Page last updated at 14:36 GMT, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 15:36 UK
Black mountains' Baptist chapel

Pen-yr-heol Baptist chapel
Many local chapels have dipping pools for baptisms.

Pen-yr-heol Baptist chapel held its first baptism for more than 70 years in 2009 when five of the regular congregation took the plunge. One of them, Paul Outhwaite tellls us more about the chapel.

Pen-yr-heol Baptist chapel is about 4 km directly south of the village of Llanigon, high up in the Black Mountains.

The name Pen-yr-heol is descriptive of its remote, elevated location at the end of a country lane next to a farmhouse of the same name. It never had a biblical name as common with many non-conformist places of worship.

Its history dates back to approximately 1750 when meetings of Baptists were held nearby at Maesdorglwyd.

Despite the logistics of holding our baptism at Pen-yr-heol we were all determined to have the ceremony there
Paul Outhwaite

In 1758 a Baptist preacher, John Thomas (1719-1786) moved from the church at Aberduar to become the minister for the local meeting house at Maesyberthlan.

On his death he became the first person to be buried at Pen-yr-heol and he donated funds of £240 "for the benefit of the church forever".

A plaque, sadly damaged, commemorates his donation.

It is not clear exactly when the first chapel was built but it is widely believed that this money was used to construct the first place of worship.

We do know that in 1860 a re-opening took place and numbers were recorded of an evening attendance of 173.

Dipping pool

Although baptism numbers were not recorded, membership was 65 and all these were probably baptised in the dipping pool just above where the chapel now stands.

Since 1910 numbers of regular worshipers has declined from about 80 to the present day numbers of about 12 and we know that there hasn't been a baptism for at least 70 to 80 years.

As congregation and membership numbers reduced the baptism numbers also fell. The dipping pool, sadly, has silted up and is beyond reasonable repair.

Many local chapels such as Talgarth and Glasbury have dipping pools within the structure of the chapel which can be heated and as a consequence of this baptisms have been held at other locations other than Pen-yr-heol.

It must have been a test of religious faith to be baptised in a muddy mountain stream directly flowing off the Black Mountains.

Baptist churches practice 'Believers' Baptism' following the command of Jesus in the Gospels, and following the example of the early Church where it was the normal mode of entry into the fellowship of the local church.


It is a clear and very public statement of belief, indicating by outward symbolism the inward change of heart consciously made in submitting one's life to Jesus Christ.

The symbolism is a declaration of a resolve to die to one's old way of living and, as the candidate rises from the water, declaring one's resolve to live a new life following the teaching and example of Jesus.

The baptisms taking place at Pen-yr-heol Baptist Chapel, in the foothills of the Black mountains, on 14 June 2009 was the first there for over eighty years, although there are present members of the church who have been baptized elsewhere.

They took place in a portable open-air pool, an integral part of a service of worship, which comprised, as is usual, hymns, prayers, readings from the Bible and preaching.

Each candidate was asked to confirm their faith in Jesus Christ and their commitment to following him in daily living.

They were then be baptized in the name of the Trinity, i.e. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, after which they were be prayed for.


They were formally received into the membership of the church at a service of Holy Communion on the following Sunday.

Baptist churches are self-governing but inter-dependent churches grouped together into Associations, in this instance the Breconshire Baptist Association.

The Baptist Associations in Wales are then grouped together in the Baptist Union of Wales, which itself function in two 'wings', and English-speaking wing and a Welsh-speaking wing, both of which warmly co-operate together.

The Union provides resources for ministry and mission together with advice, including legal advice, for the churches.

Despite the logistics of holding our baptism at Pen-yr-heol we were all determined to have the ceremony there.

It is one of the most stunningly beautiful places to be. With numbers falling at other chapels and many being sold off for development our numbers are increasing and the congregation getting younger.

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