‘Isolation is a big issue in communities around here’ says Kevin Dare, who has been the minister at Knighton for the past six years. ‘But we have a very active community centre in the town, that interestingly has found itself doing more and more of what churches traditionally do – mums and tots group, youth work, even a form of pastoral visits.’ There was no mental health provision in the area though, and with the spread of Renew Wellbeing spaces across the UK over recent years, there seemed an opportunity here that was not too much for a church of Knighton’s size – 20 on a Sunday morning – to invest in meaningfully.
The aim of Renew Wellbeing spaces is to provide a welcoming and Christian space for people to come, practice a hobby with others, and pray with someone should they wish. ‘It’s low-key, but very missional,’ Kevin explains, ‘and so it was important we used one of the church’s buildings to run it so that we could keep that Christian ethos. We started in the autumn, and one of the really encouraging things is how people have said to us ‘oh, the town needed something like this.’
Meanwhile, down the road in Knucklas, the church had also made a deliberate decision to invest in the building to make it a more welcoming and useable space. With Covid restrictions gradually lifting, Gareth and Philippa Davidson from the church have started spending time there every week. ‘We very deliberately wanted to be present in the building, in the village and to see what God did with that. It’s a scary thing in a way to do, but it’s been amazing to see how he has used it to build links between us and the community.’ They have had conversations with different people from the village every week, and word is now getting around to such an extent that people are turning up for coffee on the Davidson’s morning in the chapel.
‘It’s not a coffee morning – we’re deliberately not making it into an event but rather a chance to be with people. It has meant we’ve been able to build relationships with a number of people already who just wouldn’t come to a church service, but who are really happy to drop by for a chat. And who knows how God will use that?’
As both Gareth and Kevin emphasize, there is a real investment of time, emotion and prayer needed to bring new missional approaches like this off the ground while continuing to run a more traditional style of church. One thing the churches have done recently to help free up the time and energy for mission has been to unite both churches so that they are now officially one church, with one membership, leadership, AGM, set of accounts etc – but two congregations. ‘It’s just meant less admin’, says Kevin, ‘and helps people in both congregations to realize they are part of something bigger.’