Note: You may have have come here from a search engine looking for Welsh history info. This page is a direct copy of a booklet produced for the church’s 100th and then 150th anniversary.
While you are here, why not take a look at the rest of the site to see who we are and what we believe.
Use the links below to jump to a section:
History of the Church 1848-1948
Alterations And Repairs
Officers Of The Church
Deacons (First Election)
Ministers Called To The Baptist Ministry
Young Peoples’ Society
History of the Church 1948 Onwards
Alterations and Repairs
Families of Bethel – The House Of God
It was my intention when I undertook to write the history of the church at Laleston to present in broad outline the early story of Baptist tradition in the Vale of Glamorgan as a background of the particular history of Bethel. It was not long, however, before I realised the futility of the task not because of the scarcity of matter, for I have most of the facts in my possession actually prepared for publication, but because of the difficulty of printing due to shortage of paper and the abnormal costs. Hence I was compelled to condense the story and delete much of the material that would be essential to a more substantial history. Proceeding upon the principle of selectivity I have chosen the most essential facts and personalities. My greatest difficulty in compiling the history was the brevity or absence of records, and the existence of many that laboured in the church is only a faded memory of the older members of the church of today. We rejoice in the belief that even though their names are absent from the record that they are recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
Conscious of its imperfectness and incompleteness we present this little souvenir to the Church at Bethel and the friends of Jesus.
In celebrating the Centenary of the Baptist Church at Bethel, Laleston, we lift up our hearts in praise and thanksgiving to God for His wonderful manifestation of grace and goodness. “Thou in Thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed; Thou hast guided them in Thy strength unto Thy hold habitation” Ex.15:13
We remember also with love and gratitude those consecrated and courageous souls who in times of exceptional difficulties and cruel persecution held fast the faith and were not found lacking in their loyalty to Christ and his church. They have inherited their reward and have entered into the joy of their Master.
We at the dawn of a new Century count it a great honour to find ourselves in this sacred succession and we pray that at this period of re-dedication a double portion of their spirit may be upon us and that the church universally may exercise once more the saving and sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit.
Laleston, originally known as Llangewydd, is a typical Welsh village in the beautiful Vale of Glamorgan, situated two and a half miles outside of Bridgend on the main road to Swansea. Surrounded by green fields exceptionally fertile and hillocks bedecked with beauty one can only imagine its greater charm and attractiveness in the Centuries preceding the Industrial Age in which we live. It still, however, retains its characteristic features. The Ancient Church with its lofty towers where people in answer to the Bells and the spiritual urge of their own soul, reverently gather together to worship God – the unpretentious Chapels, Baptist and Calvanistic Methodist, where the faithful meet to lift their hearts in prayer and praise, and with more than ordinary interest continue to listen to the preaching of the eternal gospel from the lips of humble Ministers; its humble cottages (about 60 in number) the homes of men and women, rustic and noble in character, living in peace and quietness, following their daily avocations, each and all according to ability and aptitude making their contribution to the common weal, and finding much joy in their identification with the social, political and religious movements of our times.
Two centuries had elapsed since the first Particular Baptist Church was established at Ilston in 1649. The predominant characteristic of the Church at Ilston was its Missionary zeal. Like the Apostles of old its leaders went on their journeys proclaiming the truth and calling people back to God, and when opportunity presented itself they established churches according to the pattern of the New Testament. The success that followed their ministry was astounding. It was during this early period in the history of the Church that the Baptist Tradition found a home and flourished in the Vale of Glamorgan. A church was established in Llanharran in 1650.
“Sometime in the same year (1650) John Myles, David Davies, Leyshon Davies and Thomas Watkins visited the Vale of Glamorgan” and “Baptized a goodly number of believers at Llansantffraid or St. Brides Major” (probably in the River Ogwr under Aberkenfig and Penyfai). These probably became members of the Church at Llanharran. It is of interest to note that Mr. Morgan Jones of Briton Ferry, recognised member and exhorter of the Baptist Community, became a Cromwellian preacher of the Parish Church at Laleston sometime in 1650, and it is reasonable to conclude that during his ministry he did not fail to proclaim the particular doctrines and practices of his faith.
Small groups formed themselves into Baptist Churches at Newton Nottage, Y Mwr and Baglan under the ministry and pastoral care of Lewis Thomas, Y Mwr, and other visiting ministers. And by 1718 so numerous were the Baptist in the immediate neighbourhood, that a church was established at Penyfai in 1726. As a result of misunderstanding and doctrinal differences about 15 members left Penyfai Church led by Mr. John David of Wick, and rented a house at Newton Nottage which was opened in 1786 as a recognised place of worship. They and eighteen others that joined them formed themselves into a Baptist Church and eventually were received into membership of the Particular Baptist Association at Maesyberllan in June 1789.
They extended a call to Mr. David Powell, of Felinfoel, and in addition to Newton Nottage, he preached at Wick, Bettws and St. Bride’s Major, and other places. He was an indefatigable worker and a personality and preacher of great power.
In 1792 the Church at Wick erected a chapel and a manse for the Pastor and through his efforts the debt was practically liquidated.
David Powell died 25th February 1797, and sad to relate under the influence of some of the deacons a slight majority of the Church were persuaded to embrace the Arminian faith. Mrs. Powell was also enticed to hand over the Trust Deeds to the officers of the Church and thus the property was unlawfully appropriated and lost to the denomination. This happened to a number of churches, Baptist and Congregational in this district in that period of doctrinal controversy, and eventually these churches became Unitarian, David Richards succeeded Powell at Wick, and it was not long before he realised fully the intentions of the Armenian section of the Church, who were in the majority, and eventually he and the members who still adhered to the Particular Baptist tenets rented a house in the village and separated themselves from what became the Unitarian Church at Wick. The accommodation at Wick being insufficient to meet the growing requirements of the congregation the Church decided to acquire another house at Corntown where for eight years they worshipped God, administered the ordinances and proclaimed the Christian message. The Church at Comtown increased in numbers and were compelled to seriously consider the provision of increased accommodation. Having regard to developments at Bridgend the Church at Corntown, under the leadership of their pastor, David Richards, decided to build a Chapel in the town of Bridgend and in 1808 it was opened on Newcastle Hill and named Ruhamah.
From 1808 the scattered Baptists of Laleston and district found their religious home in Ruhamah and having no meeting house where they could gather together for worship and fellowship they regularly for many years held prayer meetings and often preaching services in the old Barn and from house to house in the village and district. Mr. D. Richards, the Pastor of Ruhamah, and his co-pastor Mr. David Evans, faithfully cared for the flock at Laleston and visited their services and often preached. The congregations and the numbers of believers increased, and it was generally felt that the little community in Laleston should be formed into a branch church with a modified status of independence.
Eventually they made their application to the Ministers and the officers but found no encouragement.
In 1821 Mr. William Lewis, of Calfaria, Aberdare, was invited to the pastorate of Ruhamah and during the five years of his ministry he exercised great care over the flock in Laleston, attending their week-night meetings and regularly preaching on Sunday afternoon with the result that “many were added to the Church (at Ruhamah) especially from the neighbourhood of Laleston.”
Mr. Lewis’ ministry came to an end in 1826, he having accepted a call to return to Aberdare. He was succeeded by the Rev. John James of Pontrhydyrun who, during his ministry from 1827 to 1848, had the pastoral oversight of the believers in Laleston. Mr. James was a man of exceptional ability and influence – a virile personality, – “a minister of the first rank” and a “pioneer of Baptist”. Soon after his advent to Bridgend the Baptist Community in Laleston unanimously resolved to renew their application that they be formed into a Branch Church with a degree of independency to administer their own affairs and with permission to proceed to provide themselves with a sanctuary wherein they might with comfort worship God and further the interest of the Kingdom. To their disappointment the application was refused. There were undoubtedly special reasons why Mr. James was reluctant to embark upon this enterprise.
During his twenty-one years ministry at Ruhamah he was incessant in his labours for the Church and the Kingdom.
Soon after his induction he undertook to liquidate the debt of £450 plus £40 for the freehold. For three years he journeyed up and down the Country preaching the gospel and pleading his cause, and in 1832 he had the joy of announcing that the debt had been paid. This effort seriously affected his health.
He was also instrumental in establishing a Branch Church at Pyle, and erecting a chapel, and on Christmas day, 1835, the sanctuary was opened free of debt. For these and possibly other considerations he delayed the venture of providing a meeting house at Laleston.
When he passed over to higher service the Church at Ruhamah invited Mr. John Powell Jones who ministered from 1848 to about 1850. In the new Pastor the members of Laleston district found a keen supporter, and it was not long before they were encouraged to embark upon their enterprise. With the sanction of the Mother Church, they with thankful hearts proceeded to make preliminary arrangements for the erection of their new Chapel and their formation into a branch church.
They purchased twelve and half perches of land upon which the church now stands at £1 per perch from Mr. Edward Thomas, of Pantycosla. Mr. Thomas was a zealous Baptist and a member of Penyfai Church, and he generously offered to sell the whole paddock on the same terms, but owing to financial difficulties and possibly lack of vision, their hearts failed them.
With a view to the preparation of Plans and specifications they very wisely sought and secured the services of the Rev. Rees Evans of Ystalyfera. In him they found a safe guide and friend. In those days assignments could not be executed as easily as they are now and Mr. Evans had to visit London on two or three occasions in respect of their Deed of Assignment. The plans and specifications and the Deed of Assignment were satisfactorily completed and tenders were invited. The chapel was built originally to accommodate from 90 to 100 people and consisted of 14 box-seats and several benches. There was no gallery. It had the old-fashion round pulpit just large enough for one person.
The tender of Mr. William Roberts, of Bridgend, was accepted at the sum of £200. It must be stated, however, that the male members had undertaken to excavate the foundations and to quarry and haul the stones, thus reducing the total cost considerably. It was, however, found that two windows omitted from the Contract were afterwards erected at a cost of £2 17s. 0d.
The year 1848 will ever remain a memorable year in the history of the Baptist Cause in Laleston. The scattered Baptist Members of the district were constituted and in accordance with Baptist Policy formally recognised as a branch church of Ruhamah. The following are the names of the original members and at the opening of the new chapel they brought their donations and gifts to adorn the house of God.
David John 20/-
Mr. J. Morris,
Local Preacher 20/-
W. Phillips (Traner) 20/-
Eleanor Phillips 2/6
John Williams 20/-
Eleanor Williams 3/-
Jenkin Howells 10/-
Ann Howells 10/-
Thomas John 15/-
James Ace 20/-
Jane Ace 6/-
Thomas Ace Jane Ace
Tommy Mathews 20/-
Thomas Thomas 20/-
David John (2) 10/-
Edward Rees 10/-
Ann Matthews Jane Evans
John Williams 20/-
Morgan Rees 2/6
The Total amount subscribed at the Opening Services was £38.
*Tommy Matthews, a young miner working at Cwmffos pit, confessed Christ as his personal Saviour and had expressed his desire to be baptised and received into the Church. The date of his baptism at Ruhamah had been fixed on that very afternoon. Anxious to be in time for his Baptism, he hurried to the shaft, entered the cage and on reaching the surface attempted to jump out but he missed his footing and fell back into the pit. Death was instantaneous and on the day he had decided to dedicate his life to the Master’s service he found himself in the Master’s presence. He was the first to be buried in the Chapel graveyard.
The following also brought their gifts.
William and Cecil Rees who became members two years
later – A pair of Snufflers and a Hymn book
Richard Rees –8/- for building a Pillar at the Entrance
Rachel Lewis and Mrs. Jane Ace – Cushion for Pulpit
Mr. John Jones (New Inn) – Large Candlestick 26/-
Mary Griffiths and Eleanor Williams – 3/-
The fraternity proceeded under the guidance of their minister to organise themselves into a semi-independent branch church. The following officers were appointed:
Mr. Jenkin Howells was elected Secretary and Mr. Thomas John was chosen Treasurer. Two men of real merit strong in faith, devoted in service, importunate in prayer and by the endowment of nature and the gift of the Holy Spirit well fitted for leadership in the Church of Christ. Jenkin Howells, much to the regret of the Church, in a few years left the neighbourhood for the Rhondda Valley, but Mr. Thomas John continued in office until his death 10th June, 1889, after serving the Church faithfully for 42 years. Throughout this long period his home was remarkable for its hospitality to the servants of the Lord. Mr. David John, his father, was appointed precentor and though he understood but little about music there never seemed to be a hitch in the singing, although we are told they might sing parts of two or three tunes to the same hymn! Harmony of effort made up for the occasional discordant note, and the Holy Spirit perfected their praise. There were no hymnbooks in those days except for the one in the pulpit and the minister gave the hymn two lines at a time and they sung in the same order. Notwithstanding their limitations and however defective in understanding they sang with spirit and in the Spirit, to the glory of God.
Under the leadership of their minister they entered and took possession of the new sanctuary and dedicated it to the praise and glory of the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
The official opening took place January 28-29, 1849, and the following ministers – the Rev. Rees Evans, of Ystalyfera, who had rendered distinguished services to the church as architect gratuitously, and the Rev. David Jones, Tabernacle, Cardiff – the first preaching on “Noah’s Ark” and the second on “Where two or three are gathered together in My Name”. Others who preached at these services were the Rev’s Enoch Williams, Cwmavon; W. Lewis, Dinas; E. Davies, Morriston; I R. Morgan, (Lleurwg), Llanelly; John Evans, Cowbridge; R. Davies, Penyfai, and LI. W. Hughes, Maesteg. The Rev. J. P. Jones conducted the service. Great was the rejoicing, for the fellowship knew that the Lord had visited His Temple.
Needless to say the changed conditions created in their hearts a new sense of responsibility. The Church membership and congregations increased, and as the years rolled on they found themselves face to face with new problems. But with courage and determination they proved themselves equal to the growing demands financially and otherwise made upon them.
In the year 1862 the Church in order to meet the demand for increased accommodation unanimously decided to proceed with the erection of a gallery. The tender of Mr. Joshua Jones was accepted at a total cost of £85.
In 1865 the old round pulpit was removed and the present one built with a Baptistry underneath at a cost of about £40.
The first three baptised in the new Baptistry were Elizabeth John, Joan Rees and Thomas John, the officiating minister being the pastor, the Rev. John Jenkins.
In 1867 the present Vestry was erected at a cost of about £150, a provision that brought with it great blessing.
In 1906 all the old box seats and floor were removed, and a new floor was laid. The Rostrum, Big Seat and all other seats as they appear at present were provided. The outside of the Chapel was cemented and painted and the path and graveyard cleaned at a cost of £168 3s. 4d.
Prior to 1860 the Chapel was lighted with Candles and particularly at Christmas time one might see about 30 to 40 candles all lighted and placed in the Chandeliers on the mantelpieces and windows and tables, some of the candles exceeding 2½ feet in length. A picturesque sight but not a satisfactory method of lighting.
In 1860 Candles were superseded by Paraffin Lamps, which while it improved the lighting, gave the Church much discomfort and trouble.
In 1915 it was decided that Spenser & Co.’s mode of lighting and heating be adopted at a cost of £140. One-half of this sum was paid by Mr. Rees John, the Secretary.
Several other improvements such as re-roofing the Chapel; colouring and painting and general redecoration, etc., were undertaken and the installation of electric heaters at a cost of £32, and which sum was paid through the efforts of Mrs. Jenkin John in organising concerts and cantatas.
Some interesting and humorous stories could be related concerning the introduction of the organ into the service, but we must refrain. Sufficient to state that in the early 90’s after some tribulation the harmonium was purchased and installed in the Church to the joy and understanding of all concerned.
In 1927 the old harmonium was replaced by the present organ at a cost of £60. Mr. Joshua Jones, who built the Gallery, gave the sum of £20.
A substantial sum has been spent in re-erecting the wall around the graveyard and in re-decorating the Chapel and Vestry in anticipation of the Centenary Celebrations, and never was a church more unanimous and enthusiastic in their determination to make this a memorable occasion in the history of the Baptists of Laleston.
From 1848 to 1890 Bethel continued as a recognised branch church of Ruhamah, Bridgend, and the five ministers called to the pastorate of Ruhamah during that period occupied the pulpit of the branch Church four services a month and exercised pastoral oversight over the little flock. From time to time during the 42 years the inter-relationship between the branch and the mother church was modified, and with a growing sense of independency additional supplies were arranged to supplement the ministry provided by the Mother Church.
During the ministry of the Rev. C. James at Ruhamah conspicuous success had followed his efforts. The church grcw in numbers and in grace and power, and became convinced that the time had arrived to form the branch church at Laleston into an independent Church, and in 1892 by mutual arrangement 30 members were transferred by Ruhamah to form a Particular Baptist Church at Bethel, Laleston. At a special meeting of the newly-constituted church it was unanimously resolved to apply to the West Glamorgan Particular Baptist Association for membership, and at the Annual Meetings of the Association held at Briton Ferry, June 1892, Bethel, Laleston, was recognised as an independent Baptist Church and received with enthusiasm into the Association.
During these years it was felt that if the small churches of the denomination generally were to live and prosper a new system of ministerial provision must he evolved by the establishment of joint pastorates subsidized from a Central Denominational Fund. The Baptist Union of Wales and Monmouthshire undertook to collect £50,000 for this purpose and eventually established the Sustentation Fund.
In the year 1905 with the co-operation of the Association the Churches at Penyfai and Laieston were joined for ministerial purposes under the pastoral care of the Rev. W. Hill. This was the year of the great revival and glorious times were experienced at Laleston as in all other churches throughout Wales. Mr. Hill, however, after a very short but fruitful ministry severed his connection with the Church and the denomination.
Soon after, and in compliance with the wish of the Association the church at Laleston agreed to join with Corntown Church and a call was extended to the Rev. Evan Jones, of Hirwaun. During his ministry the late Dr. W. Edwards, Principal of Cardiff Baptist College, who was deeply interested in the welfare of the small churches, wrote a letter to the late Mr. Rees John, the Secretary of Bethel, stating that a certain gentleman whose name could not he disclosed had offered to contribute the sum of £25 per annum towards the ministry of the joint churches until the Sustentation Fund came into existence. The churches heard the news with joy and expressed their sincere gratitude to the unknown but gracious giver and its appreciation of the method of the giving.
Mr. Jones spent five very happy years at Bethel, 1911-1916, and he will always be remembered as a truly consecrated minister of the word.
April 19, 1917, Mr. J. H. Jones of Cardiff Baptist College, was ordained as Pastor of the Church. Principal the Rev. J. M. Davies M.A., the Rev. Dr. H. Harries of Porthcawl, and the Rev. Daniel Jones of Mountain Ash officiated.
Mr. Jones ministered to the church for a period of seven years with increased power and influence, and it was with regret that the Church and district learnt of his departure to a larger sphere at Gadlys, Aberdare. He still exercises the gift of the Ministry with the power and will of a truly consecrated soul and is much beloved by his people at Adulam, Bonymaen.
When he left Laleston for Gadlys the District Meeting on behalf of the Association undertook to re-arrange the grouping of the Churches under the scheme of the Sustentation Fund, and as a result it was agreed that Corntown and St. Brides, and Laleston and Penyfai should unite to form joint ministries. To this the churches agreed and the first annual grant of £40 was paid by the Sustentation Fund on April 3, 1921.
In January 1926, the churches at Laleston and Penyfai decided unanimously to extend a call to the Rev. George Bowen of Bargoed, to become their Pastor, and he after much prayer for guidance gave to the churches an affirmative answer. The Committee of the Sustentation Fund gave their blessing to their choice and knowing of the good work done to the Master’s glory in other spheres by the Pastor-Elect they looked forward to fruitful service on the part of the churches and their new Pastor. The Recognition Services took place March 3, 1926, when the Rev. W. Saunders, Pontycymer, and the Rev. W. Thomas, Blaengarw, officiated. The churches warmly welcomed their new minister and assured him of their prayers and practical support.
Mr. Bowen is a native of Maesteg, nurtured in a family where Welsh traditions, culture, and religion unconsciously influenced the texture of his character. He was trained in matters of religion at Bethania, Maesteg, one of the greatest churches in the Principality. It was this wonderful Church with its gracious minister that called Mr. Bowen to enter the Christian ministry. The call of the Church was the voice of God and he with great humility but great sincerity answered the call. After a course of preparation he was ordained in 1900 and ministered at Penrhiwfer, Aberfan, Noddfa, Bargoed and Gilfach Fargoed before he accepted the call to Penyfai and Laleston.
He is recognised as a preacher of considerable force and is greatly appreciated by the churches in general. He has also exercised his gifts in the Association and the Cyrddau Dosparth. He is known as a devoted pastor well caring for his flock, and there are no sick people in the district that do not know of his skill in administering Christian comfort. He was Secretary of the Cwrdd Dosparth for 20 years, and is now its President. He retired from the pastorate at Laleston and Penyfai after serving the churches well for 19 years (1926-1945). He still resides in retirement at Laleston, and both he and Mrs. Bowen are members of Bethel and are held in high esteem by people of every Church and denomination, and it is the universal prayer and wish that this diligent Pastor and faithful friend may know the joy and peace that comes to true and trustful servants of the Kingdom.
Officers Of The Church
Deacons (First Election)
William Rees, William Williams, David Davies, Thomas John (Junior), John Thomas, Richard Wilde (Junior), Gwilym Williams, William Ace, Griffiths Rees (Junior), Richard Edwards
Thomas John Thomas Jones, Jenkin Williams, Charles Avery, Mrs. M John, Mrs. S. J. Morgans, Mrs. A Williams, Miss M C John
Thomas-John (Sen.) in office for 42 years, followed by his son Thomas John, who served for 31 years. William Francis who served for 18 years and Thomas John, the present Treasurer who has served for 15 years.
David John (1st), Thomas John, David John (3rd), Rees John, Thomas Rees, and Jenkin Williams, who is still active in training the young, and preserving the standard of congregational singing.
Ministers Called To The Baptist Ministry
The church greatly rejoices in the success which has followed one of her sons whom she called to consecrate his life to the Christian ministry in the person of the Rev. Howell Morgan. After a very successful period of training in the Cardiff Baptist College he was ordained in the Baptist Church of Pontrhydyrun, Monmouthshire, where his ministry has been abundantly blessed by God and universally appreciated by his people.
Mr. Ivor Morgan, the brother of the Rev. Howell Morgan, is also a lay preacher giving good services to the rural churches. He is preparing for the accredited ministry and the church at Laleston wish him Gods blessing.
President Mrs. S.J. Morgan
Secretary Miss Gladys John
Mrs. M John Miss M.C. John
It is a joy to testify that all these Officers and organisations are rendering excellent service to the Church and fruitful results may he expected in the near future from the consecrated services of these leaders. We regret that owing to shortage of paper and the cost of printing it has been impossible to publish copious biographical notes on many of the ministers and leaders of the Church. But it is agreed that a place of honour be given to the memory of Mr. Rees John who meant so much to Bethel for so long a time.
The services of Mr. Rees John stand out pre-eminently not only in the church at Bethel but throughout the district of Laleston and the Mid-Glamorgan area. In denominational spheres he was recognised as a leader worthy of all confidence. He was Deacon and Secretary of the Church at Bethel for over 50 years. He was Precentor and Superintendent of the Sunday school for many years. He was elected unanimously as President of the West Glamorgan Welsh Baptist Association, and rendered service on a number of its Committees. He was Secretary of the Bridgend and District Cwrdd Dosparth and occupied the Chair. He will be remembered in the Denomination as a man of deep Convictions, steadfast consecration, and nobility of character. His prayers and his tears we shall never forget, and his devotion to the Church and his loyalty to the Christian Ministry, was an expression of his intense love for the Master.
His social and public services were many and varied. As a businessman he was respected for his high principles and all whom he served declared he served them well. He was for some years an assistant overseer and in later years became Member and Chairman of the Laleston Parish Council. He was a valuable member of the Bridgend and Cowbridge Board of Guardians, and of the Penybont Rural District Council, and held the unbroken confidence of the Electorate. In addition to these positions he was Secretary of the Laleston Institute, Secretary and Trustee of the Bennett Charity Fund, a Member of the School Managers for the District, and one of the most prominent figures in Central Glamorgan in the Friendly Society movement having been elected three times as Chairman of the Bridgend District of the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows.
In many other circles he rendered voluntary and gratuitous services, and in all spheres he will always he remembered as a true friend and a delightful co-worker in the public interest.
Gwlatgar Gymrodor a doeth gynghorydd
Gwr i’w fro annwyl yn gryf arweinydd
Engyl daeth i’w anglad o
A thalant daeth i wylo
Reference must be made to wonderful loyalty of the Sisters of Bethel. They throughout the years have been exceedingly faithful in all the services of the Church during the week and on Sunday, and they made a special feature of leading their children not only to the Sunday School and Sunday Services, but to the weekly Prayer Meetings. Some of the old sisters – according to the testimony of the older member’s, Betsy Wilde, Mary Thomas, Jannet Morgan, Eliza John, Eliza Williams, Eliza Thomas, Margaret John and Kate Wilde – oftentimes set the prayer meeting ablaze with holy fervour and there was no service they did not render.
The Church has passed through great tribulation: the greatest possibly was the disastrous explosion of Park Gwyllt, which emptied the galleries of its young men and depleted its membership of some substantial members. But notwithstanding this and the two great wars that followed, the Church is still enjoying the favours of God and facing the future with hope and courage. Their motto is:
“Hats off to the Past!”
“Coats off to the Future!”
In these Centenary Celebrations we untidily praise God for His gift in the past and we stand to dedicate ourselves afresh to meet the growing demands of a new century. We do so with an unbroken belief in:
The sufficiency of the Christian Gospel to meet the needs of sinful humanity;
The essentiality and immortality of the Christian Church
The superiority of the Christian ethic and Christian Character, and
The Lovingness of our Risen Lord who is Alpha and Omega the beginning and the ending…which is and which was and which is to come the Almighty, to whom be honour and glory and power for ever.
History of the Church 1948 Onwards
A century of Christian Witness, Bethel Baptist Chapel Laleston, 1848-1948 was written by the Rev. Dr. William Saunders, Pontycymmer. He was the minister of Noddfa Baptist Chapel Pontycymmer for 40 years. He died in 1950 and lies buried in Pontycymmer cemetery. (Noddfa Chapel no longer exists.)
The Rev. Saunders was one of the ministers who preached at the Centenary Celebrations in 1948. He also officiated at Bethel at the Recognition Service on 3rd March 1926 of the Rev. George Bowen. He was a very popular preacher, secretary of West Glamorgan Cymanfa and a prominent worker for UNDEB. We are most grateful to him for his dedication and support during his lifetime and for his writing of one hundred years at Bethel.
People in our vicinity, namely Miss Carrie Rogers, aged 83 years, remember him today with great affection; she was baptised by him at Noddfa Pontycymmer. She worked at the manse for 2/6d per week to help her mother who died in 1952. Carrie Rogers is a faithful member of Tylygwyn Baptist Chapel, Llangeinor. She is a frequent visitor to Bethel and attends the Zenana.
Another lady who still remembers him is Mrs. Jenkin John (nee Gwladys Sparks), now aged 97. She married Jenkin John in Mount Zion Baptist Chapel in Pontycymmer and came to live in Laleston in 1924. Jenkin John’s parents and grandparents, namely William Francis and Martha John, were faithful members of Bethel. Jenkin John, who died in 1966, was also a Deacon and Treasurer at Bethel. Mrs. John moved to Porthcawl after the death of her husband, and took up membership at Gilgal Chapel.
Let us now continue with the story of Bethel.
In the summer of 1948, peace was declared in the Far East. The life of the church continued as before and Sunday worship consisted of the morning and evening services. There was also a Sunday school, which was well attended. The Deacons would meet before and after each service, holding prayers and Bible readings.
At the Annual General Meeting early in 1949, chaired by brother Thomas Jones, the Church felt there was a need for a pastor. It was decided to ask Horeb St.Brides and Corntown to join with Bethel under the same ministry. The Rev. E T Samuel, the Sustentation Secretary, was approached to ask for a grant. This was agreed, at £80 per annum – Laleston to pay thirty-five shillings, St. Brides twenty shillings and Corntown fifteen shillings. This would enable a salary of £6 per week to be paid to the appointee. Letters were sent to Bangor College and Cardiff College asking if any students would like to preach at Bethel with a view to taking up the pastorate.
During this same year four Baptisms were undertaken; Ken Smith, Gwyneth Pask, Bert Cooper and Mr. Atherton – all remaining faithful to The Lord up to the present time. On Saturday 20th August 1949, Ruth Harry (daughter of Jenkin Harry) married Reginald Randall. This was the second marriage to be solemnised at Bethel, the first, in 1945, being that of Margery Avery, daughter of Charles, when the Certificate for the Solemnisation of Marriages was first granted. Previous to this, marriages were conducted in Penyfai.
At the AGM of February 1950, chaired by brother Jenkin John, it was decided to read the rules of the Church to the members, as possibly “we were inclined to overlook them at times”. With regard to the joint pastorate, it was felt that Bethel and St. Brides should continue together and to ask Ruhamah to take charge of Corntown at the next Cwrdd Dosbarth (district meeting).
Additional Trustees were nominated and accepted, namely:
Thomas John, Charles Avery, Merlin Morgan, John Edwards, Sarah Jane Morgan, Katie Hayter, Rhoda Avery and Dolores Thomas.
People contemplating marriage at Bethel were to request consent of the deaconate for permission to use the Chapel. A donation of £5 was sent to Cardiff Baptist College for their extension fund. Mr. Peter Jones, a student from Carmarthen College came to preach, with a view to taking charge of the joint churches, but the membership was not favourably impressed.
On Tuesday 3rd October 1950 the Rev. George Bowen died. He had ministered at Bethel and Penyfai for 19 years, and had retired in 1945. A memorial tablet was erected in his memory inscribed “To the Glory of God, in memory of the Rev. George Bowen age 74 years. Well done thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the Joy of Thy Lord.”
Finally a vote of thanks was recorded for the sisters of the Church who continued to give hospitality to all visiting ministers during the year.
The AGM of 1951 was presided over by brother John Edwards. The secretary Miss M C John wished to relinquish her post, which she had taken over from her father Rees John in 1927. She was persuaded to continue with the assistance of Mr. John Edwards, the Sunday School President, Mrs. Rhoda Avery being the secretary of the Sunday school.
The AGM was presided over by brother Jenkin Harry. The linking of the churches was again being discussed and a letter was sent to Pisgah Pyle with a view to securing a joint pastorate. Also the Rev. Roger Thomas was to be asked to take charge of the church during the week.
October 1952 saw the marriage-taking place of Sybil James, daughter of Richard and Jessie James, to Ken Smith of Cefn Cribwr.
Mrs. Lillian Bowen wife of the late Rev. George Bowen died on 20th November 1952 and the hymn board in use every week is dedicated to her memory.
The Recognition meeting took place at Pembroke Dock on the 18th March 1953 of the Rev. Howell Morgan (son of Sarah Jane Morgan, deacon, brother of Merlin Morgan, trustee, brother of lay preacher lvor Morgan, and also an ex-Sunday school pupil at Bethel).
A letter was received from Penuel Pencoed requesting joint pastorate with Bethel, but this was withdrawn during the summer. Pisgah Pyle also expressed their regret that they were not in a position to accept and the Rev. W J Morris, who had also been approached previously, had taken a church in Carmarthen County. Bethel was to continue into the future once more without a pastor.
Brother Charles Avery chaired the AGM of 1954. A letter was sent to Margam Estates with the view to purchasing a plot of land to build a manse, as it was thought that this may have been one of the reasons why the post at Bethel was difficult to fill. A letter was also sent to the deaconate at Noddfa Porthcawl asking if they would be prepared for their minister, the Rev. S L Davies to take charge of Bethel and to visit and take an interest in the young people.
Sunday 17th January 1954 was another memorable day in the life of Bethel. George Thomas M P, later to become Mr. Speaker at the Houses of Parliament, spoke at the young people’s service.
At the AGM it was suggested that a standard form of service for burials be conducted either: from a Burial Book or by Scripture reading, Prayer and Hymns. The organist, Mr. Alun John (son of Jenkin John) was to officiate at the organ, or to arrange a deputy.
During the same year, Gwynfryn Thomas, (son of Mrs. A P Thomas and former Sunday school pupil) was Ordained in Plymouth. On the 2nd July 1954, Thomas John, former deacon and treasurer, died aged 77 years, a very faithful servant. Also in that year Barbara Avery, daughter of Rhoda and the late Williams John Avery, was married to Bob John, of Merthyr Mawr.
The AGM of 1955 was moved to March and was chaired by brother Charles Avery. Mr. Jenkin Harry was appointed deacon. Miss M C John again wished to retire, but was persuaded to continue. Ten members were recorded as being present.
Spiritual matters continued and a Baptismal Service was held on 12th June, the recipient not being named. As the years passed, the Sunday school continued to thrive. Six classes, together with their teachers, were recorded and thirty children received a Bible. The following former Sunday school pupils were called to do God’s work: – Ron Foster, became a lay preacher in Canada, Alan Webster, became a lay preacher in Neath, and John Hicks went to Bible College in 1962.
A mention is also made of two buses taking children to the rally. This was probably the B.M.S. rally, as we know it. The Rev. H Evans of Saron Nantymoel was the secretary of the children’s rally. The Sunday school supported various charities, Dr. Barnado’s and Spurgeon’s Homes, to name but two. The support of charities had long been an important part of the life of the Church at Bethel. The penny bank was used to raise funds to cover the costs of these outings and needy causes. Regarding the Sunday school outings buses were now taking the children. Mrs. Gwladys John now in her 97th year recalls such an outing – “Mr. William Francis, a former deacon, would borrow a beer barrel from the Oystercatcher across the road, wash it out thoroughly and then fill it with water. This would then be transported along with the food and the children in a horse drawn dray to Ogmore-by-Sea for the day. It was great fun, and they would sing hymns all the way.”
Brother Charles Avery, with nothing untoward being reported, chaired the 1957 AGM. On March 1st a baptismal service was held but no name was recorded. The Membership for this year was recorded as thirty-nine.
Early in 1958, a letter was received from the Rev. Gwynfryn Thomas asking if it would be possible for Bethel Laleston to assist, in some way, in helping him build his church in Plymouth. It was recorded that “We agreed to send £1 as a little encouragement to a young man who used to come to Bethel as a young boy.”
Miss M C John once again tendered her resignation, having been in office 31 years as secretary. None came forward to replace her, so again she had to continue.
Ten years had now passed since the centenary celebrations. The faithful had kept The Lord’s House open, serving Him with praise and thanksgiving and to His Glory. All the services were still being conducted with guest speakers and deacons, and attempts to encourage a Pastor had been to no avail. The Lord’s House remained open and in good heart.
At the next AGM in 1959, only four members were present. It was noted that the members were taking insufficient interest. Margaret Avery, (2nd daughter of the late William J Avery and Rhoda Avery) married Hedley Carpenter, of Pencoed. Mrs. Dolores Thomas, a trustee, was laid to rest on 22nd December.
At the district meeting held in Ruhamah in 1960, it was reported, “that Bethel Laleston had been without a pastor, but the Church there is still thriving and is enjoying much success in an ever-growing community. All of the meetings continue to mention the lack of a pastor but none is forthcoming.”
Again Miss John wished to relinquish her post as secretary, but there was no response. Later, on the 21st March, a new member Mr. Hackford agreed to relieve her by taking the subscriptions and keeping the accounts. Mr. Jenkin Harry thanked Miss John for her 33 years faithful service as secretary. Rev Ithel Jones of Bangor took the anniversary service. Mrs. Martha John who was organist and deacon (widow for thirty years of Rees John – deacon and secretary) died on 13th August 1960 aged 85 years.
Times were changing and Mr. Jenkin Harry wrote to Mr. Walter Padley M. P. opposing “Sunday opening”.
A letter was received by the secretary, from the Mid Glam County Council, regarding the proposed road widening scheme through Laleston. A compulsory purchase order would result in part of the graveyard of Bethel Chapel having to be given over. This would mean that a number of grave plots would be removed and the consequent exhumation and reinternment of remains carried out at some considerable cost. These costs would of course be met by Mid Glam County Council. A notice was to be placed in the Gazette and Western Mail. “Anyone having a grave in Bethel Graveyard should make a claim by 1st November 1961.”
During 1960 The Glamorgan Further Education Department wrote to the secretary requesting permission for the use of the vestry for craft purposes. The cost per session would .be 5/-. In the same year Mr. Jenkin Harry’s son Kenneth was married in London. He had been a faithful youth worker in the Sunday school in the fifties, when the Sunday school had been very successful. A donation of £1–10–0, was sent to the Rev. Gwynfiyn Thomas’s church in Plymouth.
The members of the deaconate at that time were recorded as follows: Charles Avery, Sarah Jayne Morgan, Thomas Jones, Katie Williams, Jenkin John and Jenkin Harry.
Charles Avery presided over the AGM of 1961, where all of the Chapel deeds were received. These included The Certificate of Authorisation, which enabled Bethel to be used as a place of worship, dated 1860, and The Authorisation Certificate for the Solemnisation of marriage, dated 1945, together with other documents, all of which were to be deposited in the Cwrdd Dosbarth safe in Ruhamah, Bridgend.
Sadly on 7th March 1961 Mr. Charles Avery departed this life, aged 75. He had been a most faithful servant of the Lord in Bethel.
It had now become necessary to appoint new members to the deaconate, and it was agreed that Mrs. Rhoda Avery, Mrs. A P Thomas, and Mr. Hackford be appointed. They were all ordained to the deaconate in May 1961 by the Rev. E T Samuel of Swansea. Mrs. Thomas was appointed Secretary and Mr. Hackford Treasurer instead of Mr. Merlin Morgan who had held office for 14 years. Later that year another faithful servant died, namely, Mrs. Mary Jane Harry (wife of Jenkin Harry, deacon). The epergne dedicated to her memory is still in use in the chapel today.
It was not recorded who presided over the AGM of 1962, but it was noted that “several members had not contributed to the Chapel for some time. It was decided not to cross them off, but for the secretary to write to them before further action could be taken”. Mr. John Hicks was now attending Bible College, and £10 was given to assist him. Mrs. Katie Williams, deacon, transferred her membership to Ruhamah. It was decided to hold a concert to raise funds to cover the cost of redecorating the vestry i.e. £105.80.
There were no records for the year of 1963 except that some floor repairs were to be carried out.
At the AGM of 1964 brother Jenkin John was appointed Treasurer. A notice was to be inserted in the Gazette and Western Mail regarding the Annual Meetings. Mrs. Ethel Hayball was appointed as sick visitor. A letter was received from Buckinghamshire Baptist Church recording the transfer of membership to Bethel of Dr and Mrs. David Powell. A letter was also received from the Parish Council offering financial assistance to keep the churchyard tidy. Another wedding was held at Bethel, being that of Sarah Edward’s daughter Bethan.
The Sunday school continues through 1965, and a new Baptist Hymnal was purchased.
Again in 1966, the Sunday school continues to thrive and a new member was transferred from Calfaria Llangeinor, namely Mrs. Dilys Evans. On 6th August 1966, Mr. Jenkin F John, County Councillor, J.P., a faithful Deacon and Treasurer of Bethel, died aged 63. A Memorial Service was held at Bethel on Tuesday 9th August at 12 noon. ‘A soul so fiery sweet can never die, but lives and loves and works through all Eternity’.
Mrs. Gwladys John moved to Porthcawl in this year and transferred her membership to Gilgal the following year. Now aged 97 her memory of Bethel is very clear and dear to her, and she sings hymns from Sankey and Moody from memory. Her son Alun, also living in Porthcawl, was organist at Bethel in 1954.
Two further members of the deaconate passed away, bringing the total to three in the year, a very sad loss for Bethel. They were Sarah Jayne Morgan, Deacon and President of the Sisterhood, on 4th November, followed six days later on 10th November by Jenkin Harry, who was a Deacon for ten years. Both were faithful to God and Bethel.
A new treasurer was appointed in 1967 namely Dr David Powell. The Chapel deeds and accounts were transferred from Ruhamah safe and deposited at Barclays Bank. The Rev. Glyn Morris was named as visiting Preacher – a calling he continues to this day. The Vestry was now 100 years old, having cost £150 to erect in 1867.
During 1968, Prayer meetings were introduced and held on Thursday evenings.
Twenty years had now passed since the centenary. The Pastorate was still not filled, but that did not deter the faithful from continuing to Praise God in All His Glory and to continue to have His Gospel Preached from His Pulpit.
The secretary at the 1969 AGM was Mrs. A P Thomas. Two new deacons were appointed – Mr. Bill Garfield and Mrs. J Pratt. Mr. Garfield was also appointed treasurer. Other officers appointed were Mrs. Sybil Smith as Missionary Secretary, Mrs. Sheila Garfield as Sisterhood Secretary and Miss Lyn John was appointed as assistant organist. Mr. Denville John was thanked most greatly for conducting the morning services.
On 5th March 1969 Mrs. Sarah Jane Avery died, aged 82 years, a faithful life member. Later, on the 20th March the same year, Miss Margaret Cecilia John died. She had served God and Bethel as secretary for 33 years and was also the organist during this time. On her death she bequeathed a legacy which secured Bethel’s financial situation for the future. The sixties were also a time of sadness as nine members died and only two members of the deaconate present at the centenary were still living.
At the AGM, the legacy of the late Miss M C John was discussed and it was decided that her name was to be added to the memorial stone of her parents.
The penny fund was to continue and it was decided that Mrs. C Jenkins and Mrs. Jessie James would be responsible for the collection and the use of envelopes, for the collection, would continue. Mrs. Anne John was appointed Treasurer of the Sunday school. She had been a faithful Sunday school teacher for many years.
On the 8th February 1970 Mrs. Catherine Jones (Katie Hayter) died, and on the l6th December, later that same year, her husband Thomas Jones also died, being 83 and 81 years old respectively.
Miss M C John’s legacy was the subject of discussion again at the 1971 AGM, and it was decided that Mr. Garfield would invest the monies. Also the penny collection was to be discontinued.
The new notice board would not be erected as yet, because of the possible uncertainties regarding the road widening scheme and the loss of part of the graveyard.
A discussion took place once again with the object of engaging a minister for a year. Also the purchase of a new piano was proposed.
Some of the gravestones in the graveyard were considered to be in a dangerous condition so it was decided to contact Mr. Harding, the monumental mason, to relay the stones flat on the ground. Unfortunately the graves concerned were not recorded under any name.
A tragedy occurred on 29th June 1971, when one of the Sunday school pupils, Adrian Lowe, was killed in a road accident whilst out playing. He was 8½ years old. His parents presented a vase inscribed to his memory.
The road-widening scheme was now beginning to arouse a great deal of interest, being the first item on the agenda at the 1972 AGM. It was noted that the Electricity Board was to be contacted because one of the switchboards was severely worm eaten and needed replacing. Also a discussion took place about the transferring of the Sisterhood account to the Church account, and the interest earned to be given to good causes.
A letter received from Messrs Merrils Ede Nicholls and Wilkinson Solicitors noted that the last appointment of the trustees was dated 1950. They required documentary evidence of further appointments, made up to the present time, since the trustees had now considered applying to purchase the freehold of the property.
The road widening scheme meetings continued through 1973.
On 31st March the marriage took place of Audrey James (daughter of the late Richard and Jessie James) to Horace Adsley with the Rev. Euros Miles officiating.
On 9th May 1973, a notice was posted that a Public Enquiry into the Highway Improvement Proposals was to be held in the Vestry of Bethel Baptist Chapel Laleston on 29th August 1973, signed by T V Walters, Clerk of Mid Glam County Council. None of the details of this meeting have come to light at the time of writing.
At the AGM eleven members were present. A request was received from the Vicar of St David’s Laleston for a meeting on Church Unity – three or four members agreed to attend. Another request was received from Mrs. Manning, of the Manning Singers for permission to use the vestry for choir practice. She would then put on a concert in aid of the BMS in exchange for the use of the vestry.
The notice of confirmation of Compulsory Purchase (1972) was posted, and legal costs for preparing claims and negotiating the amount of compensation, were reimbursed by Mid Glam County Council.
The trustees named at this time were Mrs. Rhoda Avery, Mrs. Sybil Smith and Mrs. A P Thomas. All the previous trustees were now deceased, with the exception of John Edwards, a Marine Engineer, whose whereabouts were not known.
At the AGM Mr. Garfield asked if someone would take over the role of treasurer, however he was asked to continue with the assistance of Mrs. Garfield.
Various headstones were to be removed and an area grassed over though the names on the headstones were not recorded.
A letter was received from The Baptist Union asking for a contribution from the chapel towards the total cost of £100,000 so that pension for ministers could be increased.
During 1976 Mr. Ron Evans was invited as part time Minister at Pisgah Pyle.
The Sunday school presented a Bible to the Church.
Later in the year Mrs. Manning gave a concert, the proceeds of which went towards the redecoration of the inside and outside of the Chapel.
During 1977 Mr. Ken Smith was nominated and accepted to the deaconate and he was also appointed as assistant treasurer, since Mrs. Garfield had been taken ill. Mrs. Garfield’s other office had been as a Sunday school teacher since 1965.
There was a double baptism during the year, conducted by the Rev. Oenville John and the Rev. Hywel Morgan.
Throughout 1978, the Rev. Denville John was a regular occupant of the pulpit on a Sunday morning with visiting Preachers and lay-Preachers conducting the evening services.
Thirty years had now passed since the centenary and the need for a minister was constantly, though unsuccessfully, being pursued. In the last ten years, there had been four deaths, two baptisms and one marriage.
In 1979, the Glamorgan Family History Society made a request to conduct a survey of the graveyard. This survey was being carried out in order to enable the people interested in tracing their ancestors to be able to consult a central register to be kept at the Glamorgan Record’s Office in Cardiff. This permission was granted and a most comprehensive record of their findings was presented to the Chapel. Many of the details recorded in this history of Bethel were concluded from those findings.
The BMS sent a request for support of a particular project during 1980.
A donation of £25 was given to the funds of Cardiff Baptist College for each of five years.
Two marriages were solemnised in Bethel during the year. Lyn John married Keith Rees and Lyn’s father Denville John officiated. Lyn continues to be a faithful Sunday school leader and organist. The other was Gillian Smith, (daughter of Ken and Sybil Smith) who married Martin Howlett on 5th April. The Rev. Ron Evans officiated.
Mr. Garfield resigned as treasurer in 1981 due to ill health and Mr. Ken Smith was appointed in his place. Mrs. Margaret Carpenter tendered her resignation as a Sunday school teacher, after many years of faithful service.
Only seven members attended the AGM of 1982, when it was noted that Mrs. Jessie James was ill in hospital.
The future of the Sunday school was discussed and Mrs. R Avery and Mrs. A John agreed to be the Sunday school teachers. Other officers appointed were Mrs. Sheila Garfield and Mrs. Gwladys Woodward as trustees. It was also decided to set up a Church register and to re-commence Bible Study.
Two deaths were recorded during the year, namely: – Rev. Howell Morgan and Hywel Evans.
In September 1982, Mrs. A P Thomas, Church Secretary and organist left Bethel to join her son the Rev. Gwynfryn Thomas at Bethany Baptist Church, Cardiff. By this time, the congregation had declined and there were only a few in numbers. Services were now being conducted in the vestry – the chapel being too large for such a small number. With no accompanist to help the singing along, hymn singing was not at its best. A new visitor, Mrs. Marion Bye, had recently started attending on a regular basis. She had not played the piano for thirty years, but agreed to learn hymns week by week until someone else came along. Since this time, Marion has continued playing the organ each Sunday.
On the 30th April 1983 Janet (second daughter of Ken and Sybil Smith) married David Whitely. The Rev. Ron Evans officiated.
Later that year on 7th November the sisterhood restarted – it had ceased when Mrs. Garfield had been taken ill. Her health had now been restored and she agreed to continue where she had left off.
1983 and 1984 were very lean years. Membership and attendance at services were small. Those devoted servants of The Lord maintained their faith and continued to Worship and Praise God and to keep his light shining through those dark days. On one occasion, one pupil, one parent and two teachers attended the Sunday school. Shortly afterwards the Sunday School was closed and the Sunday school account transferred to the Church account. In spite of this, the BMS continued to be supported.
On 3rd March 1985, Mrs. Sybil Smith’s mother, Mrs. Jessie James, passed away. She had been a faithful servant of The Lord throughout her life.
Prayers were surely answered when during 1986 seven members of Hope Bridgend transferred their membership to Bethel. The Sunday school was re-opened with Lyn Rees, Pat Ward and Jennifer Gunter as teachers. Mrs. Sybil Smith was appointed as Treasurer of the Zenana Bridgend.
There was great rejoicing and thanksgiving when Mr. Gordon Chapple agreed to the part time Pastorship of Bethel. Since the retirement of the Rev. George Bowen in 1945, Bethel had not had a permanent Spiritual Leader. This was not to say that the membership and congregation had not been Spiritually blessed through God’s word. The following names indicate the depth and richness of the blessings received by the flock over these past years.
Mr. Jose Kenfig Hill
Mr. Ken Adams Hope Bridgend
Rev. Ray Richards Hope Bridgend
David Walters Christchurch Bridgend
Mr. Parker Cardiff
Mr. Jenkins Cardiff
Mr. Walter Ellison Hope Bridgend
Mr. Oswald Penry Litchard Mission
Rev. Roland Hill Swansea
Mr. Omri Thomas Hope Bridgend
Mr. Haydn James Litchard Mission
Rev. John Cook Barry
During the summer of 1985, The Evangelical Theological College of Wales was established at Bryntirion Bridgend. They had begun in 1936 as the Barry School of Evangelism, later to become the South Wales Bible College, Barry. Now their presence was being felt in Bethel. The visiting Preachers now included tutors and students from the College, namely:
John Siesko Bryntirion College
Ray Jones Bryntiion College
Rev. Gareth Hutchinson Area Secretary B.M.S
Rev. Elwyn Davies Bryntiion College
Rev. Eryl Davies Bryntirion College
Rev. David Shepherd Gorseinon
Rev. Ian Burley 10 years of Evangelism
Rev. Joel Lewis Bible Study Tutor
Rev. Luther Phillips Bridgend
Rev. Glyn Morris Mount Pleasant Swansea
Rev. Mike Mellor Litchard and Covent Garden
Rev. Gwynfryn Thomas Cardiff
Steve Barlow, Paul Bartlett, Pastor Dando and Peter George, were also frequent visitors, together with students from Cardiff Baptist College and Bryntirion College.
Many of the students from Bryntirion College now attended the Sunday Services, swelling the congregation and at the same time gaining experience of preaching before a ‘live’ congregation.
On the l6th August Christine Gwilliam was married. She had been a former Sunday school pupil and is presently a Sunday school teacher.
At the AGM of 1987 eleven members were present. Mr. Garfield retired as secretary due to ill health and Mr. Ken Smith succeeded him. Mrs. Pat Lloyd was appointed treasurer. Mrs. Sheila Garfield agreed to continue as Sisterhood secretary with help from the members and Mrs. Sybil Smith retired as BMS secretary, after 18 years.
Mr. Chapple regretted he was not able to continue as part time pastor, and so once again Bethel was faced with a further period of Praise and Worship without a Pastor. The congregation and members had trod this road before, but the faith had remained strong. On July 4th saw a day of great happiness when Suzanne Carpenter married Andrew Parry.
Further evidence of the continued faith was shown when on l2th August the Rev. Ron Evans baptised four faithful followers of The Lord. They were Margaret Carpenter, Carys Hathaway, Suzanne Parry (nee Carpenter) and Steve Gunter. Mrs. Marion Bye followed the call, and brought the total to five more servants of The Lord to continue the work in Bethel for the future.
A month of great happiness was to be followed by great sorrow, for in September the Rev. Gwynfryn Thomas, of Bethany Baptist Chapel Cardiff, son of Mrs. A P Thomas, died suddenly on the 7th.
Mrs. Hathaway was appointed B M S Secretary and the need of a Pastor was again being discussed.
A Bible In Memory of the Rev. Gwynfryn Chatterton Thomas, son of Mr. Bob and Mrs. A P Thomas was presented to Bethel in October. He was born at Village Farm, Laleston on 17th July 1928. He had devoted his life to his Lord and Master since the time spent at Bethel Baptist Church as a child.
15 members attended the AGM of 1988. Mr. Garfield had returned from St. Bartholomew’s Hospital London after a successful operation following prayers offered for his safe return.
Sadly, in August 1988, the death was recorded of the Rev Ron Evans of Laleston.
Sunday morning services and a Sunday school were started at the Bryntirion Community Centre. In October 1988 three further members of the congregation were Baptised, namely Mrs. Pat Gulwell, Mrs. Janet Whitely and Miss Joanne Lloyd, the Rev. Ian Burley officiated.
Mr. Ray Jones was considered as part-time Pastor, but almost immediately he was offered a full time post in Ebbw Vale, sadly, he died soon after.
The Church continued its association with Nazareth and Smyrna Churches, holding Thursday evening Bible Studies together (three months in each Church). These evenings of study were taken under the leadership of different ministers namely Rev. Joel Lewis, Pastor Luther Phillips, Rev Ian Burley and the Rev. Clem Roberts. Also during the month of August we were led by Mr. Vince McDonald, a student from the Evangelical College of Wales.
During October the Churches of Bethel, Smyrna and Nazareth were blessed by the visit of a group of twelve Christians from Lubbock, Texas in the United States of America. Services were held in the three churches and during the week many visits were made to schools in the area, where our American friends spoke of their homes and at the same time presented the gospel to the children. Other visits were made to women’s meetings and they were also welcomed in the Mayors Parlour of Bridgend Council, where they met the mayor and other officials. The highlight of the week was the Wednesday evening meeting in Bethel when the Church was full to overflowing with people from the locality. The Rev. Rusty Cannoy from Texas preached the word, Mrs. Margaret Carpenter and Patchwork sang and there were items by our guests from America. In the Congregation that night was Mr. Wyn Griffiths our local Member of Parliament, who closed a memorable evening in prayer.
During that year, the Welsh Baptist Union brought into being Cytyn, the coming together of all Churches in Wales of all different denominations and depending on the number of members in each denomination, they were to be accorded different amounts of voting powers etc. The Welsh Baptist Union were to receive only two votes, therefore this, and not being able to work with other churches with completely different beliefs and doctrines to our Baptist beliefs, made it impossible for Bethel to join. Unfortunately the Union decided to join and we along with many other English speaking Churches stated our objections in writing to the secretary of the Baptist Union of Wales. These were added to the register along with all the other churches of like mind.
During the year, our treasurer, Mrs. Pat Lloyd, relinquished the post as she and her family was leaving the area to live in West Wales. She was warmly thanked for her contribution to the Church and given a bouquet of flowers as a mark of our appreciation. Her husband, Mr. Phil Lloyd, did many jobs around the Church during his time at Bethel.
Sadly, on the 19th August 1990, Mr. William Garfield (Bill) who had been a member of Bethel for almost thirty years passed from this world into the presence of His Lord and Master. He was cremated at Coychurch crematorium on the 23rd August.
Bill was baptised in Bethel in 1965 and went on to serve the Lord with great distinction in the Church as deacon, treasurer and secretary. He was a great encouragement to all, always willing to help anyone who had a problem, whether in or outside the Church. He spent many hours, with other members, working on the fabric of the building doing the constant day to day jobs. On many occasions Bill also did the most important work of all, proclaiming the Gospel of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Bill was a great example to everyone and a sad loss to Bethel but he was, most importantly, a wonderful servant of the Lord.
Mrs. Ceinwen Jenkins who had been a faithful member for fifty years was called home to be with her Lord. She was greatly loved by everyone in the Church and was sadly missed. She was first to arrive in Church each Sunday before the services and loved the Lord and Bethel very much. She was buried in St David’s Church in Laleston along with her late husband. Her son Ken and daughter Valmai Ball still live in the village.
There was much prayer during the year for members who were experiencing sickness and were in hospital at different times. These were Lynne Adams, Mrs. Jennifer Gunter, Mrs. Carys Hathaway and Mr. Ken Smith. At this time they all returned to their families and the Church.
Mr. Glyn Morris preached at the Annual Meetings.
During the autumn, Dr. Eryl Davies, Principal of the Evangelical College of Wales at Bryntiion, came to the Church and spoke of his visit to South Korea — a land where the Lord was doing wondrous things. At this time Korean students were starting to arrive at the College to take advantage of the various courses that were being offered. One of the first to arrive was Mr. Cho and his family who came to live in the home of the late Mrs. Ceinwen Jenkins. They have been faithful to the services at Bethel up to the present time. Doctor Cho returned home to Korea in 1996, to continue his work as deputy principal of a theological college of eight hundred students. His family remains, so that the children can complete their education here in the United Kingdom.
On the 18th November a special meeting was arranged following the resignation, partly on medical grounds, of Mr. Ken Smith as Secretary. Mrs. Marion Bye also resigned from the Diaconate at this time. Mr. Ken Adams presided over the meeting.
At this time discussions were held regarding a feasibility study for a joint pastorate between Bethel, Smyrna, Nazareth and Horeb, St Brides. A meeting had been arranged for January 1992 with the Rev. Eric Williams, secretary of the West Glamorgan Baptist Association.
In order that the above positions in the Diaconate were filled it was proposed by Mrs. Thomas, and seconded by Mrs. Avril James, that voting papers were to be distributed amongst the members, asking for their choice of Secretary and two Deacons. Nomination forms were to have a proposer and seconder along with the signature of the nominee. Members present further agreed, that nominees for the post, together with the date of the next Church meeting would be announced on Sunday the 1st and 8th December. The next meeting to be held on December l0th. Members strongly expressed the hope that both Mrs. Bye and Mr. Smith would reconsider and refill the vacant posts.
The meeting on December l0th opened with the singing of two hymns and a scripture reading. Mr. Ken Adams, who chaired the meeting, welcomed those present and gave a message on the quality of those who were called to serve the Church and the unity of the spirit among Church members.
Those present expressed concern over absent members being deprived of voting on an important Church decision, through being unable to attend the meeting because of age or sickness. Mrs. Gunter proposed that absent members vote by returning their forms by Sunday December 15th. Mrs. Avril James seconded this. Mr. Ken Adams withdrew his nomination for the post of secretary giving a full and detailed reason. Voting took place amongst the members and Mr. Frank Ward was unanimously appointed Secretary. On Sunday 15th, Mr. Steve Gunter was appointed to the Diaconate.
Exactly one hundred years ago Bethel was recognised as an independent Baptist Church. It was also the Bi-Centenary of the Baptist Missionary Society, as in October 1892 William Carey had left England to become the first missionary to be sent overseas. Funds were raised to commemorate the work of the BMS by having coffee mornings. Also in October a “This is Your Life” evening featured the life of William Carey and a video was made of the play, to sell to further raise money.
At the Annual General Meeting on January 28th, the chairman, Mr. Ken Adams, opened the meeting by reading from Gods Word and a prayer followed this, by the secretary Mr. Frank Ward. The Secretary thanked the members for their help in setting up a successful youth club.
The meeting was brought up to date regarding the proposed four Church joint pastorate, after receiving information from the Welsh Baptist Union, with their proposed help from their ministerial fund. It was decided, owing to the financial position of the four Churches, to reject the offer and await further developments. In the election of officers all were voted back to their previous positions and the Officers were: Mrs. Rhoda Avery, Mr. F Ward, Mr. S Gunter, Mrs. A P Thomas, Mrs. J Pratt and Mr. Ken Adams.
A mercy mission to Croatia took place this autumn, organised by Lon Las Church, Skewen following the break up of Yugoslavia into different states. One of our Church congregation, Mr. Hugh Worgan, who came originally from that Church, took part as a driver of one of the several lorries that were full of aid for the people in that country. Since that time Hugh has been on several more mercy missions. It was pleasing to report that Bethel members on each occasion were very generous with their gifts.
In March, Mr. Ken Adams received a call to take over the Pastorate of Horeb, St Brides. The Induction Service took place on the 8th April. There was a full house on that day, with many members from Bethel in the congregation, praising the Lord and asking the Lord’s blessing on His servant as he took up his new post. Sadly, at that time Mrs. Lynne Adams, Ken’s wife, was seriously ill and shortly after went to be with the Lord she loved so very much. Lynne was a lovely lady with whom we had spent many happy hours in fellowship over the years in Bethel.
May saw the wedding taking place of Miss Janine Harry, granddaughter of Mr. Jenkin Harry.
On July 27th the works of completely overhauling Bethel started, firstly in the vestry and then the main building, (please see the section regarding alteration and repairs). These repairs meant that we had to move out of the chapel and all our future services were held in the Blandy Hall, a building given to the village many years previously by Miss Blandy, for the use of the people of Laleston. This building has been, over the years, the home of the local gardening club and they were extremely kind and helpful to us during this time. To show our appreciation Bethel presented them with a silver cup for presentation at the gardening club show each September. It was called The Bethel Appreciation Cup. Without the gardening club’s help it would have been doubtful if our Sunday services could have been held in the village. The Sunday school took place each week in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Ken Smith. After eight months work we were able to return to Bethel for the Good Friday service on April 9th 1993. The night before, many people worked late cleaning the new vestry carpet that had just been laid. It was a joy to be back in our own special place of worship with everything shining and fresh, for the glory of Our God. The cost of the work amounted to almost nine thousand pounds and it was achieved by Church funds and contributions from the members and friends of Bethel, who gave generously to a special building fund set up during the time we were worshipping in the Gardening Club. It is also worth recording the gifts of carpets, new fall for the pulpit, kettles and teapots, and crochet mats for the communion plates made by Mrs. Dylis Evans. Also there were many gifts of time and labour given freely by members and friends of Bethel, all for the Glory of God.
Gifts were sent to the Sandville Self-help centre in memory of Mrs. Lynne Adams.
Mrs. Irene Hewson of Mayfield Avenue passed away. She had been a faithful friend of Bethel for many years and was missed greatly.
The AGM was held on 11th May. The meeting opened with prayer and a scripture reading. The minutes of the previous meeting were read and approved. All Church Officers returned unanimously. There was much heartache at this time as two members, Mrs. Pat Ward and Mrs. Jennifer Gunter, resigned from the Sunday school and Mrs. C Hathaway from the Church. This brought sadness after all the effort that had been put into Bethel over the years.
Mrs. Lyn Rees continued in the Sunday school with Mrs. Carole Pugh joining her.
Mr. Steve Gunter resigned from the Diaconate shortly after due to family commitments.
During the AGM on the 18th January the opening devotions were a prayer, scripture reading and hymn. Members were welcomed and apologies for absence were received. The treasurer, Mrs. Suzanne Parry, gave her report for the past year showing our income as £5,530, which was a fall of £62 from the previous year. The members unanimously expressed their sincere gratitude to all the officers of the church for their hard work and in their absence, members expressed thanks to Mrs. Pat Ward and Mrs. Jennifer Gunter for their work in the Sunday school.
Election of Officers for 1994 were as follows:
Secretary Mr. Ken Smith
Treasurer Mrs. Suzanne Parry
Sisterhood Secretary Mrs. Sheila Garfield and Mrs
BMS Secretary Mrs. Sybil Smith
Savings Group Mrs. Pat Gulwell
Sunday School Officers Mrs. Lynne Rees, Mrs. Carole Pugh and Mrs. Christine Gwilliam.
Mr. Anthony Nicholas, an ex-student of the Evangelical College of Wales commenced his time in Bethel, as Church leader for seven months, taking approximately two Sundays a month, plus our Thursday evening bible studies.
As the number of Korean families increased in the area, due to their attendance at the Evangelical College, they requested to use the Church for services on Sunday afternoons, to hold meetings in their own language. This was granted with pleasure, as some of them were already joining us during our other services on Sundays.
On April 23rd the Church suffered a great loss with the sudden death of Mrs. Rhoda Avery. She was taken ill at home and taken into hospital where later that night she went to be with the Lord. Mrs. Avery was a member of the Church for sixty years and a deacon for almost fifty years. She also served in the Sunday school as leader for many years, where her influence over the Sunday school was remarkable. The children won many competitions under her guidance. In her early life she walked from Cwrt Colman to Laleston every Sunday to attend the services with her two daughters Barbara and Margaret. Her dedication to Bethel was remarkable even to the end. She was always there in both services every Sunday without fail, a true example to all of us who have made that promise to our Lord and master Jesus Christ, to follow him all the days of our life. As part of her visits to Bethel, each Sunday, she would tend the grave of her beloved husband William John Avery who died in 1944. Mrs. Avery is now with her Lord, reaping the reward for her faithfulness to him. The funeral took place on Wednesday April 27th at 11 .3Oam in Bethel and was led by Mr. Oswald Penry and this was followed by interment in Bethel Churchyard.
Bethel was pleased to accept a beautiful inscribed vase in her memory and it is now placed on the Lord’s table in the Church.
The Church meeting of 6th June 1994 recorded the following:
There were eight members present and apologies for absence were received from Mrs. S Parry, Mrs. P Gulwell, Mr. and Mrs. Ward and Mr. and Mrs. Gunter. Following our normal start of prayer, the meeting continued. The secretary informed the members present that a meeting had been arranged with Mr. Ian Tutton from the South Wales Baptist College in Cardiff to enquire into the possibility of arranging a student to come from the College to minister to the Church for a period of six months.
It was further decided to appoint two new members to the Diaconate. The Secretary was to make up a list of all members and to circulate the list to each one so that they might be able to choose two suitable members to oversee the running of the Chapel. Following the result of the ballot, Mrs. Marion Bye and Mrs. Margaret Carpenter were appointed to the Diaconate in September.
We were pleased to welcome new students from the college, in Brvntirion, to our regular Sunday services. Mr. Ham Tjeng Sin, or as he was known within the Church “Tjeng”, Mr. and Mrs. Gareth Williams, Korean Student Sou, and Mateus Goia known to us as “Matthew”. These were joined by other students at times.
The AGM of 30th January recorded the following:
Looking back over the past year we have known the Lord’s blessing but mixed with this, we have seen sickness and great concern has been voiced in prayer for those experiencing testing times.
With our 150th year of Celebration due in 1998, the Secretary suggested to the meeting that Mr. and Mrs. Gwyn Bye be asked if they would put together the history of the Church for the last fifty years to supplement the existing history book for the first one hundred years. This they willingly accepted to do.
The members recommended that we purchase fifty cups, saucers and plates and Mrs. Margaret Worgan would enquire in local wholesalers as to price and availability.
Twenty new Mission Praise hymnbooks were to be purchased to supplement the existing thirty.
Mrs. Margaret Carpenter and her sister Mrs. Barbara John made new seat coverings for all the downstairs pews. These were a further gift in memory of their late mother Mrs. Rhoda Avery a lovely gift and very much appreciated by all.
On 4th April 1995 with great sadness we record the death of Mrs. Jennifer Gunter, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Ward. Jen bravely fought her illness over a couple of years with great strength and courage, never once losing her strong faith in the saving grace of her Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. She served Bethel well for a good number of years. She was the Sunday school superintendent and also ran the mid-week youth club. She was faithful to the end.
On Saturday May 13th at 2.30pm, we celebrated the ordination service of Mr. Ham Tjeng Ham, “Tjeng” from Indonesia. Our brother had served in the college at Bryntirion for four years and before returning to Indonesia requested that he be ordained into the ministry at Bethel where he had worshipped most Sundays. Tjeng spoke in our Bible study on occasions and even took the opportunity to help others with the weekly Church cleaning, a very humble and loyal Christian brother. The presiding minister on the day was the Rev. March Thomas of the Capenwray Missionary Fellowship of Torchbearers. Rev. Patrick Adu Amankwah gave the opening prayer; the Rev. Sam Wong of the Cardiff Christian Chinese Church gave the scripture reading and the Dr Eryl Davies the principal of the Evangelical College of Wales gave the message. The Rev. Arthur Imbrey of London’s Every Nation Gospel Fellowship gave the closing prayer and benediction. Two hymns were sung – “To God be the Glory” and “When we walk with the Lord”.
Two members of the Church, Mrs. Marion Bye and Mrs. Sybil Smith went to the Baptist Missionary Society women’s conference in Aberystwyth for three days. While they were there they were shown slides of Sue Evans (the Secretary) and Dr Wilson’s visit to a hospital in Albania, which were absolutely appalling. The conditions in the hospital were beyond belief. They decided that they had to do something about it, so they started making marmalade, jams and pickles to sell to close friends. The proceeds raised were to go to this particular hospital through the Baptist Missionary Society. Not long after this, the BMS sent a film crew to Laleston and filmed them doing this work for a video they were producing which was to be called “You Can Make a Difference”. Other groups in the United Kingdom were also filmed to show their fund raising ideas. In the summer invitations arrived for them to attend the launch of this video at the South Bank Theatre in London on the 12th October 1995. At the presentation they were given a video each to show to the local Churches to try and encourage them to do similar projects. This work is continuing to the present time.
Sunday l0th September was a fruitful day not only because we were able to listen to God’s Word but also we had the great privilege of welcoming into membership Mrs. Peg Williams, Mrs. May Challenger and Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Worgan.
On Sunday 8th October, Mr. Robert Thomas, a fourth year student from the South Wales Baptist College in Cardiff, started his Ministry of eight months in Bethel. He preached a total of twenty-two Sundays, as well as leading our Thursday evening Bible study and finished on the first Sunday in June 1996. It was a very blessed time in the life of the Church, as Robert was a sound Bible teacher. He spoke with a strong Welsh accent and came from a farming family in Carmarthen and his experiences of farm life were often brought into his messages. When he first came to us he had already promised to take over the pastorate of three Churches in and around Llanelli. It was a good time in the spiritual life of Bethel, listening to this very gifted man of God. When the induction services were held in Bethania Chapel, Llanelli, a number of the congregation from Bethel travelled there on the Saturday evening to share in that happy occasion.
October 12th brought another blessed time in the life of Bethel as Mr. and Mrs. Bye presented an electronic organ, which they had acquired, to the Church. It was a very generous gift indeed and much appreciated by all. Our old Bell organ had been in the Church since 1926 and had given excellent service. We were a bit concerned that we might have to throw it away but at the last moment we heard that St Cadoc’s Church, Llantrithyd in the Vale of Glamorgan were in dire need of such an organ, as their Church had no electricity at all! Three members of Bethel delivered it on the back of a trailer late one evening and we were very pleased to think that it would still be making a joyful noise unto the Lord. Members of Llantrithyd, including their Vicar, Rev. Malcolm Davies, joined us on the evening when we held a dedication service for our new organ. Mr. Robert Thomas led the service and all were greatly blessed. The organist was Mr. Peter David of Smyrna, Pen-y-fai.
November 14th twins were born to Suzanne and Andrew Parry and they were named Nia and Morgan, grandchildren to Mr. and Mrs. H Carpenter.
In December a joint carol service was held in Bethel with Nazareth, Bryncethin and Smyrna, Pen-y-fai and the organist was Mr. Peter David.
The AGM was held on 23rd January and the meeting was opened in prayer and the reading was Philippians 2 verses 1-16.
Secretary Mr. Ken Smith
Treasurer Mrs. Suzanne Parry
Sisterhood Secretary Mrs. S Garfield
Missionary Secretary Mrs. S Smith
Savings Secretary Mrs. Pat Gulwell
As Mr. Robert Thomas’s time as acting Pastor of Bethel was due to finish in early June. The Secretary proposed that Mr. Gareth Williams be approached and asked if he would consider taking over as Church leader
On 21st January, Carys was born to Annette and Gareth Williams. Carys was later dedicated in the Church along with Nia and Morgan Parry.
In February, Mrs. Cath Bradford came into membership from Hope Chapel, Bridgend. Then in March, Mrs. Sisily Jones also joined Bethel along with her daughter and young family. It was an immense pleasure to see the congregation growing.
On the 24th June during the evening, Mr. Mark Septimus Jones of Porthcawl broke into the Chapel. He was drunk at the time, which was unfortunately his usual condition, and entry was gained by throwing half a concrete block through the rear vestry window. This was so that he would have somewhere to sleep for the night, but once inside he could not get out again. The neighbours called for the Police and he was arrested and kept in the Police cells overnight. The following day, he was released and once more broke into property m Bridgend. For these offences he was sent to prison for thirty days and shortly after being released he was found dead in toilets in Porthcawl where he was sleeping for the night.
In August, Gareth Williams, after considering our invitation, took over as Church Leader of Bethel. We are blessed and greatly privileged to have such a gifted man to lead us in worship.
At the end of August, we had our annual meetings when the Rev. Robert Thomas led the meetings. It was good to share fellowship again and to know The Lords blessing on that day.
In September, one of our senior members, Miss Ivy Latimer was called from this life into the next. She was very faithful over many years and loved to come to the services at Bethel, along with her friends from Bryntirion. She was interred in Bridgend Cemetery following a service at Bethel, which was led by the Rev. Paul Bartlett of Nazareth Chapel, Bryncethin.
During September, Mrs. Dilys Evans celebrated her 90th birthday at the Heronston Hotel, Bridgend with her family. Friends from Bethel joined her and it was a happy occasion for all.
During October, Bethel held special Evangelistic Services when the Rev. David Shepherd of Gorseinon preached on three consecutive evenings. It was a wonderful ministry and a good crowd joined us each evening, mainly from other Churches, and at least six people rededicated their lives to the Lord. One more believer was baptised, a little later, in Nazareth, following the gospel message heard on those evenings. Previous to these meetings leaflets were distributed around Laleston, Bryntirion and Oaklands Road area but sadly there was no response at all from these areas.
December once more saw us holding the Annual Carol Service in aid of the BMS in Bethel. It was a beneficial time of praising the Lord and of fellowship together.
On December 28th, Mrs. A P Thomas of Cardiff, who held the office of Secretary in Bethel for twenty-one years, celebrated her 90th birthday. She is still a very active person and regularly travels from her home in Cardiff by bus during the summer months to Bethel.
The AGM was held on 21St January and the meeting opened with prayer and a reading from James 2 verses 14-16.
All previous officers of the Church returned with the unanimous support of the members and Mr. Gareth Williams agreed to continue as church leader.
The Secretary’s report stated that over the past year, Bethel had grown spiritually through the excellent ministry of Mr. Robert Thomas and Mr. Gareth Williams. Both men preached God’s word and it was good to listen and learn from such gifted men. We praise our Lord for sending them to us.
It was pleasing to see new members and there have been many new Korean families joining our services. They have rented homes here in the village while they study in the Evangelical College. It makes such a difference to our numbers each week when these families, along with other students from the college, meet with us at Bethel. Some of the students from other parts of the world who join us are Iota, Halim, Matthew and Pastor Daniel.
In January Mike and Jean Gardener, our link missionaries in Brazil, visited Bethel and they are now awaiting God’s purpose for their future.
Sunday February 2nd saw the return visit of the Rev. Rusty Cannoy from Lubbock, Texas renewing our friendship, which began in 1989. This time his wife Amy and daughters Lindsey and Carrie joined us.
On April 6th, the morning service was taken by three of our own fellowship, Matthew from Africa via Portugal, Halim from Indonesia and Pastor Daniel from Korea.
On Friday March 7th the Women’s Day of Prayer took place. Ladies from Bethel joined with ladies from St David’s Anglican Church Laleston to celebrate this yearly event. Ladies in Korea compiled the programme. Anna Siciarz one of our friends from the Church gave the message.
In May the Rev. Mike Mellor came from London to show us slides on the work in Covent Garden. It is a multinational area where there is a great need for the Gospel to be heard. It is our privilege to be able to support him in anyway.
Another meeting took place, in May, in Lon Las Gospel Mission and some members of Bethel attended, to welcome the Rev. Ladlo and his wife Melanie from the Church in Croatia which has received many of the supplies sent to them by the relief fund. It was very encouraging to hear their message and we all received such a great blessing. Melanie gave a very harrowing account of what had happened to her sixteen year old sister, reminding us of the sin and evil which is in men’s hearts.
On Wednesday June 4th, Mrs. May Challenger passed away at the Princess of Wales Hospital, Bridgend. She had, for a number of years, been very unsteady on her feet and as a result she fell at home and then again whilst in hospital. She died suddenly a few days later. She had been coming to Bethel for about twelve years and came along to all the meetings she could; a very quiet lady and much respected by all her friends in Bethel. Mr. Gareth Williams conducted the service in Bethel and at Coychurch Crematorium.
June 1997 and members met to discuss the centenary celebrations on 9th and 10th May next year. It was agreed that we ask the Rev. Glyn Morris who had been taking services in Bethel for many years to conduct the Saturday afternoon and evening services, and our own Mr. Gareth Williams to take the Sunday morning service, along with our Sunday School. On Sunday evening the members asked for the Rev. Robert Thomas to close our weekend of praise and thanksgiving to our God for all his many blessings over the last 150 years, and to ask for His future guidance over the years to come. To mark this occasion mugs would be purchased from Laugharne Pottery and supplied free to the children, with adults able to purchase them. The last fifty years of history was to be written by Mr. and Mrs. Gwyn Bye and Mr. Ken Smith, and this was to be added to the booklet in our possession recording the first one hundred years.
July 17th saw the visit of Prema Tenakon, the Baptist Missionary Nurse from Albania whom Bethel and many friends had been supporting. She had managed to escape, during their civil war, to Italy and then came home to England. Prema brought along slides from that country, where only a few years ago all religions were banned but now, after major upheavals, there was once again an acceptance of missionaries and the Gospel. Prema stayed with Sybil and Ken Smith who look after visiting missionaries to Bethel.
In August the Church received an open invitation to attend the wedding Mr. Ham Tjeng Sin and Yuniarti Susilo in Jakarta, Indonesia. How we would have loved to be able to go and rejoice with them both, but never the less, prayers were offered for them in Bethel for their future happiness.
On 23rd August we witnessed the wedding of Miss Sarah Gulwell and Mr. Terry Loveluck, the bride being the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. David Gulwell. The Rev. Robert Thomas conducted the service.
In August, Jherzy and Anna returned to Poland to help their Churches and families by taking great amounts of clothes and bedding etc., collected from Bethel and other friends, with them to help people who had lost everything due to the tremendous floods experienced there and in Germany. On their return, Jherzy brought a video back showing the extent of the damage and spoke about their visit and the floods, during one of our regular Thursday evening meetings.
In September Mateus Goia “Matthew”, who had finished his three years at the Evangelical College of Wales and was an extremely faithful member during that time, was accepted on the staff of Operation Mobilisation and after a short training time was sent to South America to work on Logos 11. He had, first of all, to find the support of five Churches to guarantee his position on that ship and we received a request from him asking if we would be one of the churches which could help by paying £62.50 per month for twenty five months to Operation Mobilisation. After approaching the congregation of Bethel, enough people were able to commit themselves to giving a regular amount each month, so we were able as a Church to forward this into a special account set up at Barclays Bank in Bridgend. Mrs. Margaret Carpenter would collect the money each week and take charge of that account.
We received a message in November that “Matthew” Mateus Goia had suffered an accident on board ship, resulting in severe damage of his right hand. Following a tremendous amount of prayer we heard that he was improving in a hospital in South America and that the only possible lasting damage would be a stiff joint in the index finger of his right hand. This was yet another time when we knew the value of prayers answered and The Lord’s abundant grace.
November 23rd witnessed the coming into membership of Mrs. Ruth Randall and Mr. and Mrs. Gareth and Annette Williams. What a joy it was to see the three of them being received into the Church membership by our great friend the Rev. Glyn Morris of Swansea.
During December the annual Carol Service in aid of the BMS was held in Bethel. Nazareth and Smyrna joined with friends and members of Bethel for the service, which was led by Rev. Paul Wilkes, with the organ played by Mr. Peter David of Smyrna, Pen-y-Fai. The service was recorded and then sent to Robert and Catherine Atkins, our link missionaries in Toulouse, France.
At the AGM the meeting continued with discussions regarding the coming 150th anniversary. The centenary booklet would be updated to include as much information that it was possible to gather to record the spiritual life and everyday life of the Church at Bethel.
Special Services would be held commencing Saturday 9th May 1998 at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. and on Sunday l0th May at 10.30a.m. and 6p.m.
“Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you”
Lev. 25. 20.
The following officers were appointed:
Church Leader Mr. Gareth Williams
Secretary Mr. Ken Smith
Assistant Secretary Mr. Frank Ward
Treasurer Mrs. Suzanne Parry
Diaconate Mrs. A P Thomas, Mrs
J Pratt, Mr. K T Smith,
Mr. F Ward, Mrs. M
Bye and Mrs. M
Sisterhood Secretary Mrs. S Garfield
Missionary Secretary Mrs. S Smith
Savings Secretary Mrs. P Gulwell
Sunday School Teachers Mrs. Lyn Rees, Mrs
Annette Williams, Mrs
Christine Gwilliam and
Mrs. Cath Bradford
Organists Hon.Org. Mrs. A P
Thomas, Mrs. M Bye,
Mrs. M Carpenter and
Mrs. Lyn Rees
A summary of the secretaries over the years is given below:
1877 – 1927 Mr. Rees John
1927 – 1960 Miss M C John
(daughter of Rees John)
1960 – 1961 Mr. Hackford
1961 – 1982 Mrs. A P Thomas
1982 – 1987 Mr. W Garfield
1987 – 1991 Mr. K Smith
1991 – 1994 Mr. F Ward
1994 – Mr. K Smith
Many attempts have been made over the past fifty years to secure a permanent minister. Mr. Gareth Williams, lecturer and tutor at the Bryntirion Evangelical College is at present the part time Church Leader. He occupies the pulpit at Bethel on most Sundays in the month, and also conducts the Bible Study classes on Thursday evenings. He has played a significant part in negotiations for the use of the land at the rear of the Church. The Sunday school has grown, in numbers, such that more rooms are required to effectively teach the children. Planning permission has been applied for to place portakabins on the land but we are at present waiting for final approval.
The keeping of accurate detailed records was not given a high degree of importance. Those in office at the time knew what was being done in the way of alterations and repairs and a brief note to remind them at the next meeting would suffice. Hence, it was very difficult to gather details of all the works that were undertaken over the last fifty years. Some of the references are so brief that it is impossible to relate their exact meaning
However on 19th September 1949, £1-7-6 was paid for repairs to the organ, and on 30th October 1949, £4 was paid to the electrician for new fires. One bulb cost 1/7d, possibly an electric light bulb. Repairs to the Font cost £3-0-4 paid to Messrs Hurley and Sons. Seating repairs in 1950 cost 8/6d. £1 was paid to H Edmunds for cleaning the graveyard. On 31st December 1950 7/6d was paid for coal and wine, therefore it can be concluded that coal heating of some description was still in use at that time. A special meeting was called on 9th April 1951 to consider the tender from Mr. Hurley & Sons for the installation of heating in the chapel. Low pressure heating at a cost of £104 was being offered. The meeting was not well attended but it was proposed to accept although the decision was not unanimous. One hundredweight of coal cost 4s/6 ½d on June 1951,4s/5 ½d on 9th September followed by £2-l0 for ½ ton of coke on 11th November. During this time a separate account called Bethel Church Penny Weekly Account was kept to record the payments made for cleaning the chapel and paying the electricity bill.
During 1955, building repairs to the chapel cost £18-3-5 and electric light bulbs were now costing 2s/2d. There was no record of purchases of fuel in 1955 or 1956, but on 2nd November 1956 2s/6 was paid out of the penny account for firewood.
During 1957, £7-3-3 was spent on renovating the chapel. In 1962 Mr. Harry had arranged to have the vestry roof re-slated at a cost of £105-8. Mr. Atherton was then paid £29-7-1 to decorate the inside of the vestry. At a deacon’s meeting on 21st November 1965, it was reported that the heating installation was now completed and satisfactory. The bill presented was for £280. It was also apparent that coal was still being used, because Mr. Harry was being paid £1 for lighting the fire in the vestry. This heating installation I believe to be the electric boiler, which served the Chapel up to the time when North Sea gas was introduced into the village in 1990. However, during early 1968, the chimneystack of the vestry was causing some concern, and it was decided to have it removed. Estimates were to be sought, in 1969, for repairs to the toilet roof and the main Church roof. The whole building was to be put in order and all woodwork repainted.
During the first part of the 1970’s, the compulsory purchase order on part of the Chapel graveyard was passed. The removal of a number of gravestones and eventually the contents of those graves were exhumed and re-interred at various cemeteries in the area. The only reference to the number of graves involved is included in a copy of a letter from a Mrs. Lewis of Tonyrefail who writes, “several members of her family are buried in four graves that require removal”. Much time and effort has been spent trying to trace them and their whereabouts, but to no avail. There is a reference to “the wall being rebuilt” and I take it to be that section adjacent to the main road.
A new door for the vestry was to be fitted in 1975, and in 1976 ATLAS building company Cardiff drew up an extensive programme, at a cost of £448, to carry out the work. This was to include the complete redecoration of the interior and exterior. In 1980 Mr. Parker was paid £254.66 for repairs, but no details are available. The two chairs in the pulpit were treated for woodworm in 1981, and new fascia boards and plastic guttering fitted. By 1982 the outside of the chapel needed re-painting again and the organ required some attention. The summer of 1983 turned out to be very hot. Large cracks were appearing in the outside west wall, causing some alarm. It was thought that some trees nearby were taking up too much moisture from the ground and causing the sub-soil to dry out. However this did not appear to be the case, because the trees were not that big. The cause finally being attributed to the very hot summer, since the cracks appeared to close up during periods of wet weather. £51.75 was paid to carry out this survey.
1984 again saw more work being carried out in replacing the two windows in the south wall of the chapel, and the two windows in the vestry. Considerable amounts of sand and cement and the hire of scaffolding were required towards the end of the year, but details of the project were not clear. Further repairs were carried out in 1985 including the stairs and outside toilet. There was some storm damage to the chapel roof in 1986, which was repaired by Mr. R Pratt of Bridgend. During 1987 damp was being reported in the south and west walls, these always caught the worst of the weather. It was proposed to strip off the rendering on these two walls and replaster. The ladies toilet at the rear was to be removed, sealed up, and made use of as a storeroom. It was also, recommended that the premises be rewired and extra power points added. This work was carried out in 1988, and the outside of the church repainted. New guttering was fitted and the inside of the chapel was repainted. During this time it was decided to replace the two front facing windows and the two front doors. UPVC was to be used and the windows would be double-glazed.
North Sea gas came to Laleston in 1990, and it was decided to install a gas fired boiler instead of the electric boiler, which had come to the end of its useful life. Also, gas was a cheaper fuel to use. This work was completed, fortunately, before the cold weather came later in the year.
1992 was to see the biggest repair and refurbishment programme to take place since the chapel was built. It proved impossible to continue with Worship in the Lord’s House for the first time in the life of the Church at Bethel. “Seek and ye shall find, ask and it shall be granted unto you”. And so it was, Praise and Worship would continue in the Gardening Club premises in the village at no financial costs whatsoever.
Work could now proceed without delay. The vestry was first completed less final decoration, then the main body of the church dismantled and stored in the vestry. The chapel walls were stripped, the floor taken up and removed, and a new floor with a damp-proofing layer put in. The walls were all rendered using damp proofing in the mix, and finally re-plastered. When all was cleaned up, redecorating began. It was also decided that a new modern heating system would be installed, incorporating the most up to date features, being fully automatic and to include frost protection. The existing gas boiler would be used to drive this system. No labour charges would be incurred in this work, material charges only.
The existing Baptistery was considered to be inadequate, so it was decided to construct a new one. The Pulpit was removed and the necessary work carried out. The interior of the Baptistery was to be tiled, and access was to be by wide wooden steps. A hinged cover would also become the platform of the pulpit and the existing pulpit rail replaced.
The rear row of pews was shortened so as to maintain continuity with the others. Most of the pews were replaced in their original locations, it being necessary to make some slight alteration because the new Baptistery encroached further into the auditorium.
With the majority of the work completed in the chapel, attention was diverted to the vestry. The ceiling was papered and decorated and new strip lighting installed. A new carpet was laid and kitchen type units fitted to improve the versatility of the vestry.
There was great excitement when all the fellowship gathered to give a final dust and polish before the coming of the following Friday, which was to be none other than GOOD FRIDAY. Bethel was to become once again THE HOUSE OF THE LORD, for Bethel was about to rise once again to celebrate, a few days hence, the Resurrection of OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST.
A public address system was installed because some of the older members found difficulty in hearing the speakers from time to time. The organ in the chapel was now in need of further attention and on Thursday 18th August 1995, a replacement Johannus electronic organ was delivered to the chapel. The old Bell organ was transported to Llantrithyd near Cowbridge and presented to them for use in their church, since there was no electricity present and a pedal organ was essential.
Families of Bethel – The House Of God
It is not recorded who chose the name for this Family place of worship, for that is what it has been over the years. Families whose hand The Lord has guided, from mountain top experiences to depths of despair, so that the doors of THE HOUSE OF GOD have remained open, and THE LIGHT OF GOD continues to shine in this place. From flickering candles to a main beam, we remain the FAMILY OF GOD.
One such family, who has remained faithful for 118 years, is Mr. Eli Loosmore of Rhosla. He was a labourer employed in the building of the Chapel, his daughter Margaret married William Francis who went on to become a deacon and died in 1944. Their daughter Martha married Henry John and she later became organist and deacon. Their son Jenkin John married Gwladys Sparks and he was to become a deacon and treasurer. Their son Alun became organist in 1954. Gwladys aged 97 lives in Porthcawl, still singing “Sankey” hymns from memory and reads from her large print New Testament Bible every day. Her husband died in 1966.
Charles Farrant Avery was born in 1886. He later married Sarah Jane. They were the parents of William John who later married Rhoda Webster. Rhoda was a Sunday school teacher and later, the Sunday School Superintendent. They had two daughters, Barbara and Margaret. Rhoda would bring the two young girls to Bethel, sometimes walking or cycling from Cwrt Colman every Sunday bringing their lunch and tea with them. Rhoda became a deacon and remained a most faithful member for 61 years. Her husband William John died tragically in 1944. Charles Farrant Avery died in 1961, followed by his wife Sarah Jane in 1969. Rhoda was present at the Centenary but died in 1994, four years short of this Jubilee of 150 years of Celebration. Margaret’s daughter Suzanne is the present treasurer. Her twins, Morgan and Nia, and Rhoda’s other great-grandchildren, Rebecca and Hannah, attend the Sunday school. Thus giving five generations of the Avery family witnessing at Bethel.
Richard James and his wife Jessie attended Bethel for many years. Mrs. Jessie James was a Sunday school teacher for a number of years. Their daughter Sybil married Ken Smith, who is the present Secretary, a pillar of support, keeping the pulpit and ministry true to God’s word. Sybil is the missionary secretary and continues to worship and raise funds for The Baptist Missionary Society. Their daughter Janet is a member and relief organist, and Janet’s two daughters, Elizabeth and Rhiannon, attend the Sunday school. Four generations of another Bethel family. Jessie died in 1985, and Richard five years later in 1990.
Mrs. A P Thomas a nonagenarian of character, born in Blaenavon, attended Church in Abercarn and came to Laleston as the young bride of Bob Thomas, whose parents worked Village Farm and now required help as their health had deteriorated. Their two children Gwynfiyn and Gwenllian were brought up in the Sunday school at Bethel. Mrs. Thomas moved to Monmouth and became the superintendent of the women’s Local and District Church meetings. She returned to Laleston in 1957 and as L.R.A.M. taught piano to local children, including Lyn Rees (Nee John), current Sunday school teacher and part-time organist. Gwynfiyn was ordained into the ministry and died in 1987. Gwenllian is a hard working and faithful member of Albany Road Baptist Church Cardiff. Mrs. Thomas became a deacon in 1961 and held the post of secretary for 21 years. She also became organist following the retirement of Margaret Cecilia John, fulfilling that role for 21 years. She moved to Cardiff in 1982 returning during the summer months to attend the evening services, travelling alone using public transport.
Jenkin Harry’s daughter Ruth has recently returned to the Bridgend area and has once more taken up membership at Bethel. Some of her memories, together with a booklet sent to her by her brother Kenneth, have helped piece together some of the history of the Church and people at Bethel.
These are some of the families who have the longest ties with the life and work of Bethel. Many other families mentioned previously have also continued faithful service, but we are ever mindful that:
“The Church’s one Foundation is JESUS CHRIST our LORD” and we are the Family of God and will continue to serve him faithfully with God’s Help and guidance.”
Forward be our watchword
We go in the name of
GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS