Calfaria Baptist chapel - Merthyr Vale (1904)



Having heard that Evan Roberts would arrive by the five o'clock train, a big crowd assembled outside the Taff Vale Station at Merthyr Vale. Their object was not so much to see the man as to ascertain where he would speak in the evening. So great is the rush after the revivalist that a new doctrine has been begotten - that of a close secrecy as to his movements. In the early part of the evening, however, the secret leaked out that he would speak at Calfaria Baptist Chapel, Merthyr Vale, which is separated from Aberfun by the River Taff. Soon after five o'clock Calfaria was overcrowded, and hundreds of people who had failed to get beyond the chapel doors, hurried back to Aberfan in the hope that a ruse had been played upon them, and that Evan Roberts after all would favour one of the Bethels of Aberfan with his presence. The doors of three plans of worship were thrown open, and at six o'clock each building was well filled. Those who had remained at Calfaria kept an anxious vigil for the arrival of Roberts, and at seven o'clock their patience was rewarded. Accompanied by his host, Mr Edwin Morgan, and by Miss Annie Davies he walked across through the dark and muddy streets to Merthyr Vale. A surging, singing crowd followed him all the way and outside Calfaria he found another huge throng besieging the doors. To squeeze through such a dense mass seemed humanly impossible. The people were wedged together in one solid phalanx. But somehow the revivalist and his party made their way through, and set foot inside Calfaria in a state of exhaustion. The heated atmosphere was overpowering. Women were fainting here and there, but could not be carried out. The aisles were packed and the people crowded on the window ledges. Evan Roberts appealed for the windows to be opened, but back came the response that all the windows except one at the rear of the building, could not be opened. "It is unhealthy here," he said, "and some of us will feel the effects again." There being no possibility of more air, Mr Evan Roberts pleaded earnestly for silence. Those who were jammed in at the doors and in the vestibule made spasmodic efforts to keep quiet, but those who were outside clamoured to get in, and the noise was incessant. Worse than all some fervent spirits grouped themselves together and sung hymns. Their singing could be heard only too distinctly inside the chapel, and people wriggled with uneasiness. Stentorian shouts for order were of no avail, and the revivalist, after exhausting all his persuasive powers to get the people to leave and go to other chapels where there was more room, threw up his arms and said he would have to leave. The scene boarded on panic. A woman in one of the aisles threw up her arms and screamed. She could not get out, but eventually, after much commotion, a passage was made for her. For some minutes there was a semblance of silence, and Evan Roberts, seizing the opportunity, said they had evidently been attracted there by the man, and not by the Spirit. There was a time, and not so long ago, when the difficulty was to get people to come to the chapel, but now they could not get them to leave. He hoped they had not come there out of curiosity, but to worship. Passing on to another subject in his peculiar, disjointed style, he said that formality had been chilling and destroying the spiritual life of the Churches for many years. People could not be persuaded to offer a simple prayer at the week-night services, the duration of which was subject to the cast-iron rule of one hour and no more. But now, thank Heaven, time was not measured by the clock in their services. Another outbreak of noise now disturbed the service, and Evan Roberts, throwing up his hands in despair, sank back into his chair. Miss Annie Davies, promptly came to the rescue with "Lead, kindly Light," which she sang with delightful tenderness. After the conclusion of Mr Evan Robert's address there was the usual unbroken series of prayers and public confessions, which were mingled with the singing of hymns. When the test was applied in the ordinary way, about four people kept their seats while the others stood up, but unlike the infidel and the Christadelphians at Tylorstown, they remained quiet and gave no expression to their belief, or raised any objection to the methods adopted in the test. The service mainly was one of song, and it must be said that the singing was really magnificent and thrilling in its effect. One feature of the gathering was the presence of so many women with tiny babies in their arms. Long before the service closed many of these mothers struggled to get out, and the wonder is that the little ones were not seriously crushed. One woman, after making a desperate struggle to get out, reached the main entrance of the chapel at last, and breathing the fresh air, exclaimed, "Now, I can sing 'Diolch iddo.'" Another woman who was hemmed in at the entrance to the chapel discovered that someone who had evidently not felt the effects of the revival had taken her muff, and she went to inform the police straightaway. Among the visitors who had come from different parts of the country were two clergymen from Guildford, in Surrey, and they were charmed with what they heard and saw. Another gentleman had come from Birstol, where he had served as a clerk in a prison for the long period of 32 years. He said he was determined to hear Evan Roberts, if he had to wait a week. From, 'The Western Mail', 14th December 1904.


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