We officially moved into the Manse on August 17, 1996… Two days later Hesed, as it was to become, held its first meeting, a celebration of what God had done as we looked at Jehovah Jireh - the God who sees before and provides.
The core grew and became established. Many were unable to find anywhere to settle for Sunday worship, and it seemed that God was pushing us into forming a church. New Hedges Village Hall looked obvious for services, but at the end of August when we were exploring possibilities it was not available. However, the headmaster of Pentlepoir School was prepared to offer the school for services - but it wasn't going to be cheap. We did our sums and felt we could go ahead. Then, as happens with God, the hall in new Hedges "suddenly" became available and was offered to Hesed. It was to cost much less than Pentlepoir, and we started services on October 13, 1996 - when a certain special lady [Gladys] also celebrated her 80th birthday.
I am grateful to Stephen who has faithfully set up the church every Sunday, and, of course, Paddy and Lynda who lead the music every Sunday and Thursday. Our worship would be very much the poorer without them.
We wanted Hesed to be different. One way is that we do not take up a collection, but a plate is left by the door for those who want to make an offering. At our first service 25 people attended and we had decided to give the contents of the first offering to Hartcliffe Fellowship in Bristol to help their work in the inner city as part of their 25th Anniversary. I wonder what Hesed will be doing in 25 years! [We will find out in 2022, God willing.]
[Rev.] David Phillips and folk at Bethesda C.M. / Zion [Begelly] were very supportive. They allowed us to use their portable pulpit after the first week. Shortly after that two members of Hesed kindly donated the pulpit fall and communion cloth.
Very soon after we started (December 8), we had a real live missionary present in a service. We were glad to welcome the Hillier family before they went to Uganda with MAF. We have been able to support their work in a small way. Some members of Hesed write regularly to them and receive the MAF news as well as personal letters.
Among those who have given Hesed support are the minister and members of Caldicot Baptist Church who very generously provided us with the song books we use each week.
Our first special event was the bonfire party. It rained, but David B. managed to make most of the fireworks go off with a bang, even if the bonfire was still standing with very little fire damage the next morning.
Following the rapidly deteriorating health and subsequent death of David Phillips in February, we were asked to conduct communion services at Brooklands Nursing Home. We invited Bethesda / Zion to make them joint services and were very pleased to have Kay Phillips with us on both occasions, and promises from others if we are invited again.
At Christmas we were welcomed into both Brooklands and Pen Coed Nursing Homes to take carol services, as the church that had done so previously was not going to do them. It was pleasing that from such a small church as Hesed so many were committed to this work by giving of their time and voices. We were also asked to share in Bethesda and Zion's annual carol service in Begelly, which we were glad to do.On Christmas Eve we braved the cold and went carol singing round New Hedges. We had a good welcome from those at the Post Office, but I don't think many residents heard us over their televisions.
In February we tried something different - a Treasure Sale for Tear Fund. We raised about £100 on the day and a further £25 from books that were later sold to a dealer. It went well, but we might have hoped for a better response/attendance from the public.
Prayer has always been important to Hesed. A prayer co-ordinator was appointed right from the start. Gladys quickly drew up a 'policy statement' regarding prayer, and she is responsible for preparing and printing the weekly prayer sheets which so many of us find helpful. She also began to compile a 'testimony file', but after the first few contributions it has come to a halt, so if anyone has a story of how God has helped them in some way, please let Gladys know.
We were surprised at the number of visitors who came to Hesed this summer. some had seen the advert in the summer supplement [Tenby Observer Summer Guide], some a poster at their camp site, others from one of the Tourist Information Centres, but most from the posters in the village itself. We were especially pleased when we were allowed a permanent place for a poster in the Village Hall notice board. Amongst the visitors were Dave, Karen and family from Nottingham, who quickly made themselves at home with us, singing a duet for us on the first Sunday they were with us. They felt we needed a cross and duly supplied one. They continue to be a support and pray for the church the other 50 weeks of the year. As the season progressed some caravan owners who found us said that they expect to be with us regularly next year.
When we first started [Major] Ray Hobbins [Salvation Army Captain, Tenby and then Aberystwyth], who was on holiday at the time, drew a first logo for us, but it proved difficult to copy. Shortly afterwards two members of staff at Greenhill School drew a logo which we used on posters etc., until Tina drew the one we use now and is well recognised in the locality.
Many months were spent trying to form a constitution for Hesed. There were several letters and phone calls with the Charity Commissioners, but we received advice that it would probably be better not to be restricted by their strict rules if we could avoid it. However, the constitution we adopted in June should be 'Charity Commission friendly'. We looked at the Evangelical Movement of Wales and eventually applied for membership with the FIEC. We had a visit from two officials. None of us who attended felt very enthusiastic about going ahead, so when we heard that they had reservations about our constitution, we felt it was right to withdraw our application. One of the main reasons for their reluctance was the provision made to make sure that the Fellowship does not become too insular, by allowing Christians from other churches to act as trustees. Mrs. Kay Philips, of Bethesda and Zion C.M. Churches was appointed as trustee treasurer. Today we are still a totally independent evangelical church.
Given our concern as to whether we could afford the rent of the hall, who could have imagined that after out first year we would have over £1,000 in the bank - after expenses and giving quite a lot away?! The only sadness here was the resignation of Denise as Treasurer as a result of her illness. the average giving over the year and a bit was £38 per week, with total income of nearly £2,500. Gladys wrote a poetry book, and the sales of this book have enhanced the accounts. One major step of faith was my appointment as Pastor last June with a salary to be paid from the Anniversary. With benefits as they are today, we should be a few pence a week better off, but at the time of writing we are still waiting to see if this will be the case.
Benevolence covers many things like flowers for the sick, meals for the homeless, and small "loans" or gifts to members in financial difficulty. On one occasion we found a young lad on the streets of Tenby who had lost all his money, had been sleeping rough and wanted to get home from Tenby. After a meal at the Manse we put him on the train to Cardiff.
We are greatly blessed to have Margaret as our Pastoral Worker, and she regularly visits people inside and outside of Hesed, in their homes and in hospital. Her faithful work and reliability has taken a big load and worry off my shoulders.
Hesed started on Thursday evenings, and over the last year we have studied Joseph, Gideon, ‘Preparing for Easter’, ‘Caring for Emotional Needs’, and Esther.
On Sundays other than special occasions we have looked at ‘Promises’, ‘The 10 Commandments’, ‘Banners’ and the book of Colossians. Shortly after our constitution meeting we held out first public service of the Breaking of Bread. We were few in number, but it was significant to many. There will be the Breaking of Bread on Sundays and Thursdays from time to time. The only set occasion is the annual Covenant Service in January.
We try to record our services and these are available to anyone on request. One housebound lady gets them regularly by our "mail order" service as does our Sunday School teacher, Margaret.
I have an extensive tape library of about 1,000 teaching tapes, mostly from 'big name' preachers [mostly David Pawson and Roger Price] but a few are mine. A listing is available on request. [Alas, the tapes have since suffered mould damage; the few that survived have been redistributed.]
Food takes a big place in the lives of us all, and we have enjoyed several meals together through the year. Most memorable for me was the Passover meal in March. Maybe we will do something for Advent. One of the jobs that I have been relieved of is that of Sunday catering and I am grateful to Debbie for that.
For those who like statistics, our average Sunday attendance is 20 including the children. Our all time low is 11 (twice) and our all time high is 32 in August with visitors.
Well that was one year, what of the future? Initially I am looking into registration with the Inland Revenue. If granted we will be able to get the tax currently paid on our bank account and reclaim tax from covenanted gifts. More on this on Thursdays as and when information becomes available. [Happily, it was granted, and for about 20 years hundreds of pounds was added each year to the charitable donations received through Hesed and PPSC.] Still on finance, against the rules of inflation we have been told that the rent we pay on the hall may well be reduced a little from December.
I am hoping that we will be able to prepare a welcome leaflet [we did!], perhaps a little like our "Why Hesed" sheet, that will be suitable for visitors and appropriate for door-to-door distribution. We have not done any overt evangelism yet, and this year we may find a way of introducing ourselves more to the local community in a non-threatening way. I shall probably be mentioning the 'Jesus' film and the video version of 'Journey Into Life' at some point during the coming year.
I am conscious that I am very English, but I hope that we will be able to project Jesus in a way that is appropriate and acceptable to both English and Welsh speakers within their culture. Watch the Tenby Observer 'gleanings' for our first move in this direction.
We have just begun a series on Thursdays entitled "Overcoming Anxiety and Conflict" with a subtitle "Peace"; and I expect to preach a major series leading up to, through and after Christmas appropriate to the season. This is scheduled to start on November 23. One special occasion to look forward to it a celebration of Purim. (All who studied the book of Esther will know ALL about it!) According to the diary it will be Thursday, March 12, 1998.
Some people have asked for an evening service and we are looking into this and various suggestions have been made as to where and when as well as an appropriate format. The future looks… busy.
Rev. Peter Richmond, October 13, 1997