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Wales was really blessed with a model of church that seemed to work well everywhere, that is from about 1840 to about 1900.  Wales was ‘the land of nonconformists’ and the majority of the population attended chapels which were rapidly increasing in number, size, decoration, traditions and activities, social as well as spiritual.  The problem is that the model of church, in many areas, has not changed for nearly 200 years, and just does not work any more.  Such chapels, and their denominations, are in terminal decline everywhere.  There are hardly any exceptions.

What we have forgotten is that it was not the original model, nor the most fruitful.  From 1740 to 1840 there was another model everywhere in Wales.  It was led by people with other jobs, receiving training ‘on the job’, but supported and extended by people ‘full-time’.  It was based on multiplied small groups that normally met in homes or barns.  The emphasis was on the gospel, experience of God, fellowship, discipleship, and the Bible.  Even earlier than this in Breconshire there was an amazing church that covered the whole county.  The ‘gathered church’ in Llanigon near Hay was led by Henry Maurice (1634-1682).  Through his travelling to preach and gather small fellowship groups the whole of the county was covered in ten years, ‘up to the gates of Brecon’.  There were groups all over the county, but they were all part of the one church, under the same elders and ministry.  Local groups in rural areas were reaching their own areas but were part of something bigger, and nourished by travelling ministry.

Do we need to go back to the future?

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