Bethel Church was started in 1991 as an outreach work from Ely Presbyterian Church. It was recognised as a church in its own right in 1996 and four years later joined the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of England and Wales – a larger network of Presbyterian churches.
The church was formed with the vision of serving the rapidly growing community on the North West edge of Cardiff. Since there were few other churches in that area, the core group who were part of this new work were eager to share the message of Christ and his salvation with those living in the Michaelston area. That vision is still very much at the heart of the church’s life and work today.
Being a church that is ‘Presbyterian’ reflects the fact that Bethel’s roots go much further back than the date it began, or even than the mother-church in Ely out of which it came. Presbyterians have been one of the four main branches of the church in the British Isles and beyond for over four centuries (and, minus the label, right back to the days of the early church).
At one level the name ‘Presbyterian’ describes the way the church is led: by elders [presbyters] chosen from within the congregation. These men are the spiritual leaders of the church and not only make decisions about the direction it should go, but ensure that the pastoral needs of the people are met. The minister of the church is responsible for teaching and preaching and is part of the shared leadership provided by the eldership [or ‘Session’] as a whole.
At another level, being ‘Presbyterian’ is closely linked to what we believe as a church. Throughout their history since 1647 Presbyterian churches around the world have held to the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms as the summary of what we believe. And that too is a key element in what has shaped Bethel as a church throughout its own history.
In the wider history of the church in Wales, the influence of Presbyterians has been significant, especially since the Revival that occurred during the 18th Century. This was heavily influenced by the Methodists – newly formed under the leadership of John Wesley – so in Wales they became known as the Calvinistic Methodists, with men like Howell Harris, who ministered especially in the county of Glamorgan, among their key leaders. A fuller account of this body can be found in, The Calvinistic Methodist Fathers of Wales by John Morgan Jones.
We believe that history is important, not as some dead record of our past, but a living reminder to us that our present identity is deeply rooted in the life, work and testimony of those who have gone before us in the church. Each generation of God’s people is called to stand on the shoulders of its predecessors.