Posted 08.01.19
John Mainwaring
Supposing we really found him?
Growing up in the 1970s, one of the Christmas presents I received annually was a blank diary. Each year I set out to keep it, but with the Blast woods and other places around Leeswood to explore with my mates, I had usually failed by about January or February. Sometimes I got a bit further if it was one of those diddy, week-to-a-page, pocket diaries with room for about 4 words for each day. Being an un-churched person back then, I always wondered what the word ‘Epiphany’ meant, printed in italics on January 6th. It always struck me as a strange and alien word. I’ve since discovered that ‘Epiphany’ is a Christian feast day also known as ‘Three Kings Day’ where those ‘wise men that sought Jesus’ are remembered during the closing part of the Christmas celebrations.
What if we, like those wise men, set out on a journey, of 100s, even 1000s of miles, looking for the King of the Jews? And suppose, like them, we really did find him! What if we, through faith took the journey further, and found him to be not just an earthly king, but God himself, come down to “dwell amongst us” as John’s gospel describes.
C S Lewis in his book ‘Miracles’ talks about our search for God, or more accurately, God’s search for us, like this: It is always shocking to meet life where we thought we were alone. ‘Look out!’ we cry, ‘it’s alive’. And therefore this is the very point at which so many draw back – I would have done so myself if I could – and proceed no further with Christianity. An ‘impersonal God’ – well and good. A subjective God of beauty, truth and goodness, inside our own heads – better still. A formless life-force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap – best of all. But God Himself!, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at an infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband – that is quite another matter. There comes a moment when the children who have been playing at burglars hush suddenly: was that a real footstep in the hall? There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion (‘Man’s search for God!’) suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found Him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He had found us?
Wherever we are in life, may God find each one of us in 2019.
Posted 09.12.18
Peter Cousins
Keeping it simple this Christmas
We’ve slipped an owl into our Christmas tree. Not a real one of course. That would be too much work… and cruel. But it looks cute, peeping out between the fairy lights and the baubles. Owls don’t have anything to do with Christmas, needless to say. But thinking about it, neither do robins, doves nor pigeons. And to be strictly honest we must acknowledge that camels and donkeys don’t appear in the Bible accounts either. In fact the list goes on. You will find no mention of fir trees, holly, ivy, mistletoe, turkeys, snowmen, crackers, cards or tinsel. Most of that was invented in fairly recent times. Indeed, if you go back to medieval days you’ll discover that Christmas was a short festival with special food, plenty to drink, catchy music and a special church service or two. “Ah, if it could only be that simple again!” I hear you say. I sympathise. It’s all pretty overwhelming and could be much easier. It is, after all, supposed to be a celebration centred on Jesus himself.
The Bible seems to agree. Even in the New Testament the accounts of the circumstances surrounding his amazing and rather strange birth don’t occupy much space. The four writers who tell us the story of Jesus’ life in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John spend little time on the birth of Christ. They seem keen to get down to business with their story-telling and focus on Jesus’ adult life, his miracles and teaching, as well as explaining how he came to save us by dying on the cross and rising from the dead. In fact Mark and John’s gospels leave out the story of Jesus’ birth entirely, beginning their accounts when Jesus was around 30 years of age. You might be surprised to know that the early Christians didn’t celebrate Christmas at all. Easter was the big annual event for them.
That’s why many Christians try to keep things simple at this time of year. We organise church services where we recall the events of the first Christmas in song and stories. We make sure that at some point around December 25th we walk into church with expectation and gratitude to give thanks to God for the gift of his son, Jesus. The churches of Leeswood, including Bethania will have open doors several times over the coming weeks for you to come and join us. You will be very welcome.

Posted 18.10.18
John Mainwaring
Joining with millions remembering 100 years since the end of World War I
As well as marking 150 years in the village, this year Bethania joins many others in the UK in marking the centenary of the end of World War 1. On Remembrance Sunday 11 November 2018, people around the Commonwealth will be reflecting on the lives that were changed irrevocably, and those that were lost. Here at Bethania we will be holding a service of thought, prayer and reflection at 10:15 and then joining others from the village at the Cenotaph at 12 noon.
Some 65 million men were mobilised across Europe during World War 1. Nearly a third of them – some 21 million – were wounded. Another 8.5 million were killed and some 7.7 million were taken prisoners of war. All of them had family and friends whose lives were changed forever by the events of 1914 – 1918.
Bethania itself has a memorial, written in Welsh, to Robert Humphreys, who is remembered as one its ‘faithful members… who died serving his country in the Great War, August 27, 1918, aged 28 years.’
This year gives us the chance to remember, but also to pray and work for peace, looking forward with hope.
Often we use set words at remembrance events as we think about those who have given their lives in war.
There is the Kohima Epitaph: “When you go home tell them of us and say, for your tomorrow we gave our today.” There is the Ode of Remembrance: “They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old; age shall not weary them nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them.” and there is this Prayer of Remembrance.
Almighty and eternal God, from whose love in Christ we cannot be parted, either by death or life: hear our prayers and thanksgivings for all who we remember this day, fulfil in them the purpose of your love; and bring us all with them, to your eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
This year let us use the two minutes silence at 11am on 11.11.18 to look back with gratitude for the sacrifice made by so many in war, to reflect on our own lives and to look forward with hope.
Posted 07.09.18
John Mainwaring
This September, Bethania Church Community are marking the founding of its chapel in Leeswood with a week long programme of activities designed to appeal to all ages. Everyone is welcome!
The chapel dates back to 1868, when it was funded and built by Welsh speaking miners from Treuddyn. Initially, the miners bought a piece of land in New Row, which is now County Road, for £44-10-0d. Their plan was to build a chapel and manse, to as they put it, “further the Baptist cause.” The majority of the twelve founding trustees were miners from the neighbouring village – up the road – Treuddyn, but two were from Leeswood itself; John Hellin, who lived in the Smithy on Stryt Cae Rheddyn, and Charles Jones, who sadly passed away before the chapel was completed.
Since those early days, the Bethania Church Community, part of the Baptist Union, has continued to go from strength to strength. To celebrate the chapel’s hundred and fiftieth anniversary, a series of events will run from Friday, 14th September through to Sunday, 23rd September, starting with a ‘Pubs and Chapels’ heritage walk with local historian David Rowe and the Reverend Martin M’Caw. Throughout the week there will be inspiring speakers, a film night, young children’s activities, a sensory event for people with special needs, a live band at the Community Centre and much more.
Earlier in the year the church community also organised a barn dance and music evening to mark the anniversary, and distributed a copy of Mark’s Gospel to every household in the village.
The week’s celebrations seeks to reflect the effort and faith of the original Welsh miners who founded the chapel whose aim was to bring the good news they had embraced about Jesus to Leeswood, which was then a predominantly Welsh speaking village.
Apart from all of the fun things we have planned involving lots of good food and plenty of puppets and balloons for the children, a highlight of the week will be readings from the Gospels each week-day morning at 10:00am, with a gospel service on Sunday 16th at 10:15am. We will also have a special, informal Welsh Language Service on Sunday 16th September at 4pm which will be the first to be held in the chapel’s founders’ mother tongue since the 1960s. The programme will culminate with a Celebration Service (with a surprise?) on Sunday 23rd September at 10:15 am.
We’d like to invite people to get involved by checking out the events page on this website and choosing to join in with at least one event. We’re looking forward to an exciting week and to welcoming everyone to come along and celebrate this momentous anniversary with us this September.
Posted 19.3.18
Ian Dyson
Easter again! Doesn’t it come round quickly? Deadlines dictate that, as I’m composing this, there’s still a fair bit of snow lying about in the village, although the worst does seem to be over (for now!). Even so, there are a few hopeful signs: the snowdrops have been out for a while now, and the daffodils are beginning to appear on the Leeswood verges, and it won’t be long till the trees start covering themselves in blossom, and while I haven’t heard a cuckoo yet, all the signs are hopeful! I like the spring, with all its promise of new life, new hope, new possibilities. Hence all the cute bunnies and the fluffy chicks on the Easter cards. The cold, dead grip of winter is gradually loosened and things start to show signs of life again. For the Christian believer, there’s an extra dimension to all this new life at Easter time. On Good Friday we remember Jesus’s agonisingly painful death, strung up on a Roman gibbet. But then comes Easter Sunday, and we celebrate the fact that he rose to life again, a new life, new hope, new possibilities. Easter Sunday encourages us to believe that, for us too, pain and suffering and death are not the final scene. Like the daffodils hiding away under the snow and the frost and then bursting out in new shoots, like the trees standing bare and (apparently) lifeless all winter and then suddenly being covered in blossom, the Easter message is that there is new hope after despair, new life after death, new possibilities after what seems to be the end. Jesus’ rising from the dead means there’s hope for us all… Every blessing to you this Easter time!