A visit to Aberfan
During a recent visit to Cardiff, my son Stephen who is Chairman of the Welsh Synod asked me if I would like to accompany him to Aberfan on the afternoon of Sunday October 23rd as he was taking the service at Zion Methodist Chapel there at 3.00pm. This was the week of the 50th Anniversary of that terrible tragedy in Aberfan in 1966, and there was already a great deal of coverage in the news and on TV. I thought it would be a privilege to go and as I was attending the Duffield Church Council the night before I left home, I was able to take a greeting of support from our Church to the Society in Aberfan.
The afternoon was dry and clear as we drove up the Rhonda Valley and branched off up a smaller valley to the small village of Aberfan which seemed to be nestling peacefully on its lower slopes. We negotiated the new road interchanges recently developed to the small Methodist Chapel. Who could have imagined such a terrible tragedy happening here? But happen it did – 116 children and 5 teachers smothered in slurry in the school and other grown-ups killed too. The white arches around the many gravestones in the Cemetery on the hillside reminded us that this is a special place.
We met with a handful of worshippers at Zion, doing what they have been doing for years, before the disaster and since, worshipping the God who sustains them in their faith through all the events of life. Away from the commemorations, the concerts, the TV interviews, this seemed the right place to be. These faithful few have moved on since those terrible dark days, they don’t need reminding of events – they live with their memories of it all but now they live in the present. We sang “Lord of all Hopefulness”; “What a friend we have in Jesus”; “Blest are the pure in heart” and “May the mind of Christ our Saviour” and Stephen preached on 2 Timothy chapter 4, about ‘running the race’ set before us.
After the service the Steward June Vaughan and Pat, one of the other mothers showed us round their Church. Both of them were members of that ‘Young Wives Group’ who moved mountains after the tragedy and they spoke highly of their Methodist Minister at the time, Rev Irving Penberthy. With money raised a new set of premises were built around their Chapel in 1968 for youth work in the community. When the youth left, a doctor’s surgery moved in and now nearly 50 years on they were delighted to tell us that there was a newly formed Scout Group meeting there now and there was the expectation that cubs would follow. Everything was newly decorated and renewed for current use by the community.
I asked how old the ladies were now. They were the same age as me- 84! My son Stephen would have been 7, just about the same age as Julie, one of their daughters whose name was etched on a window along with six other names of children who had been killed and had been members of their Sunday School. These ladies were special people, no different to look at, but Christians whose faith shone through. It had nourished and supported them through that terrible time and to this day. It was my great privilege to visit them, to worship with them and to be blessed by their company that Sunday afternoon.
Other news from DUFFIELD METHODIST CHURCH.
During the Duffield Arts Festival in September, which coincided with our Harvest Festival, we opened the Church for the two days. Not only was the Church decorated for Harvest but we put up displays about the many charities we support and about our Church programme. It was rewarding to be able to welcome the many visitors (children and dogs included) and the celebrations closed with a service at 4.00pm led by our minister Rev Helen White with the theme ‘Festival of Arts’, exploring all the creative ways in which we are made in the image of God. This was one of our Outreach Projects for the year. This November we are continuing a Discipleship Project by running a second series of House Groups led by our Minister using a new study book ‘Compass’-a short interactive course exploring our faith together. We can recommend it.