1904–1905 Welsh Revival
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The Welsh Revival (1904–1905) was the largest Christian revival in Wales during the 20th century. While by no means the best known of revivals, it was one of the most dramatic in terms of its effect on the population, and it had repercussions that reached far beyond the Welsh border, triggering a series of revivals in other countries. “The movement kept the churches of Wales filled for many years to come, seats being placed in the aisles in Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Swansea for twenty years or so, for example. Meanwhile, the Awakening swept the rest of Britain, Scandinavia, parts of Europe, North America, the mission fields of India and the Orient, Africa and Latin America.”
Before the 1904–1905 revival the last revival that Wales saw was in 1859, but prior to that change was already afoot. From 1850 onwards the Christianity of Wales was markedly less Calvinistic in form. A generation of powerful biblical preachers ended, as leaders such as Christmas Evans (1838), John Elias (1841) and Henry Rees (1869) died.
There is no clear origin for the movement but several locations can be viewed as major components of the revival.
New Quay and Blaenannerch
A prominent leader of the Revival was the Methodist preacher of New Quay, Joseph Jenkins, who, in 1903, arranged a conference in New Quay under the theme "to deepen our loyalty to Christ". After a meeting in February 1904, the regular Sunday meetings as well as the newly founded mid-week meetings became lively and Joseph Jenkins’ Church went to other surrounding towns and villages to witness.
In September a conference was held in Blaenannerch. It was reported that 'massive blessing' was upon this conference and the news quickly spread throughout the area and beyond. The South Wales Daily News picked up on the events and reported that "the third great revival was afoot through the nation!"—the other two revivals being the Welsh Methodist revival and the 1859 Methodist Revival.
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At the beginning of November 1904 Jenkins was invited as guest preacher at meetings in Bethany Ammanford, the Church of Nantlais Williams. When it was arranged that Joseph Jenkins was to be guest preacher there was no news of the conversions in New Quay and Blaenannerch, but an extra meeting was hastily arranged on the Sunday afternoon so that Joseph Jenkins could tell about the events in New Quay and Blaenannerch. Williams is recorded to have said that he was worried that there would be no interest in such a meeting and he was sceptical what the turn out would be; when he himself arrived he could only just squeeze into the Chapel to hear Jenkins.
It had been arranged before New Quay and Blaenannerch that Jenkins was to preach on the Monday night before his return to New Quay. The Church was again full with people professing their faith in Jesus; but perhaps the most dramatic turn was when one of the crowd announced Another meeting like this will be held here tomorrow night…, and so that meeting again was well attended and went on until the early hours of the morning. Despite already having been ordained as a Minister it is worth noting that upon that weekend in November 1904 Williams had a conversion experience, on the Saturday night prior to Jenkins’ arrival.
In December 1904 Joseph Jenkins embarked upon a three-month period preaching and professing in areas of North Wales. Many meetings were held in Amlwch, Llangefni, Llanerchymedd, Talysarn, Llanllyfni, Llanrwst, Denbigh, Dinorwig, and conversions occurred amongst students in the University of Wales Bangor. But perhaps the largest conversions were seen in Bethesda, where another leader of the revival J. T. Job described the meeting held in Jerusalem Bethesda on 22 December 1904 as "a hurricane".
Evan Roberts and Loughor
Evan Roberts was a young man influenced by the stories and experiences that were happening over in New Quay and Blaenannerch. He decided to leave for ministerial training in Newcastle Emlyn and arrived in the Revival in south Ceredigion. The news of the mass conversions in New Quay and Blaenannerch had already spread to Newcastle Emlyn and served as a distraction for a man who had been sent there to study. Seth Joshua, another prominent leader of the Revival came to the area to hold meetings, which Roberts attended eagerly.
After his three months training at Newcastle Emlyn he was to return to Loughor to start his ministry. He claimed to have direct visions from the Holy Spirit; very specific visions such as the number 100,000 representing the souls God intended to use him to save. As the revival unfolded Roberts is said to have depended increasingly upon what he considered the guiding of the Holy Spirit.
Response to Roberts' ministry was initially slow but soon the crowds turned out and the meetings were carried on until the early hours of the morning. After the meeting at Loughor, Roberts assembled a team and went on a tour of the South Wales valleys to spread the revival.
Roberts did not take well the decline of the revival, and the frustration of great expectations of a world wide revival that had arisen in his team, and afterwards fell into depression. He was housed then by a friend and co-authored a book with his friend's wife Jessie Penn-Lewis, War on the Saints, (believed by some to be heretical because of its use of the term "possession" to describe demonic spirit's potential effect on believers) from which he dissociated himself after he recovered from depression and the book was severely criticised.
Role of newspapers
A feature of this revival that was not seen in any other revival prior to 1904 was the role of the media. The Western Mail and the South Wales Daily News, Wales’ daily newspapers spread news of conversions and generated an air of excitement about the Revival that helped to fuel it further. The Western Mail in particular gave extensive coverage to Roberts' meetings in Loughor. The Western Mail articles were reprinted in book form in 2004 by Quinta Press.
The Welsh revival was not an isolated religious movement but very much a part of Britain's modernisation. The revival began in late 1904 under the leadership of Evan Roberts (1878–1951), a 26-year-old former collier and minister-in-training. The revival lasted less than a year, but in that period 100,000 converts were made. Begun as an effort to kindle non-denominational, non-sectarian spirituality, the Welsh revival of 1904-05 coincided with the rise of the labour movement, socialism, and a general disaffection with religion among the working class and youths. Placed in context, the short-lived revival appears as both a climax for Nonconformism and a flashpoint of change in Welsh religious life. The movement spread to Scotland and England, with estimates that a million people were converted in Britain. Missionaries subsequently carried the movement abroad; it was especially influential on the Pentecostal movement emerging in California.
Unlike earlier religious revivals that pivoted on powerful preaching, the revival of 1904-05 relied primarily on music and on paranormal phenomena as exemplified by the visions of Evan Roberts. The intellectual emphasis of the earlier revivals had left a dearth of religious imagery that the visions supplied. They also challenged the denial of the spiritual and miraculous element of Scripture by opponents of the revival, who held liberal and critical theological positions. The structure and content of the visions not only repeated those of Scripture and earlier Christian mystical tradition but also illuminated the personal and social tensions that the revival addressed by juxtaposing Biblical images with scenes familiar to contemporary Welsh believers.
In 2005 a musical was made about the 1904–1905 Welsh Revival. The music and lyrics are written by Mal Pope and the book is by Frank Vickery. Its first tour began at the Grand Theatre, Swansea, Wales and was directed by Michael Bogdanov with the Wales Theatre Company and included an appearance from Peter Karrie.
- Orr, J. Edwin. The Flaming Tongue. Chicago: Moody, 1973.
- J. Gwynfor Jones, "Reflections on the Religious Revival in Wales 1904-05," Journal of the United Reformed Church History Society, Oct 2005, Vol. 7 Issue 7, pp 427-445
- John Harvey, "Spiritual Emblems: The Visions of the 1904-5 Welsh Revival," Llafur: Journal of Welsh Labour History/Cylchgrawn Hanes Llafur Cymru, 1993, Vol. 6 Issue 2, pp 75-93
- "Amazing Grace: musical". Archived from the original on 14 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-03.
- Evans, Eifion: "Diwygiad 04-05" : 2002
- Gibbard, Noel: "Nefol Dan – Agweddau ar ddiwygiad 1904–1905" : 2004
- Davies, Gwyn: "Golau Gwlad – Cristnogaeth yng Nghymru 200–2000" : 2002
- "Awstin" and other special correspondents of the Western Mail: "The Religious Revival in Wales" 2004
- J Vyrnwy Morgan: "The Welsh Religious Revival 1904-05: A Restrospect and Critique" : 2004
- Harvey, John. "Spiritual Emblems: The Visions of the 1904-5 Welsh Revival," Llafur: Journal of Welsh Labour History/Cylchgrawn Hanes Llafur Cymru, 1993, Vol. 6 Issue 2, pp 75–93
- Jones, J. Gwynfor. "Reflections on the Religious Revival in Wales 1904-05," Journal of the United Reformed Church History Society, Oct 2005, Vol. 7 Issue 7, pp 427–445
- Stead, W. T. and G. Campbell Morgan. The Welsh Revival 1905. The Pilgrim Press.
- War on The Saints, Jessie Penn-Lewis & Evan Roberts Diggory Press, ISBN 1-905363-01-X; The Full Text, Unabridged Edition Thomas E. Lowe, Ltd., ISBN 0-913926-04-3
- The Awakening in Wales & Some of the Hidden Springs (republished as Fuel for Revival), Diggory Press, ISBN 1-84685-542-X
- I Saw The Welsh Revival David Matthews Pioneer Books, ISBN 0-9626908-2-1
- The World Aflame, Rick Joyner, Whitaker House, 1995, ISBN 0-88368-373-3