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The man who is spending hundreds of thousands of pounds buying up old chapels

A retired church minister is spending hundreds of thousands of pounds saving old chapels from being turned into flats in an "act of faith".

Over the last few years Reverend Robert Stivey has bought 12 chapels in the South Wales valleys. His latest acquisition, Calfaria Chapel in Aberdare , cost him just £25,000.

But Rev Stivey said it was not about the money and he is reluctant to put an exact number on how much he has spent so far.

"Some of the chapels are pretty derelict but some are in pretty good order too," Rev Stivey said.

"Some are magnificent Grade II listed buildings which are architecturally worth saving as well as spiritually

The 71-year-old retired minister from Treherbert in Rhondda Cynon Taf said he wanted to spread the word of "the Lords' work".

"It's important that we conserve our heritage," he said.

"But 100 years ago, the church would have been at the heart of our communities and churches and chapels would have been packed out to the door."

Rev Stivey came to South East Wales in 2012 after he tired as a minister at Highbury Quadrant Congregational Church in North London. He had visited the Welsh valleys many years beforehand and even then had noticed how many of the chapels were being closed, turned into flats or razed to the ground.

He decided to do his utmost to save as many as he could and reopen them to be used for their original purpose.

"We hope to plant these evangelical churches in the valleys," he explained.

"It's a non-denominational project which I'm doing in my retirement and it's very rewarding to have been able to save chapels from those entrepreneurs who want to turn them into flats and homes."

He is "consumed by his work" even though he is retired, he admitted, and likes nothing more than sitting down to read at the end of the day.

The 12 chapels he has snapped up, mostly using inheritance money from his mother, are spread out in Cynon, Merthyr, Porth and Aberdare.

Rev Stivey buys the buildings as and when they come up for sale. Ironically, the better chapels go for less money because they are more likely to be listed, which can put developers off.

"It's not about the money," Rev Stivey said, who reluctantly admitted he had spent anything between £100k and £200k.

"They do go pretty cheap and the cheapest ones are those that are listed which means we can buy them and keep them as they were.

"When they aren't listed, developers see potential because they have more options with what they can do with them."

Not that he buys chapels on a whim. Rev Stivey looks for chapels in or close to a town or village to make sure there is a population to minister to.

"Then I pray to see if it's the Lords' will to carry on with it," Rev Stivey added.

He is keen to stress he advocates a free church which welcomes everybody. He said: "People do respond and you just have to be loving, kind and thoughtful.

"I won't say we are in the middle of a revival of faith because we are not. But I do believe if the Lord Jesus Christ is presented in a way that people can understand then they will start to listen to the message again.

"People need a simple message about love and how Jesus died for them."

His plan is simple: to start small and build up over the years. He might not be able to reopen all of the chapels, but they will at least be saved from demolition, he said. Others can then take over where he finishes.

"I find that very satisfying and I am very positive about the future," he added.

https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/man-who-spending-hundreds-thousands-16686842

 

stella Posted on August 14, 2019 16:45

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