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Church Photos

The church is the people not the building! The people who believe in Jesus, the body of Christ, the sheep for whom he died. The church is not a building. Nevertheless I do like photographing church buildings, especially when then say something about the things God has done in the past, or is doing now. Here are some of my favourites.

Moriah Chapel Loughor, Swansea, Wales.

The home church of revivalist Evan Roberts. It saw revival break out at the end of October 1904, which brought the revival to national prominence. It is still an active church, part of the Presbyterian Church of Wales. Moriah Chapel website.

Barvas Parish Church, Isle of Lewis, Scotland.

It was at this church, on the Isle of Lewis, that Duncan Campbell started his mission in 1949, at the beginning of the Hebridean revival. Duncan Campbell described revival as "a community saturated with God".

Rowlands Chapel, Llangeitho, Wales.

One of the centres for the 18th century Methodist revival in Wales. Daniel Rowlands had started his ministry as a curate in the local parish. Having been converted and caught up in the Methodist movement, he was eventually forced out of the established Anglican church and had his own chapel built by supporters. Regarded as one of the finest British preachers ever. He preached in Welsh.

Rowlands Chapel, Llangeitho, Wales.

The immaculate inside of Rowlands' chapel. The door to the pulpit is straight from the outside. Photos taken in the 1980s.

Yoida Full Gospel Church, Seoul S. Korea.

At the end of the 20th century this was reputed to be the church with the world's largest membership. Estimates vary but it has been many hundreds of thousands. It was held up as an example of church growth. It had many problems, but then growing churches do!

Yoida Full Gospel Church, Seoul S. Korea.

On the day in 2010 that I visited the church, I estimated from the size of the building, and the number of services, that around 150,000 people attended in that room. I am told that there were other rooms where staff (Sunday school etc) had a remote link. Also there were other satellite congregations on remote link. The founding pastor, Yonggi Cho, preached and led communion.

Closed Church, Morecambe, England.

An unknown church in Morecambe, England, clearly closed with a for sale sign displayed. Photo taken 2013. Someone has daubed "Revelation 18" on the side, a passage that refers to the fall of "Babylon". In Revelation Babylon refers directly to the Roman Empire, but can be interpreted as any corrupt, worldly system. Rev 18:4, says: “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues." My guess is the dauber attributed church decline to its compromise with the world.

Former Highland Tolbooth, St. John's Church, Edinburgh.

Originally built to house the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, it later became a parish church with both Gaelic and English services. It closed in 1979, and the building has found a new use as "The Hub", the home of Edinburgh's International Festival, and a cafe. It is typical of many closed city centre churches, whose demise is a complex mixture of causes: church decline, denominational merger, past over-building, decline of a language and depopulation of city centres.

Former Zoar Welsh Independent Chapel, Llantrisant Wales.

Founded in 1862 as a break away from the Bethel Chapel, also of the same "Annibynwyr" denomination in Llantrisant (see below). The building above was built in 1905 to house a congregation of many hundreds, with the services in Welsh. It closed at the turn of the century. The decline of the Welsh language in this part of Wales would have been a major contributor to its numerical decline.

Former Peniel Chapel, Llantrisant, Wales.

Peniel chapel was originally Welsh speaking Calvinist Methodist. As English became more common it started a sister chapel across the road. Later the denomination changed its name to the Presbyterian Church of Wales. As numbers fell the two congregations merged back together in Peniel as a bilingual church. The building opposite was used by a Pentecostal church until they moved elsewhere and it became a house. Peniel closed early 21st century. As yet the building has not found a new use. Such closures reflect the inability of the post-war Christian church to pass the faith on to the next generation.

Former Bethel Chapel, Llantrisant Wales.

In the distance is Bethel chapel, which was opened in 1808 by the Welsh Independent movement, the "Annibynwyr", although it was known locally as the Old Upper Meeting House. In 1851 it had an average Sunday attendance of 421. In 1862 a split took place and most of the members left to form Zoar chapel (above). The few remaining members were too few for the building and chose to meet in farms instead. The building was sold to the parish church as a parish hall. The parish church is in the left of this photo (and the photo on the right). The hall is in use to this day and has recently been refurbished.

Parish Church, Llantrisant, Wales

The oldest parts of the current church building of Llantrisant parish date back to Norman times, though most is 14th and 16th century. There was a major refurbishment in Victorian times. Worship on the site can be dated back to the 700s AD. Originally the worshippers would have been in the Celtic church, but by the time the current building had been started they would have been subsumed into the Catholic church that dominated Western Christendom at that time. By 1386 the church was under Tewkesbury Abbey, so that at the Reformation, when it became Anglican, it became part of the diocese of Gloucester, not a Welsh diocese. Only in 1885 was it transferred to Llandaff diocese, which since 1920 has been part of the Church in Wales. Churches with long histories see many denominational and organisational changes. It remains an active church.

St.. Mungo's, Balerno, Scotland.

Tucked away in the Village of Balerno, on the outskirts of Edinburgh, this is the Church where I first publicly confessed Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. An evangelical church that drew, and still draws, people from across the denominational spectrum. The building above seats less than a hundred, so with a congregation of 150 the decision was made in the early 80s to meet in local schools. From 1984 the church had its main meetings in Balerno High School and has subsequently grown to about 500. A text book case in church growth!

St.. Mungo's, Balerno, Scotland.

A photo from the 1980s, showing a clear sign of the charismatic renewal of the times - the projector screen! The circular window to the top predated the renewal but was certainly prophetic: The Holy Spirit as a dove dive-bombing with fire!

Argyle Presbyterian Church, Swansea, Wales.

This was the church that I spent the first five years of my life, though I remember little of it. Apparently the church ministry had been liberalising for some time and things came to a head in the early 60s when Biblical doctrines were being openly denied from the pulpit. My parents left the church and I ended up in the Sunday school of a different church, attended by my school friends. The numbers in Argyle fell during the 60s and 70s and it eventually closed and became housing. The Welsh Presbyterian church was the original Welsh Calvinistic Methodists who were instrumental in all the revivals in Wales, including 1904/5. My mother was brought up in this church, taught by Sunday school teachers converted in the revival. But a generation later all was forgotten by the leader, and the older people who remembered more godly days were let down.

Melodyland Christian Center, Anaheim, CA, USA.

Melodyland was an influential centre for all things charismatic and Pentecostal. The church started in the 1960s and took over the Melodyland theatre in 1969, taking its name for the church. The pastor was Ralph Wilkerson. The photo was taken in 1995 when I was at a conference at the nearby Disneyland hotel.

When the pastor retired in 1998, the campus was sold and redeveloped. The church continued under new leadership, a new name and in a different location. Its history is typical of contemporary churches, initially ground-breaking but not outlasting the founders without large changes. They are rarely ground-breaking in subsequent generations.

Sibembe, Church of Uganda.

Sibembe is one of over 20 congregations in the parish of Bubuto in Eastern Uganda. Although the Anglican church had been in Uganda since the 19th century, it experienced rapid growth in the post-war period due to a renewal movement known as the Balakole, the "saved ones". Sibembe church started life as the fruit of that renewal movement. A generation or so on and it is still a growing church.

Sibembe, Church of Uganda.

The current building for Sibembe church is too small. Work on a new building is in progress. As part of a large multi-congregation parish with only one ordained minister, Sibembe like many Church of Uganda churches, is run by lay people with a lay reader and "Leader of Christians" taking services most of the time. Growing churches push the boundaries of what are meant by "lay" and "ordained".

Methodist Church, St. David's, Wales.

The Methodist church has its roots in good discipleship. John Wesley, and others, were not content to just make converts, they wanted believers to grow in faith and maturity and become strong Christians. The Methodists set up the class system whereby believers could be discipled at a level appropriate to their maturity. They did not rely on Sunday services and sermons to teach their flock. Nor were the classes just Bible knowledge. The knowledge needed to be applied. The church above in St. David's was one of the most westerly Wesleyan Methodist churches in Wales. Sadly it is now closed. At some point in its history Methodism stopped making disciples, and decline is the inevitable result.

Bukhumwa Christian Church, near Mbale, Uganda.

This church is in rural Eastern Uganda, not far from the town of Mbale. This was a relatively new church planted in an area with few churches. In this setting, teaching people the Christian faith, and how to live it out, requires much dedication and long term commitment by the leaders and the people. Part of developing that commitment is to have a membership system with responsibilities and privileges. As such there is a wide discrepancy between attendance and membership with many attendees not in a position to make a membership commitment. Such is the pattern of a growing church. I have preached in this church twice.

Methodist Church and Ballistic Missile, Warren, NH, USA

Not every church can have its own missile defence system! In the small town of Warren, New Hampshire the Methodist church has a short range Redstone, ballistic missile next to it, fortunately without the engine, guidance system and payload! The missile was brought from Alabama to Warren after it was decommissioned in order to encourage interest in space travel. It was placed at the historical centre next to the church. Although the Redstone was used for nuclear payloads when based in Germany, it was also the basis of the rocketry for the early space programme. It makes an iconic image for a church "on the defensive!"

First Congregational Church, Williamsburg, MA, USA .

A typical New England congregational church built in 19th century Greek Revival style. Congregationalism flourished from the beginning of the colonies in what is now the USA. In the 18th century it contributed to the revivals there, but declined in the latter half of the 20th century. This grand building now seems far too big for the needs of the small town of Williamsburg and declining Christian faith. The tell-tale "thermometer" is outside the church to help it raise funds for its upkeep. Yet the grandeur and beauty of this building still remind people of the glory of God, even in a more secular age.

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