The Union’s desire to contribute towards the Welsh Government’s aim of ensuring that a million people speak Welsh by 2050 has been welcomed by Meri Huws, the Welsh language Commissioner. In many communities, where the shop and post office, the pub and the school has closed, the local Welsh chapel may be the only public building which is still open. The Union is keen to see congregations and buildings being used to promote the Welsh language and Welsh culture in their area.
“This is a tremendously positive response,” said Meri Huws. “Think about what we have in terms of the chapels – buildings and congregations. We may have forgotten their role in helping to ensure that the Welsh language is still alive in our communities.” Referring to the Independent chapels scattered throughout Wales, Ms Huws said: “You are everywhere! There’s a wonderful opportunity here. It’s possible that we, in thinking about the chapels in decline, have forgotten that they have an important contribution to make. This is the time to tell the chapels – Step Forward! “
Meri Huws commented after a meeting at the Pierhead building in Cardiff Bay, where a brief analysis of the main findings of a five-year report on the position of the language, and the challenges and opportunities ahead were discussed. There were depressing elements in the report. Although education is the primary method of creating new Welsh speakers, there’s been no progress in recent years in the numbers of children receiving their education and early years care through the medium of the language. In only 9% of households in Wales is Welsh is the language of all family members.
In such a situation, it will require an enormous effort to prevent further deterioration, let alone double the number of Welsh speakers by the middle of the century. In rolling up our sleeves to take part in this heroic campaign, there is also an opportunity to regenerate our churches. Down the centuries, Christianity and the Welsh language have walked hand in hand in our country.