AN EASTER MESSAGE FROM THE BAPTIST UNION OF WALES GENERAL SECRETARY THE REVD JUDITH MORRIS

“Christ has risen! He has risen indeed!”

Whilst the Easter message is the same every year, our context this year means that our celebrations will be somewhat different as the COVID-19 casts its shadow over us. When Mary Magdalene went to the tomb on the morning of the third day two thousand years ago, it was still dark. She was not rejoicing but wept tears of great sadness. Those very same feelings are currently being experienced by thousands of people today yearning for a new dawn when the threat of the Coronavirus has completely disappeared. This is a time that we have never experienced before.

However, in spite of the trauma and sadness that has been witnessed, we have, over the past few weeks, seen humanity at its very best: the staff of the National Health Service work tirelessly caring for and treating patients, key workers ensure that we can buy food, medication and shop for essentials along with the army of volunteers who help the frail and vulnerable members in our communities. Each and every one deserves a very special round of applause. But at the same time, some have exhibited the very worst tendencies of human nature. Examples of selfishness and greed have been seen as people attempted to travel to their second homes; others have insisted on socialising in large gatherings whilst others have stockpiled food and other supplies leaving our supermarket shelves empty. Thankfully, we can testify that we have seen far more goodness at work rather than the negative tendencies of our human nature. As we look forward to the coming weeks and months let us pray that we will continue to see more of the ‘positive’ rather than the ‘negative’ at work in society.

In the midst of this we have been truly horrified as the virus has increasingly claimed thousands of lives throughout the world. Urgent preparations have been made to ensure that there are sufficient beds available for those needing medical care. It is a source of enormous sadness to know that those who fall victim to COVD-19 will not have the company and comfort of their nearest and dearest at their bedsides. To compound this, we are not able to hold funerals in our usual way and friends and family are unable to visit the bereaved to offer support and comfort. In order to avoid contracting the virus we have no choice but to follow the Government’s instruction and stay at home.

NEW LIFE

What therefore does Easter have to say to us in the middle of this emergency? As Christians, we know that life’s journey is not easy. The shadow of the Cross is always a reality. But we know that the Cross is not the end. Jesus succeeded in transforming everything through His incredible love for us: He defeated death; He transformed the darkness and crushed all hopelessness. He gave us new life and a light that can never be extinguished and an eternal hope through His victory on the Cross. That is the message of Easter. He defeated death and gave new life to his disciples. Therefore, in the middle of this emergency we can but turn to our Lord Jesus Christ and receive of the peace that he gives to us.

As we look to the future, many people are already asking questions about our current way of living. Will we have learnt anything from this difficult period? Will this emergency have led us to live differently for the sake of our brothers and sisters and the whole creation? Will we appreciate and cherish our freedom to meet together for worship and social activity? Will we as Christians have engaged in a deeper and possibly more reflective relationship with God?

Time alone will tell whether we will be able to respond with wisdom and maturity to some of the questions currently being asked. In the meantime, let us cling dearly to the Easter message and may each and every one of us remember the timeless truths of the Gospel and know the power and strength of the presence of the risen Christ, the One who sustains and comforts us at all times.

“Christ has risen! He has risen indeed!”

Judith Morris
General Secretary

April 9, 2020

AN EASTER MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT OF THE GWENT BAPTIST ASSOCIATION, THE REVD. DR SUZANNE ROBERTS.

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Normally, so much happens in Holy Week, perhaps beginning on Palm Sunday with the children’s’ excitement as they follow a real donkey along the road. Whether or not there are other meetings during the week, there will be communion on Maundy Thursday and perhaps a walk of witness behind a cross or a service on Good Friday, before we come to all the joyful celebrations on Easter Sunday. Either at sunrise or later in the day we hear again those wonderful words of joyful hope and assurance: “He is not here, He has risen.”

But there is an important day we may miss out. For the disciples it involved self-isolation – not from fear of disease but from the terror of anticipation that the authorities might do to them what they had done to Jesus. Fear compounded by the depths of their grief and by the seeming destruction of all their hopes for themselves and their nation. The life they had been used to for the previous three years had been turned upside-down, and the settled normality of being with Jesus had become anxious and fearful uncertainty. We cheat, in a way, by knowing the end of the story, but for them this new normality had no end in sight and the future seemed totally out of their control.

This present Coronavirus crisis may feel to us like a prolonged version of Easter Saturday; concern and anxiety, even fear, for ourselves, our families and friends – especially if they are in a frontline occupation – and for the future, national or in personal health and finance. We cannot at present see an end to this new normality nor how it will affect our lives in the weeks, maybe months ahead. It is a challenge to our faith – but is that a bad thing?

CONFIDENCE

Faith unchallenged can lull us into a comfort zone which stagnates our spiritual growth. James calls us to “Consider it pure joy, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” It’s an old book, but in ‘God of Surprises’ Gerard Hughes writes: “Faith is entrusting ourselves to the mystery in which we are living, trusting that love is at the heart of it.” We are able to trust that love as we see it poured out for us as Jesus hangs on the cross: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. (1 John 3:16) – “And so we know AND RELY on the love God has for us.” (4:16) It is in that confidence in God’s love for all that we can pray; for ourselves and those we know who are grieving, ill or in any difficulty, for all those in health care and care homes, emergency services, shops and any other front-line setting.

Let us pray too for those unknown to us – those in the poorest parts of cities and countryside across the world who have no space to self-isolate, often no running water or soap to keep hands clean, and neither good health services nor financial fall-back. One hospital in Bangladesh has no ventilators and “two empty A4 plastic sleeves put through a laminator give a mask with the right thickness for protection”.

If it feels like Easter Saturday to us, remember it is into that despairing darkness that the words are spoken: “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him.” The disciples had no idea what the future would hold for them, but Jesus did and He would – and did – meet them there. We don’t know what lies ahead in our Galilee or what it will mean for us, but we can know for certain that Jesus knows and will meet us in that future, just as He is with us here and now and to the end of this age. In these difficulties we can find even greater joy in the promise of Easter Sunday, in the certain hope we have in the risen Jesus. May God help us to share that hope and joy that those living in anxious uncertainty may come to know the comfort and peace of the presence of the risen Jesus in their lives.

May God bless you with His comfort, strength, light and peace – a blessed and joyful Easter to you all.

In Jesus.

Suzanne.

Tabernacle has hosted Citizens Advice sessions for a number of years with the face-to-face sessions coinciding with our fortnightly Coffee Mornings. In line with many other organisations responding to the Coronavirus crisis, Citizens Advice in Gwent has closed all of its face-to- face services and its staff have switched to home working.

A new phone service, Adviceline Gwent, is now available weekdays (9am to 5pm) on 0300 330 2117. In addition, people can also contact the Adviceline Wales service on 0344 477 2020. This service operates until 6 pm on weekdays.

Other Citizens Advice helplines available are:
Help to Claim Line 0800 0241 220 (for new Universal Credit claimants)
Consumer Service Helpline 0808 223 1133 (for consumer and energy issues)
Pension Wise 0800 138 3944 (for people seeking pension guidance)
Advice on the full range of subjects as well as Coronavirus specific advice is available 24/7 from
www.citizensadvice.org.uk/wales.

The leadership of Tabernacle is deeply saddened to announce that there will be no Sunday services and weekday activities in our church or activities in our adjoining Newbridge Vision Centre until further notice. This follows advice from the British and Welsh governments and the Baptist Union of Wales.

However, as a scattered church, we are making our very best effort to continue to serve the Lord, our members and friends ,and the people in the wider community through online services and ministry. We believe that, during these unprecedented circumstances, God will do even greater things through His scattered church as he did 2,000 years ago – Acts 8:1

Members and friends of Tabernacle celebrated St David’s Day on Sunday, 1st March in style holding a special morning service led by Pastor Peter Cho in which the children and young people took a full part. Then more than 40 people attended a traditional lunch comprising soup, bread and cheese followed by Welsh cakes. Pastor Peter said it was good to uphold Welsh culture and traditions but it was more important to remember that David was a dedicated servant of God.

The Mayor of Caerphilly County Borough, Councillor Julian Simmonds and South Wales East Assembly Member Delyth Jewell made separate visits to Tabernacle’s annual four-day Summer Holiday Bible Club at the end of July. Nearly 120 children and young people from the local community, aged from 5-15, attended. Similar Bible clubs were held at Blaenau Gwent Baptist Church, Abertillery, Bethany Baptist Church, Six Bells and Bethesda Baptist Church, Rogerstone as well at Hope Gobaith Church, Llanelli and Pines Congregational Church, Upper Killay, Swansea. Local volunteers were supported by volunteers from several churches in the United States. Tabernacle would like to thank all who supported the Newbridge event, in particular Asda, Blackwood; Greggs, Newbridge and Newbridge Trading Centre.

Councillor Simmonds (right) with, from left, the Mayoress,Mrs Karen Simmonds; the Revd. Sung Kee Ho, senior pastor, Antioch Church of Philadelphia; Mrs Ho, and Pastor Peter Cho, minister at Tabernacle.
Assembly Member Delyth Jewell with, from left, Math Wiliam, senior research and communications officer at Plaid Cymru’s regional office; Pastor Joseph Chung of Antioch Church and Councillor Mike Davies of Newbridge.

A meeting will be held at Newbridge Memo on Thursday, 22 August (17:30pm to 19:30pm) to discuss health services in Caerphilly County Borough and hear how they will be developed/changed in the coming years. Please register if you wish to attend by contacting Adele Skinner on 01633 435908 or by email on Adele.skinner@wales.nhs.uk

It’s all hands on deck preparing for Tabernacle’s 2019 Summer Holiday Bible Club  which will take place between 23-26 July. The annual event, supported by loyal church groups from the United States, has grown substantially over the years and now attracts as many as 140 children aged five and over. They take part in activities broadly categorized under the headings Religious and Cultural Study, and Arts and Crafts. The emphasis is upon having fun in a safe, happy environment with the opportunity to make new friends.

This year, the event has been boosted by an Asda grant of £300 towards the running costs. Tabernacle deacon and grants officer Geoff Champion received the cheque from Asda, Blackwood community champion Lucie Brown. Earlier this year  Asda  made a grant of £1,002 towards the costs of purchasing new kitchen equipment, chairs and other items for the church’s Community Luncheon Club for Over 50’s.

” It is really encouraging when our active programme of work for people in the community is recognized and supported by such a household name as Asda”, said Geoff. “It shows how God can open doors when you are about His business!”