Faith in the face of death
Faith in the face of death - David's story
This article was originally published in 2016. David Ollerton died less than a year later in March 2017, and we’re re-publishing the interview with particular thanks to David’s wife and family for their willingness to share his words with others during this time. Our hope and prayer is that David’s faith and experience will be helpful to others as we face uncertain times.
Faith in the face of death
David Ollerton is a man of contrasts: a man born in England but now living in Wales; an avid supporter of the English rugby team (but not of the football team!) yet one who has devoted much of his life to serving the people of Wales. And these days if he is not at home then you are likely to find him either lying on a bed at the Velindre Cancer Centre or walking some of the biggest mountains in the Brecon Beacons! ASK went to...ask some questions.
Thanks for talking to us, let's get started, how did the connection with Wales start?
I was born and brought up in Lancashire and the connection with Wales began when I was working at the mountain centre in Tremadog in the 70s. Liz, who became my wife, was also working there and after a period outside Wales we returned to the Bridgend area where I worked in an English-medium church. I left the Bridgend area and moved back to England, but I soon realized that was a step in the wrong direction and wanted to come back. So in 1998 we moved back to Cardiff, and we’ve been there ever since!
It is clear from talking to you that you have a deep sense of Wales, one could almost describe your experience in the 1990s as nostalgia. Can you explain where that came from?
When I moved to Bridgend I had a concern for the church there, but to be honest I lived as an 'ex-pat'. I didn't associate with Welsh people and never considered Wales as a nation or the Welsh as a people different from any other. But when I moved away, I realized how wrong and insulting that really was. While visiting Wales and coming back for conferences and talking to people like Dr Tudur Jones (a professor at Bangor) I realized how special Wales was and that the country and its people had a special identity and value.
My interest and concern for Wales was growing and I realized that trying to get involved and help people without really understanding and recognizing them as people with a particular language, background and value was utterly arrogant. I decided to learn Welsh through the WLPAN course.
This opened a whole new world for me! I came to learn and experience more about Wales and the way people welcomed and accepted me was an eye opener. I found out that Wales wasn't just beautiful mountains but there were so many special communities, people and traditions here. The fact that I've stayed here for the last twenty years is testament to that.
So, apart from learning Welsh, what have you been doing for the last twenty years?
I returned to Cardiff to be a minister, but as part of my contract I insisted that I set aside one day a week to help churches throughout Wales more generally. I did this because I was concerned that large areas of Wales lack a strong Christian voice to share the good news about Jesus. This eventually led to the start of an organization called Waleswide - an organization that seeks to plant and strengthen churches and chapels throughout the country. Much of my time has therefore been spent leading the movement and travelling to every corner of Wales trying to help and encourage ministers and Christians. I've also spent quite a bit of time fighting cancer!