A Welsh church has celebrated an extraordinary baptismal service, remarkable both for the candidates and for the location.
Tredegarville Baptist Church, located in Cardiff city centre, baptised 40 young adults in the cold February sea at the resort of Barry Island – and most of them were refugees and asylum-seekers from Iran and Afghanistan.
Reported by The Baptist Times, the baptism was the second in less than a month. It was conducted by Tredegarville's pastor, Rev Phylip Rees, though the baptisms themselves were carried out by leaders of the congregation in pairs.
The event was a public witness to the candidates' faith. Supporters boiled kettles on the beach and made hot drinks for them as they came out of the water and bystanders asked about the meaning of the event.
Rees told Christian Today the church had "a big ministry in reaching Muslims with the unconditional love of Jesus Christ".
"We do not compromise on the Gospel message, but the initial catalyst used by God was in my wife and I inviting a young Iranian couple to live in our family home. It started there, and I cannot emphasise enough how important the ministry of hospitaility is to the cause of Jesus Christ."
He said: "Those who are in Christ are expected to evangelise in the city centre every week and this and personal witnessing brings a steady flow of new people to the church.''
The church has engaged in ministry to Muslim refugees and asylum seekers – in addition to students and other internationals – for the last 13 years. The largest language group is Farsi, spoken in Iran.
Two midweek Bible studies at the church have now divided into two sittings, with an average attendance of 70 people. The first session is a rolling programme to introduce people to the basic beliefs and behaviours of Christians, followed by preparation for baptism, while the second is a Bible study for those who are endeavouring to live the disciplined Christian life.
Rees told Christian Today he was committed to outdoor baptisms. "We have lost more than what we have gained in building baptismal pools into our churches," he said. "In fact if I was building a new church, I would not have a baptismal pool in it as we have sanitised baptisms. What is more, I would not baptize anyone who has a problem with being baptised in cold water, and I told those who were being baptised that the baptismal service would take place even if there was a blizzard and if they wanted to be baptized then be there even if they had to walk to Barry from Cardiff!"