Ministry in Wales… some observations

I’m a ‘big picture person’. This is slang talk for keep me away from the admin! I don’t handle details all that well and I thrive under the festering mold of the chaos theory.

I really am a big picture person though. I’ve got a knack for seeing a path through the mire, even if I haven’t a clue what the mire is.

Big picture – so what? Well, I now work in a completely different country and a totally unique culture. I work in North Wales. I’ve been here for almost four years (after seven in London), and it doesn’t take a genius to know the big picture here is incredibly different to the rest of the UK.

Wales is a real gem. It’s an incredibly beautiful place full of wonderfully unique people.

I’ve taken some notes, talked to some Welsh-ministry sages, learned some Cymraeg and eaten a fair wack of Bara Brith. I love it too (well not the Bara Brith, that tastes like snot). Wales is a real gem. It’s an incredibly beautiful place full of wonderfully unique people.

I love Wales. So much so that I became a Christian here when I was 11 (in the town I’m now working in). I also gave my life to Youthwork here when I was 12 at a Roy Crowne talk. My second name is even Welsh! Gough means ‘the red one’ and if you knew me, you’d understand the subtext to that and why I have a black and white avatar.

I’m not Welsh, however – even if my second name is. I lived in England until I was 24. I love Wales but I could be totally wrong in all my observations. To some degree, I will always be an outsider.

In no particular order here are some of my observations of the unique big picture difference between Wales and the rest of the UK, specifically England.

  • North and South Wales are in many ways different countries. Both are incredibly beautiful, organic, and artistic – but the lack of a Motorway really makes a significant difference to the connectivity of these two areas. They probably should be treated distinctly.
  • Wales and England are really different countries. Culture, values, education, agriculture, politics, statistics, food, transport, history, tourism, poverty and local communities all contain significant differences. Wales is not England’s little sister.
  • The history, culture, and attitudes behind the Welsh language(s) are complex, really important, and should not be taken for granted! Don’t forget that around 42% of the people in Wales have at least a highschool understanding of it.
  • The history and ancient cultural distinctions in Wales are really, really valuable and should be honoured. Much of this can be traced back to the very earliest cultures in Europe. Remember that Wales was totally distinct from England until just less than 500 yeas ago.
  • Ministry geography in England tends to cluster around cities and towns. Ministry geography in Wales is connected through valleys and corridors.
  • There is an incredible mix of feelings lingering from the Welsh Revival a century ago. In some areas its a banner flying high, in others an incredibly sad monument to yesteryear. Everywhere however, has a longing expectation for the next one!
  • Much of Wales is driven by the pursuit of the organic, the outdoor, the flexible, the growing, the artistic, the natural, the unique, the hand-crafted, the home-made, and the vocational – not in the post-modern liberal arts style, but the ancient space-&-community-creating style.
  • There is a real disconnect (in North Wales at least) from much of the popular Christian culture in England. This is not just because of the larger rural-urban ratio here. Distance, accessibility, local resources, and a deeply knitted sense of community makes it less appealing.
  • Ecumenical ministries and charity partnerships are not only very welcome in North Wales but are absolutely required to have any sort of real effect past isolated local ministries.
  • There is much less obvious distinction between social classes in Wales than in England. Put another way, class is simply less of an issue!
  • The alleged ‘anti-English’ discrimination the Welsh have is, in my opinion, nothing compared to the tongue-in-cheek, derogatory discrimination the other way around. Wales has a proud heritage and a besieged history. Of course they will fight to defend this and absolutely should. Much of the anti-Welsh humour is incredibly embarrassing and completely baseless.
  • Oh, and of course the Welsh prefer rugby, and are flippin good at it!

I’m going to post separately on church behavior and denomination differences. So watch this space.

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