A valuable element of the Welsh Baptist Union’s Welsh Language Wing was the Ministerial Summer School. From 1926, it was held at Llanwrtyd Wells, before moving to Cilgwyn, and in 1965 the ministers met at Non Hall, Trinity College, Carmarthen. Members would arrive by mid-afternoon on the Monday and leave on the Thursday or Friday. This pattern came to an end in 2000 and, for a few years, an arrangement was made to meet at hotels in Mid Wales, with the Union sponsoring the School.
The practice from the outset was for the steering committee, chaired by the Warden, to arrange a programme for the following year. The secretary and treasurer would be responsible for the administrative and financial aspects, and senior members would be invited to join to form the committee. A book was chosen as the topic of study for the week, and School members would present papers on specific chapters. Each session had a different chair and, following the lecture, there would be an opportunity to discuss the material in question. There would be a Bible meditation immediately after breakfast and an epilogue at the end of the day. The younger generation would often be given opportunities to lead services. Leisure time and the chance for members to roam the grounds and relax was always included in the programme.
A notable feature was that ministers were given time to discuss their experiences and share concerns. They would have opportunities to sharpen their thinking and leisurely discuss topics of the day, and the week would be of great social and psychological benefit to the School members. From the 1960s, a guest lecturer was invited to deliver a lecture during one of the sessions. He was often a college lecturer, writer or politician. Without exception, the material would be Christian in nature, and the aim was to stimulate and sharpen the minds of School members.
During one period, there were theological cohorts in the school, with academics keeping themselves to themselves. According to numerous accounts, this unofficial practice was changed in the second half of the twentieth century and more mixing ensued. The result was that the fraternity became closer and the fellowship much warmer.
During the whole period, only a small number of brothers were Summer School officers. Edwin Jones was first secretary, with T.J. Hughes acting as treasurer. R. Gwyn Thomas took over as secretary in 1937 and the treasurer’s role was transferred to D. Myrddin Davies in 1953. This changed in 1972 when Dafydd H. Edwards took over as secretary and Desmond Davies accepted the responsibility of treasurer. In 1979, Peter Dewi Richards took over as treasurer for a year, and from 1980 Eilyr Richards undertook the work. The responsibility of treasurer was then placed on the experienced shoulders of Eurof Richards.
A School photograph was taken every year, and attendees were offered copies. A copy was kept in the School’s album, and in this section of the website it’s possible to see who was present year on year. The School was sponsored by friends of the denomination, who gave donations to reduce costs for the attendees. Over the years, these days were probably a kind of holiday for many of the brothers, and the memories remain a precious treasure. In the event that anyone has a correction in relation to the names appearing by the images, please share the information with the Union’s General Secretary. Other stories would also be welcome, and added. Thank you for the good days, the companionship and the support shared. For decades, this was a brotherhood, but from the turn of the twentieth century, it has been good to have women in the ministry partaking in these valuable experiences.
Rev. Denzil I. John