The History of Ebenezer
The story of the church began in 1875 when a group of Swansea Christians, concerned for the increasing population in the Waun Wen area, formed themselves into an English Baptist Church. The first meetings were held in a home, and then in a wooden building. However, by November of the same year, the foundation stone was laid for Tabernacle chapel in Skinner Street. In February 1876 the first pastor, Rev. J. D. Jones, was called and the new building was opened in July 1876. The church was served by a number of ministers until 1911 when the Rev. R. J. Willoughby came to Tabernacle. He continued to pastor the church until April 1951 and is remembered with affection by some of the older members. During his pastorate a reviving of the work took place. An extract from the 75th Church Anniversary booklet records, ‘shortly after Mr Willoughby took charge a revival broke out amongst those attending the church, many were converted and a number of backsliders returned to the fold. This was followed a few months later by another glorious wave of spiritual power, the outstanding feature being the conversion of about 20 young men who readily took their part in the spiritual life of Tabernacle.’ The Rev. R. J. Willoughby was followed by the Rev. W J. Evans, who was pastor until December 1966.
In August 1967 the Rev. Dr L. H .James became the pastor of Tabernacle. His ministry was blessed of God, with many new families and young people joining the church. At this time links were developed with Christians studying at the University. Many of the families in the church trace their association with Ebenezer to college days, when husbands and wives met and later settled in Swansea, to remain in the fellowship they had come to love. For many it was a time of spiritual discovery as the reformed preaching led them to discover a rich spiritual heritage through publishing houses such as Banner of Truth.
During these early years the church was faced with two different problems. The first was membership of the Baptist Union. Unable to agree with its doctrinal slide and involvement in the ecumenical movement, the church withdrew in May 1970 from the Baptist Union. Following this, attention was turned to the second problem – the inadequecy of the church buildings. An extension was seen as impractical because of their condition and thoughts therefore turned to a new building. At this time, two Welsh Congregational churches in Swansea, pastored by the Rev. F M Jones, were planning to unite, thus releasing a building. Negotiations between the two churches resulted in a move from Tabernacle to Ebenezer in 1975. Opening services were held on the 4th and 5th of December, with Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones and the Rev. Omri Jenkins preaching.
Ebenezer Welsh Congregational Church was founded as a result of the work of the Rev. David Davies, who was called to the pastorate of several churches in the districts surrounding Swansea in 1796. Although already in charge of several congregations, David Davies felt a great burden for the growing population of Swansea. The Independent Church in the centre of Swansea, which traced its origins to the Puritan era and men such as Ambrose Mostyn and Stephen Hughes, had some years previously become a Unitarian cause. David Davies set about establishing a new gospel witness. His labours were blessed by God, and the small meeting room soon became inadequate. A larger church, Ebenezer, was erected in 1804. The congregation soon became the largest in Wales and, as a result, the building underwent several enlargements, in 1826, 1842 and 1862. It was during the pastorate of the Rev. Elias Jacob, a successor to David Davies, that Griffith John was growing up and attending the church. In April 1855 Griffith John was set apart for that great missionary work that was to fill the remainder of his life. His desire was, in his own words, ‘to make all China ring with the music of the cross’.
Tabernacle to Ebenezer
The move to the centre of Swansea in 1975 brought with it the change of name to Ebenezer Baptist Church. Links with the University continued and many students from home and abroad attended the church while studying in Swansea. Outreach work was undertaken involving door-to-door visiting and a regular distribution of literature. Open-air services were also held in the vicinity of the church on a Sunday afternoon. The congregation grew and some 200 met together for worship on Sunday. The work continued to prosper until the late 1980s.
Sadly, at this time, an issue arose in the church which led to a division. A group left and for six years met in the Treboeth area, forming a church called Providence Evangelical Church. Almost invariably in the history of a local church, a division, having occurred, is permanent. However, we thank God that in 1994, with the resolution of the issue that divided us, links were once again established. Finally, these links led to a reunion of the two churches.
During the years of separation the Providence Church had called the Rev. Winford Thomas to be its pastor. With the reuniting of the two fellowships Mr Thomas became pastor of Ebenezer, the years after our reunion were marked by a mixture of blessing and some difficulty.
Following his retirement in 2003 the search for a minister ended when Rev Graham John of Seion, Maerdy began his ministry with us in September 2006.
A number of changes have been introduced, noticeably the use of ten week courses led by the members in the church’s evangelistic programme. Christianity Explored & Discipleship Explored have been used with great benefit for newcomers and those already in attendance. We also have five house groups meeting around the city every month. We believe the Lord has many people in this city yet to be reached, so we endeavour to bring the gospel to as many as possible in many different ways, as the Lord leads.
The area surrounding Ebenezer has also seen some dramatic changes with rundown commercial properties being replaced with blocks of flats, providing an open door to many homes.
Our present membership is about 70, and between 80 and 100 meet for worship on a Sunday, with several young families and children making crèches a happy requirement for the morning services.
We are glad to have witnessed a number of conversions over recent years among our own young people and others, holding a number of baptismal services when young and old alike have testified to their knowledge of sins forgiven through the only Saviour, Jesus Christ.