Tag Archives: community

On the radio: panto and Pontypool

Panto pioneering (Thursday)

Church leaders like me have to handle a number of different tasks, like public speaking, leading worship and organising events, but until I worked in one particular job I had no idea it included being the Wizard of Oz!

For a few years, I worked as a Pioneer Minister – doing church with people who don’t do church – in a community where there were no Methodist buildings. It meant I had to build links with the community through other means and so Joy and I decided to join the local panto group.

We’d spotted a poster advertising the start of rehearsals and nervously walked in one evening. We needn’t have worried. Instantly we were welcomed in, ‘adopted’ by a friendly group member and helped through our first visit. When we went for the second rehearsal we were greeted with a delighted: “you came back!”

We were part of the society for three years: performing in the chorus, playing in the band and, yes, I was the Wizard of Oz! There are even a couple of embarrassing photos on Facebook. Now, even though we don’t live in the area, we still keep in touch with people from the society and go back a couple of times a year.

I learned a huge amount from the panto gang about how churches can be better at welcoming and keeping people. We were simply accepted for who we were and what we could offer, encouraged to offer our best and challenged to grow. We were welcomed back every time and reminded about the core purpose – to play our part and get the show on stage.

Although only one of the company had any kind of church connection, a number began to refer to me as “our minister”. It felt as though I was doing my job too.


Pontypool rugby (Friday)

This time of the year is one of my favourites. It’s got nothing to do with the weather but everything to do with the Six Nations Rugby tournament which this year is turning out to be one of the best in a long time.

I grew up in Pontypool in the Welsh Valleys, home to the Pontypool Front Row and a whole collection of Welsh internationals. In my teenage years we lived alongside our heroes and on more than one occasion I would travel to school with Terry Cobner, captain of Pontypool and a future Welsh skipper, sitting in the front seat of my Dad’s car.

My own rugby ability didn’t amount to much. The nearest I got was as understudy to Pontypool full-back Peter Lewis … but that was as an actor in our school production of Oliver!

Anyway, back to rugby. I’ve got my Welsh rugby jersey, hat and scarf – I’ve even got some Welsh cakes – and I know which of my Scottish friends I’ll be exchanging banter with on Facebook tomorrow morning before kick-off.

When Wales beat Scotland I will, of course, be generous in victory. Should the unthinkable happen … well, I’m not thinking of it!

Of course, at the end of each game someone chooses the Man of the Match, the player who outshines everyone else.

The Bible tells of how God used prophets and others to try to get his message of love across but in the end needed Jesus to come and demonstrate that love by teaching, healing and ultimately through his death and resurrection.

The salvation of the world needed someone to reflect God’s glory and bear the imprint of God’s character. It needed God’s Man of the Match, living alongside us: modelling heaven’s love on earth and defeating death for all.

Oh, Cymru am byth, by the way!


Aberfan: a hymn in remembrance

disasterjpgThe next two weeks are full of difficult memories in our family. The name Aberfan has scarred the whole nation of Wales but for my wife’s family there is a deeply personal resonance as the 50th anniversary of the tragedy is marked on October 21.

My father-in-law, the Revd Irving Penberthy (pictured below), was the Methodist minister in Aberfan when the disaster happened. Many of the 50-strong Sunday School died and he spent days comforting families as they discovered what had happened.

His immediate job was to go with them into the makeshift morgue and be with parents as they found their children. Then, as the village discovered how to live again, he rallied the community to build a community centre, to sing together, to learn how to laugh once more, to rediscover faith.


He now lives in Devon and is the only surviving minister from that day. He has been interviewed by a number of media outlets including the BBC and we will be taking him to Aberfan to speak at one of the 50thanniversary memorial services.

Next Sunday, Radio 4’s Sunday Worship broadcast at 8.10am will feature a short interview with Dad. On the same day, All Things Considered on BBC Wales programme at 09.03 will also be about Aberfan.

The following week, October 23, BBC TV’s Songs of Praise will be about Aberfan and will feature Dad reflecting on his experiences 50 years ago.

He has also been interviewed by a reporter for Wales Online, covering the Western Mail and South Wales Echo, so it’s likely there will be some coverage in those papers too.

On October 21 the BBC are also broadcasting a live Daily Service at 9.45-1000 on Radio 4 long wave. The Revd Roy Jenkins will be presenting.

As part of the reflecting on  everything that happened, I have written the following hymn. It will be sung at the service where Dad will speak and is being sung at the start of the service on Radio 4 on October 16 and also will close the Songs of Praise broadcast on October 23. On that occasion it will be sung by Treorchy Male Choir.


The tune, as fits a Welsh reflection, is Dim ond Iesu (Here is love, vast as the ocean).

God who knows our darkest moments

meets us in our brokenness:

walks beside us as a whisper,

holds our pain in his caress.

God, who leads through shadowed valleys,

where death’s bleakness dims our sight,

speaks a peace beyond our knowing,

floods our anguish with his light.


Far beyond our grief’s horizon,

as Creation holds its breath:

Love Divine, revealed in Jesus,

tears apart the chains of death.

Servant son and humble healer,

by your cross and life laid down

you have carried all our suff’ring

and you wear the victor’s crown.


Lift us up, now, risen Saviour

to the place where mercy plays,

where our broken hopes and heartache

find their healing in your gaze.

This is love, that God has saved us!

This is love, that Christ has died!

We rejoice that love has conquered

and has drawn us to your side.

Copyright 2016 © Gareth Hill Publishing/Song Solutions CopyCare, 14 Horsted Square, Uckfield, TN22 1QG www.songsolutions.org

More HOPE in 2015

Hope logo

I’m excited by all that HOPE has been doing across the nations and know of people who have been working so hard to get their churches to connect with the communities they are based in. Here is a message from director Roy Crowne about the next steps.

HOPE – energising local church mission in villages, towns and cities

In Preston I met a grandmother, mother and daughter who came along to a Silent Night Carols event. All three became Christians that evening – they are now part of their local church. Changed lives and changed communities are HOPE’s goal – we want to see thousands of people becoming followers of Jesus nationwide.
These three women were the fruit of mission in Preston – not just a one-off event but a rhythm of mission that has run through the church calendar, with churches working together pointing people to Jesus with their words and actions.
Thousands of churches held special Christmas events – many taking the Silent Night Carols theme of peace and reconciliation. Let’s not wait until Easter to invite people back to hear more. Let’s get out into our communities, loving, serving and being Good News – and always being ready to give the reason for the hope we have because of Jesus.
We have been so encouraged by all that God has done in this past year. We love working with you. If you’ve not completed our survey yet – please do (see below). And do pray with us that God will show us his priorities as we move forward into 2015.
with loads of appreciation for all you are doing in Jesus’ name

Roy Crowne, HOPE Director

Sandcastles on the beach

My wife and I were on the beach with our grandchildren a couple of weeks ago and five-year-old Rhys sandcastles_smallwanted me to help him make a sandcastle.

He’d filled up the bucket with wet sand so we patted it down and tipped it out for him to begin decorating with pebbles. As he pushed on into the side of the little castle it began to break down and I warned him not to be too rough with it.

Without even looking up he said: “I know. It’ll fall down because it’s built on sand. The Bible says that.”

I asked him where he’d heard that and he told me about his club at church in Plymouth. Then, within seconds he had forgotten all about his mini-sermon and he was off down the beach on another adventure: to get more sand or to try to dam up the river.

For Rhys the Bible, the sandcastle, the pebble and the conversation about God were all one big picture – they were all a part of the big excitement that was his life at that moment.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could see everything we are doing as part of one great inseparable God-inspired picture?

Those of us who are Christians try in different ways to make contact with our communities and show them the love of Jesus. The difference is that often when we’re asked why, we never quite make the leap to slip in the Jesus part of the conversation. We never quite get to tell people that we are providing them with a meeting place, giving them a meal, getting their prescription, running their children’s holiday club because we believe that God is crazy about them and sent Jesus to earth to die for them.

I now it’s easy to be over-sentimental about our children and as a grandparent I can fall into that trap all too quickly, but Jesus used the idea of childlike acceptance of God’s love for us as the measure of faith. The reason we are in communities is to be the Body of Christ, visible through loving service. As you read through the stories in this edition of TCN, just reflect on where in his great big exciting picture God has put you. And who can you tell about it?