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Wales: retreat centre counts its blessings

Rob James talks to Roy Godwin about the extraordinary story of his retreat centre in Wales, and his new book on blessing ...

Rob James talks to Roy Godwin about the extraordinary story of his retreat centre in Wales, and his new book on blessing ...

Alasdair MacIntyre tells the imaginary tale of the day a stranger approached him at a bus stop and said: “The name of the common wild duck is Histrionicus Histrionicus Histrionicus.”

He says that if we want to make sense of stories like this we need to appreciate their wider context. The stranger could have been deranged – or he might have been a member of MI5 passing on information to his handler. As MacIntyre rightly says, particular events can only be fully understood when we know the bigger story.

Roy Godwin clearly understands his place in God’s story. Executive Director of Ffald-y-Brenin Trust, a Missional House of Prayer and Christian Retreat Centre in West Wales, he is also the co-author of two very challenging books – The Grace Outpouring (2008) and the recently released The Way of Blessing.

Roy and his wife Daphne were not excited at the thought of settling in Ffald-y-Brenin at first. Indeed Roy readily admits that they were “reluctant recruits” who felt that their desire to be evangelists would be stifled in “a remote corner of Pembrokeshire where almost everyone who visited was already a Christian”.

But God knew what He was doing, and Roy was given the assurance that God would send people to them.

And He has – with the most staggering results. Conversions, healings, and large numbers of visitors from all around the world are now part of their daily experience. And blessing has become part of their daily routine too, flowing as it does from their conviction that Ffald-y-Brenin should be a “colony” of heaven.

“The idea of colonies of heaven, a term used by a Celtic saint, inspired Ian Bradley to name a book after it, and it began to change my understanding of basic principles of developing Christian community,” Roy explains.

“The attributes include: an understanding that all are welcome; of prayer being at the heart; a simplicity of life; a welcoming hospitality; a healing place; a place where people are quick to forgive; an admonition not to take offence; a place where mercy always triumphs over judgment and leaders who don’t climb up the ladder but dig down deeper, so they might be a servant of all.

“These communities were mission-shaped in the context of a saving God and a kingdom to come which was breaking in on earth already. They were what I longed to see. Little did I realise how effective a mission was about to break out in a torrent to the nations from our little centre.”

The Celts also understood the importance of blessing people says Roy. Indeed blessing others is, for Roy, a key Christian ministry, and as a result of this emphasis he claims God has done the most amazing things among them, often very unexpectedly and frequently through the most unexpected people. People like Kelly, for example, who suddenly regained her sight after eight or nine years of total blindness.

Now there will be those that will be sceptical of Roy’s claims but he is very happy to discuss the constant stream of miracles that they claim to have witnessed in Ffald-y-Brenin. “We sometimes have medical evidence,” he says, “And we never repeat a story second hand”.

He continues: “One of the interesting criticisms made by Christians about us is the lack of hype. They say we are so quiet and that Ffald-y-Brenin is so quiet. People often come looking for all the noise and the excitement, and they find that’s it’s quiet, calm and steady and we seek to keep it like that.”

In fact Roy would go further.

“What impacts me most personally,” he says, “is when people have an unexpected encounter with God face to face during their time here that completely transforms their understanding of who God is and what he is like. And that in turn completely transforms their appreciation of who they are, because they see God and see themselves in a completely renewed way.”

Ffald-y-Brenin may be off the beaten track but it’s clearly having a worldwide impact, not least in Africa, Alaska, Europe, South East Asia and Australasia. But Roy is eager to stress that 'The way of blessing' is not so much a technique as an expression of what it means to belong to the Kingdom of God.

As he says “God releases the Spirit to work afresh and anew in our lives, through our actions and in the places we inhabit so that we might be carriers of the presence of God. We then proclaim the blessings of His presence.”    

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