Bilingual Heritage Shapes Welsh Methodism

( [email protected] ) Jul 08, 2003 11:06 PM EDT

Welsh Methodists with a daffodil, national flower, a leek and a red dragon, which all are traditional symbols of Wales, welcomed delegates to the opening of the 2003 British Methodist Church Conference on June 28, UMNS reported on 8 July.

15,000 Of Britain's 320,000 Methodists are Welsh Methodists. And 3,000 of those worship in Welsh-speaking Methodist churches.

Methodist Church started by John Wesley in 18th century. He first preached in Wales or Cymru, as it is called in Welsh, in 1739.

Because John could not speak Welsh well, Wesleyan Methodism grew in English-speaking regions prdominantly, according to Sister Eluned Williams, president of Welsh Methodism for the past six years.

In 1800 Thomas Coke launched a serious mission to Welsh-speakers which resulted in the growth of both Welsh and English language Methodist chapels.

At the 2003 British Methodist Conference, Williams said Welsh was banned from public life, even in churches, because of the 1536 Act of Union when Wales officially became part of the United Kingdom.

Some people got fired by the reason they speak Welsh at the working place.

Now, despite this painful legacy, modern-day Wales is a bilingual country within the UK and the Welsh Methodist Church is also a bilingual faith community within British Methodism. Welsh Methodism makes up three out of the British Methodist Church’s 33 districts. They include the English-speaking Southwest and Northwest districts and the Welsh language Y Gymanfa District, which takes in all of Wales.

Wales's Romantic landscapes, famous sons and daughters popular hymns are well known. But Williams pointed "the people of Wales only look back to the glory days."

"I believe we need to be more visionary and adventurous," Williams said.

Nowadays Welsh-speaking churches are losing members faster than the English-speaking Welsh counterparts. "Especially young Welsh speakers don't come to church at all," Williams said.

"Welsh is the oldest surviving language in all of Europe. I believe there's a future for Methodism in Wales as a body that is together."