Bethel Calvinistic Methodist Church - Pontycymer (1904)

PONTYCYMMER, Thursday, November 17. That the religious revival is increasing its scope and embracing more and more of the people of Wales was plainly demonstrated by the remarkable services held at Pontycymmel tonight. Never before in the history of the Garvi Valley have such services been seen. Mr Evan Roberts, to whom the title, of “The Wesley of Wales” is now generally applied, and the young ladies from Loughor who accompany him were early astir, and between five o’clock and 5.30 were on the road, intercepting the nightshift, men returning to their homes from the collieries and inviting them cordially to a prayer meeting to be held at 7.30. There was no need, however, for any invitation to be extended to these miners, for the remarkable experiences at Pontycymmer on Wednesday night were the sole topic of discussion throughout the day. There was a large attendance at the morning prayer meeting, and all who were present will long remember the fervour of the meeting. Almost everyone present loudly raised his or her voice in praise. Another prayer meeting held in the afternoon was characterised by the same deep religious feeling. Long before the hour at which the evening service was to commence great crowds of people from all parts of the Garw Valley and the surrounding districts, including a large number from Bridgend, belonging to all denominations and no denomination at all, had flocked to Bethel Calvinistic Methodist Chapel, and hundreds failed to obtain admission. The meeting opened quietly, but there was a subdued feeling which gradually found expression in various ways. The singing of “Diolch Iddo” (“Thanks to Him “) was repeated over and over again. Mr. Roberts then invited the people, with his peculiar wave of the hand, to accept the eternal grace which was freely offered to all, and, finding little response read with great effect a few verses from the Book of Revelation, commencing with, “I saw a large multitude which no one could number.” He interspersed the reading with appropriate remarks, and before he had completed the passages someone near the door said that an old lady had fainted, and he could not get her out. Then someone in the gallery struck up “Lead, Kindly Light,” in Welsh to the tune of “Sandon,” and the refrain was taken up with remarkable enthusiasm and repeated several times. This was followed by the rendering of “Eto unwaith middyrchefais,” to the tune of “Llanidloes.” Before this was finished “Throw out the life-line” was struck up from the gallery, and the rendering of this had a remarkable effect on the congregation. The Rev. J. T. Rees, Pontycymmer, offered a most impressive prayer, asking for a downpour of the Holy Spirit, especially on the young people. The responses were general of and disclosed intense feeling. “Showers of blessing” was followed by “Ni fuasai genyf obaith,” a female in the audience repeating the refrain. Another woman struck up “A welsoch chwi Ef?” which was the means of further intensifying the feeling. Mr Roberts then resumed the conduct of the meeting, smilingly inviting all to receive the great and eternal fortune offered them. From all parts of the building cries could be heard from penitents, With tears coursing down their cheeks, they declared their acceptance of the offer. Prayers were invited, and a middle-aged man under the gallery immediately responded. There was no half-heartedness about the prayer. The man’s eyes were closed, his fists clenched, higher end higher rose the voice, supplicating, entreating, bursting now into agony, now into overwhelming grief. Then a question was asked which created a convulsion throughout the building. “Who will accept Jesus?” exclaimed a young wife. Another shouted “Diolch, diolch!” The enthusiasm now was unbounded. Rough, uneducated colliers spoke with a fluency that nothing could check. A middle-aged woman sitting in the aisle declared, “I have fallen as low as it is possible for anyone to fall, and He has received me. Come unto Him all of you.”’ A chorus of “Amens” followed, and the majority of the congregation burst into tears. A large number now announced their conversion, some shouting, “O Arglwydd, cymer fi!” (“O God, take me!”). At eleven o’clock the meeting had not lost any of its fervour. What was to follow was even more remarkable, and at a quarter-past twelve the enthusiasm was maintained to the fullest degree. A large number of new converts was announced, and after each confession the congregation would burst into singing “Diolch iddo byth am gofio llwch y llawr,” which was repeated on some occasions a dozen times. Ministers of the Gospel were to be seen weeping for joy, and prayer after prayer went forth on behalf of some of the penitents. One of the penitents was an old man in the eighties. From 'The Western Mail', 17th November 1904. The chapel was crowded, and the atmosphere stifling. The people seemed to be piled up in one huge mass nearly an hour before the meeting was due to begin. Seeing that press was so great at Bethel, Evan Roberts asked that the Tabernacle Chapel should be opened: This was done, and the building was filled at once. Mr Roberts addressed this meeting first, and the people in Bethel had to wait for him. No one conducted the service in the orthodox way, but this made no difference. Leadership was not wanted. There was a constant unbroken flow of song, prayer and exhortation from young men alone. The meeting was seething with enthusiasm. An old man, an octogenarian, rose in the “set fawr” and shouted out in ecstasy, “Diolch, diolch i’r Nefoedd.” It was only with great effort He unburdened himself, his final words in Welsh being, “We thank Heaven for this awakening in Wales, but Heaven ought to be gracious to Wales because there are hundreds of Welshmen there.” Intensity of feeling was almost at breaking point when some man who sat in the front gallery gave a vivid description of a drowning man being saved by a comrade. He was about to point the moral when a young lady started singing— Throw out the life-line, throw out the life-line, Someone is sinking today. The effect was dramatic. The enthusiasm with which the refrain was repeated again and again was uplifting. For some of the “weaker vessels” the effect was too much, and women had to be carried out in a state of collapse. But the tide only rose to its full height when Marchog Iesu yn Ilwyddiannus was sung to the tune of “Ebenezer,” or more popularly known as “Ton y Botel.” The balance of parts was suggestive of a trained choir, and perfect intonation, coupled with the huge volume of song, made the rendering majestic. The hymn was sung at the request of Evan Roberts, who made his appearance at Bethel a little before nine o’clock. Striking scenes were enacted among the hundreds of people congregated outside the chapel. Three or four hundred assembled in front of the Pontycymmer Hotel, one of the largest licensed houses in the village, and sang “Diolch Iddo” and other familiar hymns, and the scene was one of great impressiveness.

From, 'The Western Mail', 18th November 1904.

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