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Church in Wales Governing Body: Mixed economy in Swansea & Brecon

16 September 2022

Church in Wales

The Bishop of Swansea & Brecon, the Rt Revd John Lomas

The Bishop of Swansea & Brecon, the Rt Revd John Lomas

PRESENTATIONS were not extraneous to the main business of the meeting, but aligned with the vision and aspirations of the ten-year plan and the funding announcement.

The picture from Swansea & Brecon showed a cross-section of ministries, inherited and new, from the challenges and conflicts of holding worship and commercial enterprise in tension at Brecon Cathedral, in the heart of the National Park, to the “retreat and advance” tactic that led to St Thomas’s, Swansea, becoming a thriving community hub.

The meeting heard that Wales had the highest rate of child poverty of any nation in the UK, with approximately one in three living in poverty. Figures showed that 9972 children were absent from primary school, and 15,797 from secondary school, in July this year. Swansea is one of the most deprived areas, and the diocese works closely with the charity Faith in Families, whose CEO, Cherrie Bija, addressed the meeting.

The Revd Andrew Perrin, ministry area leader for West Radnor, spoke from one of his 25 churches: the remote medieval church of St Michael’s, which still holds monthly and Christmas services. He was trying to change the mindset in rural areas, to encourage people to travel to another church when there was no service at their own, but he questioned closing church buildings in glorious locations, which held such potential.

“Churches are assets, valuable resources. We could easily do more with them,” he said. “The people are the church. I want to say to them, ‘Be bold. Look at your buildings differently.’”

The Revd Stephen Bunting, Vicar of St Thomas’s, Swansea, received an MBE in the New Year Honours List for raising £1.4 million to redevelop the church into a home for all its ministries, including the foodbank and associated Baby Basics support, showers for the night shelter, “Breakfast with board games” (to remove the stigma of free meals), a café, wedding and conference venue, and more, to meet material and spiritual needs.

“Bacon sandwiches, good coffee, and toilets with toilet roll” had drawn people to St Thomas’s. “We transform lives by reducing poverty,” Mr Bunting said. The Bishop of Swansea & Brecon, the Rt Revd John Lomas, said that the Church in Wales had “decided to be the kind of church that invests in the world where we live.”

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