Alan Petersen graduated with a GDip from our Porthcawl Learning Community and decided to continue his studies by beginning the MTh programme at Union School of Theology.  He shares his journey from being a pharmacist to receiving his call to ministry and serving in a church in the South Wales Valley town of Blaina.

“My journey into ministry has been something of a meandering one. As a Pharmacy student back in the 1980s I always imagined I would be either a full-time Christian worker of some description or I would be an academic. Neither happened. Thirty-something years later with a grown family and having just sold my chain of pharmacies I considered that now might be the time to revisit the thought of ministry.

It was something of a surprise to find myself, while still in the midst of the GDip, drawn to a small fellowship at the top of the valleys.

My wife Amanda and I had always been active in church life having been involved in youth work, music and worship a couple of stints in church leadership and a regular preaching ministry as well as having helped to found and serve as a trustee of ICE Wales. ICE stands for Initiatives in Christian Education,  a schools work organisation working in schools around South Wales . I had however never really thought that pastoral ministry might be where I was meant to serve. People who know me would quite rightly tell you that I am not a natural people person and therefore the whole pastoral thing didn’t really equate. It was something of a surprise, therefore, to find myself, while still in the midst of the GDip, drawn to a small fellowship at the top of the valleys. Blaina is a small town at the top of the Gwent valleys, just north of Abertillery.

Blaina Evangelical Church has been there since the early 1980s having begun when their first Pastor, the Rev Peter Reynolds led a small group of believers from the local Presbyterian church which apparently didn’t really want the gospel preached,  to set up a small house fellowship. Some time later the church started meeting in the Scout hut and,  when the scouts moved out, were offered the lease of the building for a pound. The building itself was almost beyond salvaging but soon afterwards the fellowship received a grant for the full costs of renovating the building. The result being that the Church now enjoys facilities that most churches in the valleys would sell their pastor for i.e. a meeting hall, sports hall, storage, toilets, disabled access and a car park.

The church has been without a pastor for over ten years and times have been tough. The congregation and membership are very small and in addition most of  those who are not working full time suffer from a variety of health issues. Workers are therefore few. Despite this the church has built and maintained a thriving youth work of between thirty and forty non Church children who come in  every Friday night where the gospel is clearly proclaimed and some have made professions of faith.

I found myself having a sense of nurture and pastoral care for the members of the church

Having been preaching at the church on and off for a year or so, and being aware that the church were actively seeking a pastor, a discussion took place, the result of which was a call to be pastor of the church. The call was initially on a part time basis and I agreed to accept for just for six months to start with. This was to test the call as I still had doubts about  my pastoral gifts  and, as the church had not had a pastor for so long it seemed wise to see how we fitted. To my surprise, the fit was a good one, and this non people person found himself having a sense of nurture and pastoral care for the members of the church which I genuinely hadn’t anticipated.

My six months are over and the Church and I have agreed to stay together longer term. The challenge is, along with my wife, to reach a deprived community with very few workers. The youth work and facilities are a good start but the challenge to use the building to open up the gospel to the community and reach, not just the young people, but the wider community. We are looking at running a CAP money course in the near future, establishing a mothers and toddlers group and openings into the local schools. The families of the Friday young people are our first port of call and a family fun day is set for early September.

There had already been frustrations and disappointments but there have also been encouragements as we have seen some of the YP start to worship with us on a Sunday. There have been some new faces and I am just starting to work through the issues of faith baptism and church membership with two of those who have joined us. Progress is likely to be slow but we are in God’s hands and there has been a sense of His hand upon the work so far. The members are encouraging and supportive and grateful for a new direction. Prayers would be appreciated for us as we look to expand the work with so few workers. Please pray for wisdom and sensitivity in our outreach and that God would lead us to those whose hearts are open to the gospel. Please pray for unity as we look to move forward in the Lord and please pray for faithfulness in preaching the gospel and teaching the flock on a weekly basis.

Find out more about our GDip or MTh programmes at the Union School of Theology Site