I shared worship this morning with one of the most indomitable little groups of Christians that I’ve ever met.
Penlan Methodist Church is at the heart of a post-war Council estate that has a reputation as one of Swansea’s toughest areas. Whatever indicator you use of social deprivation — unemployment, health, education — you’ll find Penlan near the top of the list. It isn’t an easy place to be, as you can imagine but the small congregation of the church continue to show their commitment to the gospel by their dogged refusal to turn their backs on their neighbours.
A few years ago, the church building was beset by problems. The electrical installation throughout the building was declared unsafe and the premises were closed immediately. The expectation was that this meant that the church had closed, but expectations can be misleading. Refusing to close, the folk of the church simply locked the door behind them and continued to meet at a community centre around the corner.
A few years after I came to Swansea we were able to re-open the church for public worship thanks to some very hard work by a number of people and a fresh vision in the Circuit that the church could be a centre and resource for the whole community. There have been many ‘ups and downs’ since then. Spates of vandalism and break-ins being balanced by exciting new community partnerships. The grounds around the church are being developed as a prayer garden which can be open for the whole community, with a safe play area for the small children attending the toddlers group. The Circuit has teamed up with Barnardos to establish a specialist service for children who have been bereaved. Our service this morning was held in the dust of a building site, as new toilets and a fresh entrance are being built. The heating system is being renewed, so we huddled together in a small room and sang God’s praises with hwyl, despite the fact that the builders had used all the milk for our pre-service coffeee and left us a sinkful of dirty mugs (but without any hot water to wash them up).
One lady commented, “We started on this site in a tin hut with buckets to catch the rain that dripped in. So this is an improvement!”
If Methodism were ‘efficient’ we would have closed this church years ago. Thank God we are not called to be efficient, but rather sowers of the Word wherever we are placed. Following Wesley’s injunction to “Go not to those who want you, but those who want you most”, the fine folk of Penlan Methodist Church are continuing to declare the gospel boldly but gently in a community of very real need.
I just thought you should know.