2002 to present
Today, the fellowship is known as the Providence Baptist church, in the new home in Union Street. After some quiet years, the church is growing once again, looking out into the community to serve and bless.
The move from the original building on Cardiff Road came in 2002, when, after years of struggling with flooding and damp, a decision was made to sell the building for £30,000, along with the manse. The council was selling what had been the English Congregational church on Union street in Mountain Ash. It had been converted to offices and similar rooms. A ten-year loan was taken, but with the help of the Baptist Union and pledges, the move made and within two years; the loan was paid off and another Manse bought.
Nazareth fellowship from 1966 to 2002
The fellowship was alive and thriving in these years, a membership of over sixty, with a choir, youth club, sister league, mother and toddler group, harvest services. There was a thriving elderly group and a magazine, Cornerstone. They were independent, if not wealthy, fellowship. Socially friendly, caring who gave a hand to anyone who sought it. Gifts were given to needy families in the community at Christmas, along with sending support to communities in Romania.
However, there were continual problems with flooding and damp, (water could get up to eight feet deep), which had begun when the canal was replaced with a road. The vestry underneath the chapel was closed in the 1980s, so the ground floor of the chapel was made into the vestry and upstairs the chapel. This major rebuild was undertaken during the Miners’ strikes.
However, by the end of the 1990s, even though the course of the river was changed, enough was enough. The council was approached for help, but in the time of Quangos, no one was going to support the building of a new church, which was on a flood plain. Even the local doctors, when approached to create new shared premises, were not interested. It would cost about £250,000 to repair, rebuild £125,000. They were not allowed to knock it down either, as it was a historic building.
Beginning to 1966
The original English Baptist church that was founded in Mountain Ash in 1850s, and started in a house near the Bruce Arms. In 1865, the Welsh Baptists were looking for larger premises, having outgrown their Old Nazareth church. This was built 1841 and was the oldest on conformist chapel in the town. It faced onto the Cardiff Road, near to the town hall. They built Rhos chapel in Oxford street and rented their old premises to the English. The building had major alterations in 1987 was rebuilt 1854 and 1901.
In 1867, the fellowship grew with a charismatic young pastor, John William Williams, who took over from Rev Howells. The fellowship was based very much on evangelism; ‘The church is people, and the chapel is the meeting place. Nazareth’s gaze was outwards to the neighbourhood, nonparochial and inter-dependant with the other baptist churches.’ There was amazing growth in those first few years.
The ‘vital’ church grew in the next few decades, ‘untrammelled by tradition.’ They had church teas, where the crockery was owned by the ladies and even brought services into a 7.30 am slot which was well attended. The Sunday afternoon service was in Welsh until 1871. The congregation grew from 400 to 700, and the services which could be rowdy were controlled by the Deacons.
In 1869, they paid £400 outright for the building, blessed by ten years of forceful, growing ministry. They wanted a baptistry, having been baptising in the Ffrwd brook. Cottages next door to the building, which had been bought with the chapel, were demolished to create the vestry.
The big strike in 1871 caused problems with raising money. But despite the recession, the spirit filled church grew. By fundraising, the chapel was reopened with gas lighting, new lino and a harmonium installed. The church reached out into the community, opening a branch Sunday school in Abercwmboi and at the Bailey’s Arms in Miskin. This later became the Mount Piskah baptist church.
Reading the account written by Robin Davies for the centenary, 1866 to 1966, you can feel the joy and excitement of a spirit filled, growing church.
John Howells 1877 -1895
It was during this time of growth that it was decided to sell the building and build new and sites were looked for. But there was procrastination and instead, new rooms were added and changed to allow for the new congregation and the spiritual life of the church, which was more important. It was a vital church and run as before by the Deacons as it entered a time of interregnum.
Rev E.D. Tidman 1897 -1913
The time of interregnum was a time of flourishing. In 1902, came one of the first cases of a church having problems with the press, where reports that the new pastor was leaving were published, only to find it was someone of the same name from another church!
Nazareth had spread her fellowship all over the valley with meeting rooms, Sundays schools and places for men to learn. The sister church in Miskin (Pisgah) separated, which was seen as a bad decision, and from there, the witness became fragmented. Each did what they wanted, and the valley was too small for such division.
However, building began with the purchase of land next to the church from Lord Aberdare, and during that time they had to have meetings in the town hall. In May 1903, they began the new church. This also heralded a time of revival in this year and 1909, with a church opening in Cfenpennar.
However, in 1909, the valley of song became the Valley of distress as economic depression hit. In 1913, it is recorded that the effective ministry in Nazareth’s history was concluded. In 1915, they quietly celebrated the 50th anniversary with a pastor less fellowship.
Rev J. Francis Jones 1916 -1934
The war years saw meetings curtailed, especially for the children with unlit streets. But, being a church of the Spirit, Nazareth allowed people from other denominations to join. A further financial crisis came in 1919, but the spiritual life thrived, standing firm together and for the 60th anniversary, they partied! The end of the war saw a welcoming home committee for the returning soldiers, along with commemorating those lost.
1925 saw the first flooding of the vestry, when the canal became the main Aberdare Abercynon road. There was also land subsidence and silting of the river. When rain fell, the church was vigilant, with things like the harmonium being put on a stage. Lighting was finally installed in 1931.
Rev J. Howard John B.A. 1936 -1946
There was much poverty in the thirties, with many people attending soup kitchens, but the evangelism of Nazareth continued, along with the churches in the valley cooperating together. The beginning of the second world war had many call ups, floodings, but evacuated children from London and Birmingham brought liveliness to the fellowship. Coloured soldiers also came to the services when stationed in the area. Little was done to the fabric of the church due to war restrictions. The church was still spiritually strong and there was a celebration tea in 1945 and a manse was bought, 2 Northland villas.
Rev B.P. Pritchard, B.A, B.D. 1947-1956
In the post-war years came more youth work, with interdenominational visits and more deacons. In 1948, the chapel was repaired, cleaned and redecorated. There was also the start of the interdenominational Good Friday services with communion.
1952, with the silver jubilee service, saw the freehold of the building being bought, but members were decreasing as was so all over the country. 1956 saw the introduction of contribution envelopes and in 1956, although there was now no pastor, there was rewiring, loud speaker and hearing aid system installed.
Yet, the Spirit was still strong in the fellowship.
Rev Robin I. Davies B.A., B.D.
A newly married pastor brought a new vision and energy to the church. A major innovation was the start of the ‘Family Service’ where all could worship and learn together. Nazareth looked at the fellowship of all Mountain Ash, not just their congregation. It saw also the end of the evening services and other congregations criticised this, but Nazareth grew, a ‘Home in Christ’. There were retreats, denominational and interdenominational holiday fellowships, and the church, a strong choir as ever, was outward looking. Mission was still important, too.
Heating was added, the freehold of the manse was bought.
Plans were made for the centenary, with fundraising for new lighting, kitchens, toilets rehousing the reed organ, new frontage for the sanctuary, removal of the communion rail
Rev. W.B. Richards
1964 The new pastor was welcomed, and they looked forward to moving on in the fellowship of Christ.