The start of the Apostolic church in the North Monmouthshire Valleys.
Following the 1904 revival in Wales, a number of groups, individuals and churches were continuing to know God’s blessing and seek God for more. In the period following revival many began to discover the Baptism with the Holy Spirit as taught in the book of Acts chapter 2.
During this time there was a group of believers who began to gather together in Brynmawr. Amongst them were Jacob Purnell, brothers Thomas & James Seabourne, & Ephraim Morris.
Various itinerant preachers would visit the group in Brynmawr one of whom was Mr Price Davies, from Dowlais, who would become of influence for the Assemblies of God in this region of the country. Another was Pastor Frank Hodges, from Hereford, who would become of influence for the Apostolic church.
Over time the group separated into two, one group led by Mr Charles Noble would later join the Assemblies of God. The other consisting of Jacob Purnell, Thomas Seabourne, James Seabourne and Ephraim Morris began to meet in their homes at Tarfanaubach and Beaufort, also loaning the Sardis (Jim John’s) Chapel in Beaufort. Pastor Hodges and His wife would continue to visit the Beaufort group. In 1921 Jacob and others from the group travelled to Penygroes (Carmarthenshire) for the Apostolic church international convention and to enquire more about the Apostolic church. It was arranged that whilst on a visit to Abergavenny the President Pastor Daniel Powell Williams and others would come to Beaufort for one day.
The group returned home, but Jacob had far bigger plans. The group arranged for large posters to be made which read:
RED LETTER DAY AUGUST 1921
APOSTOLIC CHURCH CONVENTION AT SARDIS CHURCH (kindly lent)
AUGUST 27th over AUGUST 29th
10.30am Communion Service
6pm Evening Service
10am Parent & Toddler group
5.30pm Kidz Club (4-12's)
11am Silver Liners (over 60's)
10am Coffee & Craft
7pm Bible Study
10am Prayer Meeting
Jacob met the train carrying the group of Apostolic pastors on the platform at Beaufort Station, showing them the poster. Seeing the poster the Pastors got off the train. What to be done? Pastor D P Williams prayed Pastor Jones Williams the prophet brought God’s response. Two of the delegation were to continue on to Abergavenny and when finished would return to Beaufort. Pastor D P Williams and the Prophet Jones Williams were to stay. As a result of this small convention and the prophetic leading of God’s Holy Spirit on 29th August 1921 the Beaufort Apostolic church began with seven members, and Jacob Purnell recognised as the Pastor.
That same year the Abergavenny group that had been visited by the Apostolic delegation also joined the Apostolic church.
The work progressed rapidly and within just a few short years the Beaufort Apostolic church increased to 80 members. People were saved, many healed and many miracles took place. God saved some real rough diamonds in those early days including a local fishmonger, Mr Porter, who would later relocate his family to Pontllanfraith and there begin an Apostolic assembly. Another was Mr Philip Williams later to become Pastor Philip Williams. Pastor Phil as he was affectionately known would pioneer the work in Ebbw Vale. The work was growing rapidly and new Apostolic churches were being opened all across the Monmouthshire Valleys. Also contact was made with other Pentecostal believers meeting in small groups and invitations given to become Apostolic churches.
Ebbw Vale, Brynmawr, Rassau, Clydach, Blaenafon, Cwm, Waunlwyd, Llanileth, Pontllanfraith onwards the work progressed. Bargoed, Fleur de Lys, Newport, the work continued at a steady pace.
By 1932 the spread of Apostolic Churches had reached Newport where Pastor Purnell was now relocated. In his 1933 account Pastor Purnell writes “there are now 20 churches with one full time Apostle and one full time Pastor and many faithful officers overseeing the work.”
The work of the Apostolic church continued throughout the war years. One of our retired elders, Mr John Badcock from Cwm, recalls as a boy hearing the sound of bombs exploding down in Newport as his mother walked them to the evening services at the chapel in Cwm.
In the late 1940’s God visited the Apostolic church with a fresh stirring of His Holy Spirit, again many were saved including some who would themselves become church ministers.
Over the next several decades the work continued. Providing many men in ministry who would go on to serve in the Apostolic church. Including Pastor Melvyn Seabourne who became President of the Apostolic Church UK from 1981 -1986.
In the 1980’s a fresh outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit impacted yet another generation as countless young people had life transforming encounters with Jesus.
Over the last 95 years many lives have been positively impacted by the Holy Spirit working through the Apostolic church. From the many new converts and of the many children that have grown up in the Apostolic church have risen numerous ministries and gifted individuals. Amongst them, Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, Teachers, Elders, Deacons or Deaconesses for the service of God in the Apostolic church and some also in other denominations. Others also becoming missionaries in foreign fields.
With the changing social and economic climate of the South Wales valleys, the need for small local chapels has become less and less. Today people choosing to travel to church in much the same way they commute to work or travel to the supermarket to shop. As a result, over recent decades, many of the smaller local Apostolic churches have closed, many being amalgamated with neighbouring assemblies.
We look back on the rich and fruitful legacy left by previous generations. Those who gave sacrificially of their time, money and effort for the Glory of God. Today the work of the Apostolic church continues, as God by His Holy Spirit reaches today’s generation. We look forwards to the years ahead as God continues to use men and women for his service knowing that we are made all the richer by those who have gone before us.