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Dewiswch ddewis iaith
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Why is there the need for new churches to be planted across North Wales?

Gogledd Cymru is my home. I spent 6 years away because of university and work, but the hiraeth within and burden for the place only increased. When away I’ll never forget studying Ephesians 2:1-10 and being blown away afresh by both the wonder and urgency of the gospel. My heart broke for back home as thousands in Welsh-speaking Wales (y Fro Gymraeg) walk through their lives without even an awareness of the invitation Jesus has for all to find life in him.

What led Lydia and myself to Blaenau Ffestiniog was the prayer map that Waleswide had set up on their website highlighting areas of gospel need in Wales.

I began reading what was a dated map in terms of the context in South Wales. I read a prayer for a young couple church planting in the Rhondda Ben and Lois Franks who by then had seen Hope Church Rhondda established in Tonypandy and were embarking on a second plant up the valley in Treorchy. I read about Llandysul and of a young couple Steff and Gwenno Morris had just moved there to start new welsh- language gospel work. At the time of reading the a new church had been planted - Ffynnon - and they were seeing God do amazing things. But I knew once we left South Wales and started reading prayers for Gogledd Cymru for places like Machynlleth, Dolgellau, Harlech, Corwen, Ynys Môn and Blaenau Ffestiniog, the story would be no different.

Left over, left behind

For many a move to North Wales is not natural. We don’t boast the cities of the South or from across the border. The same opportunities and funding are not afforded here. Like the slate heaps that surround our town Blaenau Ffestiniog people across the region feel left over and left behind. North Wales for many has had its day. Some towns here do feel as if they’re on their knees. Many feel like they must leave and those who stay are met with “curiosity at best, pity at worst.” There is so much natural beauty here. People love to visit, so much so second homes are rife but staying here is an entirely different proposition. Behind the beauty, stay here long enough and you’ll see the deep problems emerge; depression, addiction, unemployment and an overall hopelessness that is pervasive.

Our move meant leaving Cardiff. For Lydia it means leaving home and family. It meant saying goodbye to dear church family, and it meant giving up convenience and everything the city had to offer - yes we lived in the deliveroo zone and yes Lydia’s favourite evening is spent in B&M bargains!! Moving to Blaenau meant uprooting our family (including a 6 month old daughter at the time), changing jobs, and living in one of the poorest places in the UK. Things are hard here, and for some they’re extremely hard. The story here is of injustice and extraction such as the multinational hydropower station here that boasts a multi billion pound turnover a year in energy and yet Blaenau has the highest fuel poverty rate in Wales.

There have been days where I have questioned the move, where we miss Cardiff and our life there. Even upon arrival the boys in the rugby club questioned whether we knew what Blaenau was really like?! God has given us eyes to see the beauty in the ashes - we truly do love where we live and the people here are the gold but that does not mean doubt and fear do not take hold. And when they do I have to go back to Paul’s words to the Romans:

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?

... As it is written “how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news?”

So where are the beautiful feet in North Wales?


I’ve been connecting with and learning so much from the guys who lead Cwmni Bro, a network of social enterprises here in Blaenau. They speak of an Italian idea called restanza which shapes their inspiring work; “restanza means choosing to stay in a place in a conscious and proactive way by actively guarding it, being aware of the past while enhancing what remains with an impulse towards the future where a new community is possible.” I can’t help but find this a deeply Christian idea. The adventure exists in choosing to stay.

Jesus could have stayed away from our sinful world but instead chose “flesh and blood” and “moved into the neighbourhood.” And where did he move? He moved near the poor. Actively choosing to stay in a place where no one else was staying, touching people when no one else was willing, comforting those no one else was comforting. There’s nothing “strategic” about this. Jesus of Nazareth didn’t go after the influencers or the urban centers. Instead he went after the the heart of the God of the Bible - which can’t help side with the poor, the marginalised and oppressed.

Because the divine did not “by-pass the flesh” so our Christian lives cannot either - our gospel and call is incarnational or it is nothing. We’re called to restanza - to join in the adventure of Christ in acting as his agents of renewal in the world. For some that will mean remaining in the place we are but for others it will mean choosing these forgotten and overlooked places and moving in, buying in, digging in, working in, proclaiming in through word and deed their immeasurable worth.

So where are the beautiful feet in North Wales? Who will restanza here?

Appreciating our past where only a little over a 100 years ago in 1904 a fire burned here “deeper” and “more intense” than the many flames found in South Wales. But also restanza means working towards a “better future” where God will do a new thing again.

Will we as the church choose the Jesus way by being close enough to the poor to do good for them “whenever we want” or will we continue to buy into the world’s love of comfort, ease and predictability? Will some even consider moving here? Pursuing the restanza way - giving ourselves wholly to the “peace and prosperity” of the place?

Welcome to North Wales

Now I don’t know if you caught the promotion celebrations in Wrexham earlier this summer? What a beautiful thing that’s going on there. As the largest town (now city) in North Wales, Wrexham’s story is the story of North Wales. A town on its knees revitalised by the revitalisation of the football club through the willingness of the owners to invest in the club and community.

On the show “Welcome to Wrexham” you quickly pick up the bafflement and unbelief towards Ryan and Rob, the two Hollywood actors that chose to buy Wrexham Football Club. They’re often asked the question “why Wrexham?” or “why us?” from their own passionate fans. And their response is “precisely for that reason” it’s “because you’ve been made to think you are not worth it.” Grow up under than narrative and you soon believe it. So they invested. They said we’re choosing you and we’re sticking with you and it’s going to cost but we will see things change... both on and off the pitch. They’ve helped change the entire atmosphere of the town.

Now the question I am left with is this... If two hollywood actors can do that to a town in North Wales... then what should the church of Jesus be doing? We must be striving for more because when it comes to our God there is always more! For if that’s the impact the revitalisation of a football club on a town then what impact will the revitalisation of the church have on these overlooked and forgotten places in North Wales?

Lift up your eyes

Jesus really did mean it when he told his disciples by the well in Samaria, a despised and overlooked place, to “lift up” their eyes “and see that the fields are white for harvest.” In unexpected places Jesus sees fields that are white for harvest - if only we lift up our eyes! Our gospel always was and is good news for the poor, it is incarnational or it is nothing. Will you be a worker that goes? Will you restanza? Will you choose North Wales? And partner with God in the renewal he’s always working for.