The authentic welcome was attractive
How students have grown in faith at Penrallt Baptist Church – despite it being in pastoral vacancy
“We don’t think these stories happen any more, that people just walk into church and find faith,” says John Thompson, “but they do and it happened here, and hopefully that’s an encouragement to others.”
John is currently the moderator of Penrallt Baptist Church in Bangor. In November he had the joy of baptising three young adults, all from different life situations and faith backgrounds.
One of them was 24-year-old Ryan (pictured). Christened as a child, Ryan was a regular and independent church goer in his later primary years (his parents didn’t share his faith), and during this time he was given an Armed Forces Gideon Bible. Over time the churchgoing stopped, but the Bible remained on his shelf.
He would pick it up again as a young adult dealing with a number of health issues such as anxiety and depression. “I noticed the question on this Gideon Bible ‘what to do when you’re feeling anxious’ and became interested,” he remembers.
“I realised I didn’t what know what I believed, and wanted to find out more.”
He began to explore, and his interest in faith grew again, as it had done as a child. After reading the Bible regularly, and listening to sermons and podcasts online, Ryan wanted to attend a church. He asked a local Christian bookshop for advice, which pointed him in the direction of the nearby Penrallt.
“People were really friendly, and picked up that I was new. They saw I had questions, and slowly but surely helped me to find answers.”
He began to have regular chats with John, and joined a house group.
“He found evidence of authenticity here, and it was attractive to him,” says John.
Ryan’s health was improving all the time. “I had tried a number of things over the years, but nothing seemed to click. It was only when I picked up the Bible. After 15 years of slow progress, I was finally becoming reunited with God.”
“I’ve seen Ryan grow in confidence,” adds John, “and there is a sense of peace and excitement about him. He’s thrilled with what he’s found in the Bible, and there’s a sense of him growing and maturing in faith.”
Ryan has moved to a degree in Philosophy and Religion, and is exploring a call to Baptist ministry.
Two more young adults were baptised alongside Ryan in November. Bangor is a university city, and a number of students worship at the Baptist church. John describes Penrallt as a welcoming, contemporary evangelical church “with a really big heart for one and other”.
“There is something about an authentic welcome,” he says. “All this has happened in a church with a pastoral vacancy.”
This article appears in the Summer 2020 edition of Baptists Together magazine, which explores reaching and raising young adults
Welcome image | Tim Mossholder | Unsplash