I drove over the hills to preach in the Rhondda yesterday. The Rhondda Valley is in fact a sort of crooked tuning-fork shaped double valley running down from the hills south of the Brecon Beacons and joining the Taff lower down. Around 60,000 people live there in tightly packed terraces running along the valley's steep sides. When coal began to be mined in Victorian times a mass migration to the valley occurred. A fruitful non-conformist movement drew many of the new arrivals into the chapels that sprang up in every community such that at one time there were 151 of them all together. Sadly, liberal theology and culture-Christianity sapped the soul out of that movement such that today there are may be a dozen mostly small, struggling chapels left. I preached at Carmel chapel in Blaenllechau to about 20 in the morning and a dozen or so in the evening. We sang a cappella (which I have just realized is quite appropriate as it means to sing in the style of the chapel). We did well for our number. No four part harmony though. I preached on Exodus 18 in the morning, on Jethro's meeting with Moses and how Moses shared the salvation of Israel with his pagan father-in-law and his wonderful response. In the evening I sought to open up Paul's letter to the Philippians as a lovely missive from the apostle to his dear partners in Philippi, the sort of partnership that was and the fruit it produced. I trust it did the church good as it did me to enjoy their fellowship for the day.
There is a huge need for faithful, hard working ministry in this valley as well as the others that make up this unusually needy urban area. We pray for the churches who press on in the face of declining numbers and are encouraged by new initiatives by the Valley Commandos (http://www.valleycommandos.com/) among others.