Also known as the Tin Cathedral, the church is located in a former industrial building that was donated and converted to its present purposes in 2010. The meeting space is very sparse and utilitarian. Since my visit of two years ago, the stage has been moved to another wall, and the seating surrounds it on three sides.
They are currently undergoing what has been dubbed the "Welsh Outpouring", a move of the Holy Spirit that is attracting people from all over the UK and much further afield. There are five "outpouring" meetings a week at present. The church was founded by Richard Taylor, ex drug addict and ex offender, who also runs Victory Outreach UK, which ministers to ex offenders. In the few years since it opened, Victory Church has also planted another five churches in the area.
Cwmbran is on the edge of the Welsh Valleys and was founded as a "new town" (a planned community constructed in a previously undeveloped area) in 1949 as part of a goal to bring alternative industry to an area formerly dominated by coal mining. It has many shopping and entertainment amenities and sporting facilities.
The worship leader was Robbie Howells and the preacher was Richard Taylor.
What was the name of the service?The Welsh Outpouring.
How full was the building?
Crammed full. I don't know the capacity, but hundreds.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
No. I arrived at 6.00, to make sure of a seat (and to be able to wait inside in the warm). There were already many others waiting to be allowed into the main auditorium.
Was your pew comfortable?
It was a plastic stacking chair, so not immensely comfortable. But we spent most of the time standing (see below), so comfort was a moot point.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Buzzing. There was a real sense of anticipation in the foyer, with a lot of excited chatter. Occasionally one church group would break out into worship songs.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
There were no opening words as such. We were not allowed into the auditorium until 7.00, but once inside we saw that worship was already going on. It was a very intense atmosphere, and if words of welcome were spoken they passed me by.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
No books. The words of the songs sung were projected onto two large screens. The most visible one to me was behind me, which made for an interesting worship experience.
What musical instruments were played?
Keyboards, electric guitar, drums.
Did anything distract you?
The fact that the event was being filmed and livestreamed. At one point the pastor asked the camera operator to do a closeup of him, which is unusual in a sermon.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
We were led in some excellent gospel style worship, with occasional breaks for prayers. After an hour or so Pastor Richard joined the worship team on stage and the worship became more spontaneous and included some old worship classics. The worshippers were extremely enthusiastic, with hands raised, clapping, the odd bit of dancing. There were frequent breaks to invite the Spirit and for some ministry. It seemed unplanned but never chaotic or out of control.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
It was about an hour: difficult to be exact in such an intense atmosphere.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – Richard Taylor is an extremely charismatic individual and a very amusing speaker. However, I subtracted one point for his having spent rather a long time ranting about some of his online critics (did I mention the meetings are streamed live?).
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon was about revival. He preached about how the Spirit had come on Pentecost in fulfillment of the prophecy in Joel 2 (the Lord is coming), and how there has been a succession of Pentecosts since then. He then spoke of what he saw as straitjackets of revival emanating from within the Church, and what can bring a revival to an end.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
There were moments when there was an intense feeling of God's presence, and the worship was pretty amazing too.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The long hours of standing started to get really tiring, especially as no sooner had we sat down after prayer than we were encouraged to get back on our feet.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
At around 11.15 the pastor finished speaking. At this point one could leave, though many stayed on. I left, as the service had already gone on for over four hours and I had an hour's drive home yet to endure. I was exhausted and couldn't have faced hanging around in the foyer or stopping for a chat.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was none (though I did have a glass of wine to celebrate arriving home safely!).
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – It would be so great to be part of a church like this, but I'm not sure I have the stamina for many four-hour meetings!
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, it did. This felt like a genuine outpouring of the Spirit. There was an amazing atmosphere.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
I keep seeing the building full of people all worshipping God and eager for what God can do in their lives.