Elkington Road Baptist, Burry Port, Carmarthenshire, Wales

Elkington Road Baptist, Burry Port, Carmarthenshire, Wales


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Mystery Worshipper: Wandering Star
Church: Elkington Road Baptist
Location: Burry Port, Carmarthenshire, Wales
Date of visit: Sunday, 22 April 2007, 11:00am

The building

A modest building with a pebble dashed exterior and a number of arched windows glazed in a variety of clear and obscured glass. There is one stained glass window at the rear of the building. The interior is surprisingly traditional, with wooden pews and slightly raised pulpit. In the same grounds as the church is a one storey building that I would imagine serves as a community hall.

The church

The notices mentioned a luncheon club and a mother and toddler group.

The neighborhood

Burry Port is a small south Wales coastal town, just east of Pembrey Country Park and its magnificent eight miles of award winning beach. We were totally seduced by the sun kissed sand and glittering sea. In the harbour, fishing boats gently nudged pleasure craft as cyclists, walkers, sitters and sailors enjoyed the scene. Every sense is satisfied: butterflies dance and skylarks play, fragrant wildflowers mingle with fresh salty air, gulls screech and chaffinches chatter. One assumes that God had some divine purpose for allowing the West Wales rail service to run along this bucolic paradise. Elkington Road Baptist Church is rather hidden away, not on the main street or particularly noticeable.

The cast

Mr Robert Evans, one of the church's deacons, led the service.

What was the name of the service?

Morning Service.

How full was the building?

About one-fifth full, with 30 or so people in attendance.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

I was met at the door by smiles, "Good morning" and a handshake as I was given a hymn book. When I sat down in the pew, a lady sidled a little closer and greeted me, and the lady in front of me turned around to say, "Hello, are you visiting or have you moved here?"

Was your pew comfortable?

The pew was wooden, well polished and fairly comfortable. Cushions were available for those who wished to avoid going numb in the bum.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Happy laughter from the entrance hall and quiet greetings exchanged among those inside. The organ was played softly.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Good morning," followed by a reading from scripture, after which about a dozen men emerged from a door behind the pulpit.

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Songs of Fellowship Combined.

What musical instruments were played?


Did anything distract you?

I sat fairly close to the front of the church, expecting the seats around me to fill. But by the beginning of the service there were only half a dozen people within my eye line. As we sang the first hymn, the volume of voices made me think there must be quite a few people behind me. This was a little distracting as I wanted to find out how many there were without turning around! Had to take a sneaky look when I sat down.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

Reserved but enthusiastic. The singing evidenced considerable musical ability. We sat down for the offering and sang "For I'm building a people of power." I wondered if it were possible to build the kingdom of God whilst seated.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

5 minute children's address; 28 minute adult sermon.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

7 – Deacon Evans had a lovely lilting Welsh accent. He was very animated and delightfully passionate in his delivery.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

The children's address was about the anniversary of the abolition of slavery. Slavery is about lack of respect for others. We need to respect other people. The text for the adult sermon was from one of the readings, Judges 14:5-17 (Sampson poses the riddle "Out of the strong came forth something sweet" after gathering honey produced by bees in the carcass of a lion he had killed). The reading is an illustration of good coming from bad. It seemed as though all was lost when Christ died on the cross – but then he rose from the dead! As Christians we have joy, peace, forgiveness, family, humility, gratitude, and an inheritance. Death is like the lion, like the animal that Samson killed. Samson failed to reach his full potential. We need to be dedicated to God, to be sunny, to walk with a spring in our step, to be enthusiastic for God.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

Mr Evans' enthusiasm and the singing of the final hymn, "To God be the glory." I could hardly keep my heart from jumping out of my chest!

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

The relatively low attendance – it was the chief topic of discussion after the service. "There's a lot away." "Don't know where our youngsters are." "I was young once, you know." "It's all about priorities." And so on. I thought I detected just a tinge of judgment.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

I didn't have a chance to look lost. Deacon Evans shook my hand, and another one of the deacons came to welcome me and asked where I was from. Soon a small cluster of people gathered to listen. The deacon explained they were without a minister at the moment but were waiting on God's provision, although he didn't know how a small congregation with a weekly collection of no more than £200 would pay a minister's salary.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

No refreshments followed.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

3 – On first impression, this church seemed just too rigid for me. The people I spoke with seemed too settled to recognise the need for adaptability in this fast moving world. In order to survive, congregations need to be open to new ideas, not to wrap their churches up in safe traditions.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

Yes, because of the joy of the sermon, the pleasure of the singing, and the hope of the passionate for the future.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

The sermon and Samson's riddle. But I will think about all those practising Christians who could have been at this service but weren't.

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