Gwynn Williams: Memories from former students

On the 30th September, the Revd Gwynn Williams (1945-2018), former council member of Union School of Theology, went to be with his Lord. Gwynn was the retired pastor of the Welsh speaking Evangelical Church in Cardiff and an active part of the Evangelical Movement of Wales (EMW). I had the privilege of sitting under Gwynn’s ministry on numerous occasions and working alongside him on various committees. Personally, he encouraged and equipped me for church ministry, and many others too.

It seems to me that Gwynn made a conscious decision to give himself to three things. Firstly, he gave himself to the ministry of the word. As a graduate of Cambridge University, he could have done many things, but he felt called to preach the word and that is what he did. In season and out, he consistently opened the Bible and preached the gospel. I can vividly remember his sermons and training sessions. Secondly, he gave himself to Wales. There is no doubt that Gwynn was a great preacher who could have left Wales to minister anywhere, but he gave himself to his own land. Preaching in Welsh, Gwynn presented the gospel to generations of young families, students and new believers. He gave an enormous amount of energy and time to national movements including EMW and UCCF and tirelessly travelled to meetings. Thirdly, he gave himself to the local church. Gwynn never let his national responsibilities take the place of his local church role. Week by week he opened the word and his heart to the church. He loved his people, and his people loved him.

I asked two former Union students who also served as assistants to Gwynn to share some recollections of serving alongside him.

“Are you enjoying your work?” That was a question I was often asked as I trained under the guidance of the Rev. Gwynn Williams in the Welsh Evangelical Church in Cardiff. “Yes, I am..”, but I would always add, “what I’m enjoying the most is listening to Gwynn preach.” Indeed, that had been the case throughout my whole life. Gwynn faithfully preached the comfort, the challenge and the sheer joy of the gospel.

When I was around 11 years old, I recall the National Eisteddfod of Wales was being held in Mold. As it does today, the Evangelical Movement of Wales sought to witness to fellow Welsh speakers. Gwynn was preaching in the evening service and his subject was the cross. I can vividly remember crying in our car after the service – amazed that nails were driven through the Lord Jesus’ wrists and feet to deal with my sin. Take another instance: What do you do with an adolescent boy who’s in the middle of the angst of puberty? Well, you take him to the EMW welsh language summer conference to listen to Gwynn Williams preach on Heaven! As Gwynn preached, I listened as a disgruntled, confused teenager. I didn’t understand what on earth was going on within me, but realised where I would end up, and Heaven would be glorious!

Little did I know that I would have the privilege of learning the ropes of ministry from Gwynn. Gwynn passionately believed in theological study, for how else was a pastor to protect his people from the heresies of the day? But for Gwynn preaching and pastoring were not merely academic. No, the ministry was for the glory of God and the benefit of Christ’s church. The Saviour’s heaven, that Gwynn preached so faithfully, is now his experience. I, amongst many others, will be eternally grateful for the way God used Gwynn in our lives.”

Trystan Hallam is the minister of Bethel Church, Tredegar.

“I don’t think I ever heard Gwynn have a bad day in the pulpit. Consistently good and often enthralling, Gwynn was gifted by our Lord to lead his people through the Bible systematically and simply. I’ve never known a preacher able to satisfy both boffin and babe like Gwynn. Yet week by week, that’s what he did, line by line, verse by verse. He rarely raised his voice and barely moved. But God was in those words. I wish I could tell you about that morning in Isaiah 61 where I knew Christ’s garland was given to me, or that week in Aber when Gwynn guided us along the Roman road and my wife felt the freedom of liberating grace in a way that would change her forever. To hear Gwynn’s preaching was a privilege far too few will know.

For two years, in God’s kindness, Gwynn was also my boss. I was blessed to be his first ever assistant and I know who got the better deal. I assisted him by making a mess and he taught me in ways that are benefiting the church I serve today. Gwynn was so generous.

When he couldn’t find enough work for me to do, instead of getting rid of me, he talked the church into paying for me to study at WEST (now Union School of Theology). When I blew ALL THE MONEY by rashly printing thousands of un-proofed Christmas cards, he let me learn my lesson (and quietly paid the bill himself). In our weekly meetings he let me ask away (or arrogantly rant until it was out my system). But most generously of all, he gave me his pulpit.”

Lewis Roderick is a pastor at Christchurch, Newport.

I can still remember Gwynn preaching from 2 Timothy 2:1-2 with an illustration from rugby. He painted the picture of a young player, who needed to grasp the ball well but also to pass it on well. He urged us as young ministers to know the gospel well, but to make sure we passed it on well too. Gwynn held on to the truth of the gospel clearly and passionately and he passed it on to many. I pray that my generation would do the same.

Jonathan Thomas Pastoral Dean & Lecturer in Pastoral Theology