1904–1905 Welsh Revival
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The 1904–1905 Welsh Revival 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 triggered revivals in several 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."
The last previous revival in Wales was in 1859, but this followed other developments. From 1850 onwards Christianity in Wales was markedly less Calvinistic in form. A generation of powerful biblical preachers ended, as leaders such as Christmas Evans (1766–1838), John Elias (1744–1841) and Henry Rees (1798–1869).
There is no clear origin for the movement but several locations can be viewed as major centres of the revival.
New Quay and Blaenannerch
A prominent leader of the Revival was the Methodist preacher of New Quay, Joseph Jenkins, who arranged a conference in New Quay in 1903 with the theme "to deepen our loyalty to Christ". After a meeting in February 1904, the regular Sunday meetings as well as the newly founded midweek meetings became lively and members of Joseph Jenkins' church went to other nearby towns and villages to 'witness' to the effects of how accepting Christ's message had influenced their lives[clarification needed].
In September a conference was held at Blaenannerch. It was reported that 'massive blessing'[clarification needed] 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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In November 1904 Jenkins was invited as guest preacher at meetings in Bethany, Ammanford, the church of Nantlais Williams. When the appointment was arranged, there was no news yet 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 there. 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 turnout would be; but when he arrived, he could only just squeeze into the Chapel to hear Jenkins.
It had been arranged 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…"; that meeting was again well attended and went on until the early hours of the morning. Despite already having been ordained as a Minister, on that weekend in November 1904 Williams had a conversion experience, on the Saturday night prior to Jenkins' arrival.
In December 1904 Joseph Jenkins embarked on three months of preaching and professing in areas of North Wales. Many meetings were held in Amlwch, Llangefni, Llanerchymedd, Talysarn, Llanllyfni, Llanrwst, Denbigh, and Dinorwig, and some students at the University of Wales Bangor were converted. But perhaps the most conversions were seen in Bethesda; 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 in New Quay and Blaenannerch. He decided to go to Newcastle Emlyn for ministerial training, 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 were 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 guidance 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 worldwide revival that had arisen in his team, and afterwards fell into depression. He was then housed by a friend in Leicester, and co-wrote 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 spirits' potential effect on believers, from which he dissociated himself after he recovered from depression and the book was severely criticised. In 1913, when Roberts's mother was dying, his brother Dan tried to see him to ask him to visit his mother. Roberts refused contact. Eventually "Awstin", the reporter of the revival, gained access. There were rumours that Roberts was being held prisoner by the Penn-Lewises. Roberts spoke freely about how God was preparing him for his next great work, and sent, via "Awstin", "God's message to the churches of south Wales". Because of Roberts's treatment of his mother the message was ignored.
Aberdare became a major centre of the Revival and the first area that Evan Roberts visited following his initial meetings at Loughor. In the Aberdare area, the revival aroused alarm among ministers for the revolutionary, even anarchistic, impact it had upon chapel congregations and denominational organization. In particular, it was seen as drawing attention away from pulpit preaching and the role of the minister. The local newspaper, the Aberdare Leader, regarded the revival with suspicion from the outset, objecting to the 'abnormal heat' which it engendered. Trecynon was particularly affected by the revival, and the meetings held there were said to have aroused more emotion and excitement than the more restrained meetings in Aberdare itself. The impact of the revival was significant in the short term, but in the longer term was fairly transient.
Role of newspapers
For the first time, the newspapers had a role in this revival. The Western Mail and the South Wales Daily News, Wales' daily newspapers, spread news of conversions and generated an air of excitement that helped to fuel the revival. The Western Mail in particular gave extensive coverage to Roberts' meetings in Loughor. The articles were gathered together and published as a series of seven pamphlets, including copies of picture postcards of the revivalists that were published at the time. The contents of the final pamphlet are credited by some as killing the revival. Peter Price, a minister from Dowlais, wrote a letter that was very critical of Evan Roberts. Price wanted to distinguish between the genuine revival that he believed was going on and a sham revival he associated with Evan Roberts. The pamphlet contains many letters in support of Evan Roberts (the majority), and a few supporting price. Vyrynwy Morgan gives further letters supporting Price.
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 time 100,000 people were converted. 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 based on powerful preaching, the revival of 1904–05 relied primarily on music and on alleged supernatural 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. The visions 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.
The after effects of the revival were considered by Vyrynwy Morgan in the final chapter of his book gives the figures for convictions for drunkenness in the county of Glamorgan for the years 1902 to 1907, supplied by the police. There is a near 50% reduction after the revival.
In popular culture
- While writing his 1907 dystopian novel Lord of the World, Roman Catholic priest Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson drew upon Evan Roberts and the 1904–1905 Welsh Revival as models for the reign of the Anti-Christ.
- The novel The Withered Root (1927) by Rhys Davies was inspired by the 1904–1905 Welsh Revival.
- In 2004, the BBC's Bread of Heaven series featured a programme on the 1904 Welsh Revival, which was presented by Huw Edwards.
- In 2005 a musical was made about the 1904–1905 Welsh Revival. The music and lyrics were 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.
- Morgan. Rebirth of a Nation. pp. 134–5.
- "Editorial.". Aberdare Leader. 19 November 1904. p. 4. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
- 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
- C.C. Martindale, S.J. (1916), The Life Of Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, Volume 2, Longmans, Green and Co, London. pp. 65-66.
- "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
- Clark, Dudley Charles. "Revolt and revival in the valleys: the influence of religion and revivalism on the politics and labour relations of the Taff Vale Railway, south Wales, 1878-1914." (PhD Dissertation. University of Leeds, 2012)
- Eifion Evans, The Welsh Revival of 1904, third ed. (Bridgend, 1987)
- Philip Eveson (ed.), When God Came To North Wales: an account of how the 1904-05 religious revival affected Bethesda and Rhosllanerchrugog (Weston Rhyn: Quinta Press, 2010) ISBN 978-1-89785-632-1
- Noel Gibbard, Fire on the Altar: A History and Evaluation of the 1904–05 Revival in Wales (Bridgend, 2005).
- Noel Gibbard, On the Wings of the Dove: The International Effects of the 1904–05 Revival (Bridgend, 2002).
- Edward J. Gitre, "The 1904–05 Welsh Revival: Modernization, Technologies, and Techniques of the Self." Church history 73#4 (2004): 792-827.
- Brynmor P. Jones, Voices from the Welsh Revival (Bridgend, 1995).
- R. Tudur Jones, Faith and the Crisis of a Nation: Wales 1890–1914, trans. Sylvia Prys Jones ed. Robert Pope (Cardiff, 2004).
- Digby L. James (ed.), The Religious Revival in Wales: Contemporaneous Newspaper Accounts of the Welsh Revival of 1904–05 Published by the Western Mail (Weston Rhyn: Quinta Press, 2004) ISBN 978-1-897856-25-3
- 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
- Morgan, J. Vyrnwy. The The Welsh Religious Revival: A Restrospect and Critique (Weston Rhyn:Quinta Press, 2004). ISBN 978-1-89785-624-6
- 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