Rhodri Thomas is studying with Union School of Theology, based in our Porthcawl Learning Community. Before that he worked as a research scientist in Cardiff University's School of Medicine whilst serving on the leadership team of Grace Community Church Porthcawl. Find out more about Rhodri and his wife Katie-Jayne's prayerful plans for the future. 

"I’ve only ever lived outside of Wales for one year of my life. That was long enough for me. I remember staring out of the office window when I was working in Harlow, Essex and being unreasonably excited when it started to rain. It hardly ever rained on that side of the country! Not like it does at home. I was equally disappointed when, after a mere (or should I say pathetic?) five minute downpour, the rain cleared up.

What was it about Wales that drew me back after my wanderings in that foreign land? Funnily enough, it wasn’t the rain. Perhaps it was the national pride, the perfectly-brewed tea, the Welsh cakes or the bilingual road signs. Perhaps; but I can tell you for certain what is going to keep me here for the foreseeable future.

I’ve only ever lived outside of Wales for one year of my life. That was long enough for me.

I was a student in Cardiff University when I met Katie-Jayne. We served together in a student-led organisation called “Revive” that supported churches and youth groups throughout the South Wales Valleys. It was during those years that our eyes were opened, and our hearts were moved, to the desperate spiritual need in South Wales.

Despite the rich heritage in Wales, the spiritual outlook is bleak. Outside of the major towns and cities the trends are for church decline instead of growth. Where numerous chapels were built during the blazing fires of revival, now many are closing. Katie-Jayne and I were shocked by these trends and, as we served with Revive, we witnessed first-hand the accompanying issues.

What can buck these trends? We left university with the conviction that hope could only come through the local church faithfully preaching the gospel of Christ. There are many towns and villages throughout South Wales with no effective gospel witness, so the need for new church plants is great. We felt God calling us to that ministry, and to commit ourselves to staying in Wales.

We left university with the conviction that hope could only come through the local church faithfully preaching the gospel of Christ.

After graduating we were invited onto the leadership team of Grace Community Church, Porthcawl where we’ve served for the past eight years. Whilst getting stuck into many areas of ministry and church life, we have continued to feel God’s call to church planting and have been waiting for him to reveal the next steps for us. I had always desired to undertake formal theological training before entering into ministry but knew God had put me into a season of secular work and lay leadership.

In January 2017, God prompted us to pray and seriously consider what we should be doing that September. Over the following months, he primed us for stepping out in faith: out of secular employment, to begin formal theological training and to prepare for church planting.

The Graduate Diploma in Theology programme (GDip) with Union School of Theology provided the best route for me to gain excellent quality theological training without leaving my local church context. It also afforded me the space to continue other preparations for church planting. Before I enrolled it appeared the perfect fit for me, and so far it has not disappointed!

I have been based in Union's Porthcawl Learning Community (LC) for a year and have one more remaining. Whilst we are spoiled with our proximity to the Union Campus, and the treasure trove that is the library, the LC model has proved to be excellent. It has given me the opportunity to connect, discuss, debate and study with other Christians in the South Wales area. The standard of teaching has exceeded my expectations and I’m certain it will be a great preparation for ministry.

It is my hope and vision to plant a church that shares the good news of Jesus Christ both verbally and in action.

So, for the next academic year I will continue to enjoy the GDip course with my peers in the Porthcawl LC, but God has called me to stick around in Wales thereafter. The Apostle Paul spoke of his “ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known” (Romans 15:20) and as I look at some of the towns and villages around me in South Wales, I can see a great need to be met with such ambition. It is my hope and vision to plant a church that shares the good news of Jesus Christ both verbally and in action, so that a community of believers may be established, spiritually grow and be an onward blessing. With God’s help and guidance, I plan to stay in Wales to do so."

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