The Covid crisis has shaken churches out of their comfort zone, and by forcing them to embrace new ways of practicing their faith may save many churches from slow and terminal decline, says a Welsh Christian leader in his New Year’s message.  

 As the Union of Welsh Independent Churches celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2022, the last two years have been the most challenging in its history, said the Revd Dyfrig Rees, the Union’s General Secretary.  

“For the first time in our history, chapels were closed or restricted for lengthy periods, with the link between buildings and their congregations broken.  

 “But the way in which many ministers and congregations rose to that challenge by using Zoom to hold virtual services and internet platforms to proclaim the Gospel has created a new dynamic and re-energised many churches. We were reminded that the church is a body of believers, not merely a building.  

 “Instead of a congregation of a few dozen or fewer on a Sunday morning, a Welsh language service prepared by an individual church may attract over 500 viewers on YouTube. Such spiritual provision proved immensely valuable during periods of lockdown, but remained popular even after restrictions were eased.  

 “The Union is inviting hundreds of member churches to apply, through its Innovation and Investment Fund, for substantial grants to invest in innovative projects, which can include building a strong internet presence, in parallel with projects enabling congregations to take a fresh approach to how chapels might be put to greater community use, while remaining as places of worship.   

 “There’s no doubt that 2022 will be a crucial year for our churches. For some, the pandemic’s disruption may be the final straw which may lead to closure, but for others it will be the beginning of a new era in which they embrace fresh and exciting ways of practicing the Christian faith amongst the congregation and in the community.”

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