Alfred Place Baptist Church

A visit to Pembrokeshire

Once September comes, the next day seems to be in December, as the year hurtles to a close and so it has been this year. Coming home last night the sunset over Cardigan Bay was glorious and the long arm of the Llyn Peninsula , 25 miles across the sea hooking south and ending in Bardsey Island , was a magical sight.

I had to visit a hospital in Swansea in September to see a dermatologist. He looked at a sore by my ear and said that it was a basal cell carcinoma, one of the most benign of the skin cancers. It does not spread, but it continues to grow and needs to be removed. He told me that I was in good shape for a 67 year old. We’ll hurry over that . . . and he hurried me across to the surgery and there I met another doctor who was going to do the biopsy. He saw my address, "The Manse" and asked me which was my denomination. "Baptist," I said. He seemed to approve and told me that his father was a Baptist minister in Barry. "Arthern Edwards?" I said. "Yes," and then he looked at me and began to recognise me. Arthern Edwards was my pastor before I went to college in the 1950s. This doctor, Peter Edwards, came across and hugged me! I asked when it was his mother had died and he told me it was 20 years ago. She was a brilliant teacher of handcrafts of all kinds. He told me when his pastor was a minister in the village of Caersws in mid-Wales his salary was £120 a year and they had an annual Christmas sale of work consisting of items largely made by his mother which always raised £100 and so his mother kept his father in the ministry there.

He did the biopsy and assured me that there was little to worry about in this ‘rodent ulcer’ which is the common name for a basal cell carcinoma. He did not think that radium treatment over two weeks would be the best way of dealing with it. They would either cut it off and I would have a skin graft or they would cover it in some cream and then shine a special light on it for 20 minutes. In either way I would be away from home only for 24 hours and not the two weeks if they had followed my doctor’s ideas here in Aberystwyth – radium treatment for two weeks. So I am waiting for the summons to have the operation.

We went a mile from the hospital to Mumbles on Swansea Bay and targetted Verdi’s ice-cream store with its glass walls and views of the sea. I had a Knickerbocker Glory and Iola had cheesecake and coffee to celebrate. The day was completed by visiting some charity shops and I got 22 magnificent classical LPS for the grand total of £4. Enough delightful music to keep me going for a month or two. One is playing as I write. We got back to Aberystwyth by 8.30 in a spirit of thankfulness.

I was preaching in Pembrokeshire recently and so we went a few days earlier to Tenby with its miles of sand, boat trips, fishing, museum and art galleries, restaurants and gospel churches where old friends as pastors. Its pleasures never cloy for the day or two that we spend there each year. The weather was a bit against us, early autumnal, showers and sunlight. The B&B was pokey but the bed was comfy and the breakfast of ham and eggs more than we could eat.

I preached Saturday night and Sunday in Bethany, Clarbeston Road . It has been seven years without a pastor; it has approached a number of men in the past seven years but none felt able to accept a call there. There are sixty in the morning congregation and 45 in the evening. Few jobs in the area have meant the exodus of many of the next generation, but most of the church members’ children have been converted, but few children from non-Christian homes has been converted after forty years’ outreach via Sunday School and youth groups and Vacation Bible Schools. That is grievously typical of Wales today and why we emphasise the need of the coming of the Spirit upon his Word.

At the Saturday night service there were half a dozen visiting preachers from the area sitting in the congregation. What an honour to have them coming to the meeting, and fortunately that was the best of the three messages. I went into free fall after that. We had a happy Lord’s Day of fellowship with church members, one older man could go back fifty years to the visits of Dr Lloyd-Jones to Wales etc. I love to hear incidents of the impact of the Doctor and what went on in those early days. I didn’t hear him until 1958.

Preaching for me in my absence was Ben Midgely who has just completed his theological studies in London Theological Seminary. Now he has commenced church planting in a small town called Llanidloes half an hour’s drive from Aberystywth. An interesting and forthright individual he gave his testimony and described his new work in our evening service before preaching the word to the people. He comes from a Jewish atheist family with a hard-line resistance to Christianity for its part in Jewish persecution. Yet in his late teenage years he found himself drawn to know God for himself. He finally knocked on the door of a local minister and asked if he would help him find peace with God. The minister, unused to experiential religious questions, asked him to come back in six weeks when he would begin church membership classes. Ben looked elsewhere and then the Lord brought a friend into his life who took him to a gospel preaching church when he found peace with God through Jesus Christ. Then a year or so later he was sitting on the Tube in London next to a man reading the Hebrew Scriptures. He struck up conversation with him and it turned out that this man was a Hebrew lecturer at the London Theological Seminary about which Ben had not heard a word. He took Ben there and soon he enrolled there and through those various influences came to understand the doctrines of grace. He is married with a fourth child on the way. His family, initially outraged at his conversion from Judaism to Christianity, has been reconciled by his happy life. We have had a Jewish old lady who has been attending our congregation for the past five months and Ben had a good conversation with her afterwards. At our ministers’ fraternal 40 miles away Ben is there with another ten preachers. They are happy gatherings.