Three years on from our last face-to-face conferences in 2019, it was fitting that the two days of this year’s conference united many different parts of the Baptist family in Wales. Friday 24th June saw the establishment of the Rev Dr Densil Morgan as first ever joint President of our two language wings. A historic event! And then on Saturday 25th (held in partnership with SWBA, BMS and Cardiff Baptist College) over a hundred and fifty people of all ages and from across the country came together for a varied and fully bilingual day to listen to God’s voice together.
“I wouldn’t want to belong to a denomination where everyone was expected to tread a particular line with no opportunity to disagree honestly and conscientiously…. and our Declaration of Principle gives us this freedom,” Densil said in his opening address as President, stressing the ties that bind us together while maintaining the sovereignty of all local churches. We also heard from our overseas workers and new ministers about some of the signs of new life that have already been emerging after the pandemic as people try out new initiatives within our rapidly secularising context, that are also also a means of building relationships between the church and the community. Between Sian-Elin Thomas, Tim Moody, Misha Pedersen, Neil Warburton, Mervyn Rigg, Jon Brewer and the six overseas workers – the majority new to Union life since the pandemic – there was a strong feeling of hope in looking to the future. These afternoon sessions were the highlight of a rich conference day for many, but important presentations were also given on the BUW Corporation’s bold vision for the future, the work of the Union’s boards and the courage of Glyn Nest Care Home’s staff and management board over the last two years. It is fair to say that not only did the Union’s work continue through lockdown but that it didn’t slow down either!
During the President’s inauguration service on the Friday afternoon, it was a delight to be able to welcome the ecumenical guests; Mrs Meryl James, from the Union of Welsh Independents; Reverend Aled Edwards, Cytûn; Reverend Simon Waulkling, President of the Council of the Free Churches and the Reverend Evan Morgan, President of the Presbyterian Church of Wales. Evan was responsible for bringing greetings on behalf of the guests. We prided ourselves on the close connection between Evan and BUW as his mother, Mrs Rosemary Morgan, a loyal member at Cwmifor Church, Llandeilo was one of our most active and diligent sisters.
Following this, we had the opportunity to commemorate the Ministers and former President who have died since the conference last year, namely The Reverend Gwynfryn Rogers, Meurig Thomas, Albert Williams and Mrs Mary Wynne Jones. We thank them and for their faithful service to the cause of Jesus Christ over many years. The prayer of obituary was offered by the Reverend Jenny Gough.
So the Friday was replete with small but numerous signs of God’s work among us, a theme that also came through our Saturday of ‘Prayer, Picnic and Party’. Some of the sessions – such as ‘Hearing God’s voice through each other’ with Helen Dare, the history of the church with Densil Morgan and the global church with the BMS – were deep and rich. There was also a rare opportunity for adults and children to take time with God’s word in the lovely settings of the chapel in sessions led by Cardiff Baptist College. The idea here was to take one passage from the Bible and then to engage with this passage in ten different ways – through pictures, through our imaginations, through clay models, through prayer, Biblical commentaries and more. In a similar vein, Lois Adams and Ruth Davies brought us art workshops that invited us to listen to God’s voice by being creative; emphasising that his Word speaks to us, but that we often need to focus to hear it.
The Saturday afternoon closing service was an opportunity to reflect on the activities of the day and to listen (with the help of films made by BMS) on how some of our brothers and sisters from Peru, Uganda and Cambodia had responded to the same readings used in the Bible workshops led by Rosa Hunt and Ed Kaneen. It was interesting to note that so many of the comments from individuals who lived at the other end of the world and in different circumstances were similar to those made during the workshop and reminded us that we are one Church that worships and tries to listen to the same God!
It was a real blessing to be in each other’s company as fellow believers whatever our age. Under the June sun with an ice cream cone in hand the day enabled young and old children (!) to enjoy “football for the blind, doing the macarena, silk-painting, craft as well as singing, fellowship and worship. It was a great day out!”