Calvinistic Methodist Chapel - Aberfan (1904)

When people gather together in hundreds and sing and pray in the streets at midnight, it is one of the signs of a religious awakening, and an evidence of the spread of the revival. People made the hills resound at Aberfan last night. They had heard Evan Roberts at Merthyr Vale,and had carried his spirit of enthusiasm across the river. In the exuberance of their joy they had forgotten the disappointment suffered earlier in the day by the non-arrival of the revivalist at the appointed hour, and they were content to wake the echoes at midnight and look forward to the festival of today. Three meetings have been addressed by Mr Roberts, and those who were fortunate enough to find a place at each service had a feast of song and devotional exultation. There were hundreds of people who came from distant places who had to return without having even caught a glimpse of the Welsh Wesley, and their disappointment was profound. As early as nine o'clock this morning large groups of people were waiting for the gates of the Welsh Methodist Chapel at Aberfan to be opened. Half an hour later the chapel was full, and at ten o'clock it was as difficult to force a passage through the mass as it would be for the proverbial camel to pass through the eye of a needle. But Mr Evan Roberts accomplished this. He is quite an adept at finding his way through a crowd. How he does it is past all understanding, but he never fails to reach his objective, and the walls of Jericho would not prevail against him if there was a pulpit on the other side. Looking paler and more haggard than he did on Wednesday, he took his place in the pulpit about eleven o'clock this morning with three of lady helpers. The people were already in the seventh heaven of religious delight. They were singing and repeating again and again the Welsh words, "Mai cariad ydyw Duw" (That God is Love), to the tune of "Diadem," and the great volume of sound seemed to grow greater and greater in magnitude with each repetition. There was no sign of hoarseness in a single voice, but at last the singing subsided. Evan Roberts was palpably overcome. Leaning over the pulpit with the Bible clasped to his breast, he tried to speak in a feeble voice of the infinite Love, but he had not uttered more than a few sentences before he broke down completely, and his whole frame was convulsed with sobbing. A woman sitting in the "set fawr" opened prayer in a shrill voice and the congregation led by Miss Mary Davies, sang "Marchog Jesu yn Ilwyddianna" to the stirring music of "Ton y Botel," and singing was prolonged for fully fifteen minutes without a break. Then Mr Roberts made another effort to address the multitude, but again his feelings overwhelmed him. Prayers became so numerous and the musical instincts of the people asserted themselves to such an extent that there was no prospect of the revivalist being heard at all. One prayer, however, that of a young man on the gallery, seemed to renew his strength. This young man was an Aberfan convert. In his prayer he told the story of a conversation he had had with a local licensed victualler, who had complained to him on the previous evening that his takings had dwindled down to nothing. "Make a missionary of him," cried the young man, "and cause him to close his public house. He has been taking the money should have bought food and clothing for our wives and children." Rising to his feet for the third time Evan Roberts now spoke in a clear, powerful voice. He was more eloquent than has been his wont. "There are thousands of members of Churches," he declaimed, "who have never loved Jesus Christ. They have been merely nominal members. Thousands of people in different parts of the country are praying for us here this morning, and we ought to have an abundant blessing. I know of one man who had been a professing Christian for twenty years and had never prayed in his life. Thousands of people have been deceiving themselves that they are Christians, and this revival is their time of judgement. In this movement we are one happy family, and children play quite as important a part in it as they do in the home. No more sectarianism. We have been fighting each other long enough. We shall have more time to fight the devil henceforth." "While we have been wrangling and fighting as sects the devil has been laughing at us. Oh, he has had a grand time. But he is losing thousands who have been on his side." In applying the usual test which is being made at each meeting, Mr Roberts said he admired those who had the courage to sit down instead of standing up, and thus show their true colours. The new additions to the test were: ‘All who read the Bible every day stand up.’ About one half of the congregation stood. ‘All who intend reading the Bible every day in the future stand up.’ A much greater number stood up than before, but there were many who still remained seated. looking around the building, Mr Roberts said there was no attempt at compulsion, and added that there would be a terrible judgement for those who were clothed in hypocrisy day and night. The further tests were: ‘All who pray every day stand up.’ Again about one half of the congregation stood. ‘All who intend praying every day from this time forth.’ There were still some who retained their seats, and prayers were invited for them. Not a single word of abuse against any person or any class of the community found a place in the address of the revivalist or in the prayers f the congregation, and this consistent absence of any fiery tirade which is too often of zealous propagandists is one of the significant and most wholesome features of the present movement. From, 'The Western Mail', 15th December 1904. I am not sure if this account is of Aberfan or Merthyr Tydfil. The spontaneity of the work is glorious, and the lack of organisation is most refreshing. It is all so novel, and So contradictory to what we are accustomed to regard as essential. There is no creaking of the machinery. The stir is caused by the blowing of the wind — the breath of Heaven. Where all is so black and grimy, and the one cry is for cleansing, we all felt we could understand the fervent ejaculation of the simple-hearted collier, ‘Lord, this is Thy washday’, and forgive the familiarity. The absence of advertising posters and window bills causes no confusion. Everything is advertised by living witnesses and signs following. You walk, as I did, into a town of 14,000 inhabitants, while there are at least twenty chapels, and you ask the first person you meet, ‘Where is the meeting? ’ and he tells you. The only advertisement I have seen was in another district, and was the most significant thing of the kind I have known in these modern days. As I walked down the streets of Aberfan and Merthyr Vale last week I read in the shop windows: Merthyr Vale Chamber of Trade REVIVAL MEETINGS This Establishment will be CLOSED Thursday, December 15, Owing to the visit of Mr Evan Roberts. They told me the same applied to the two pits in the neighbourhood. On the previous day I saw what I have often seen in Roman Catholic countries, but never before in this Protestant land. Seven chapels were open throughout the day for prayer and worship, and people walked in and came out as they felt inclined during those continuous services. Four of those chapels were crowded and two of them were densely packed. I got into the schoolroom of one and found the people standing rows deep, but I could not get near the chapel door. Presently the school door was locked, but it made no difference. People opened the window and came through in orderly fashion till every vacant square foot was utilised. I said, If there’s a way in, there’s a way out, and out I shot and adjourned to one of the seven open sanctuaries where a hearty meeting was conducting itself hour after hour without let or hindrance, in which I was soon moved to take part. These two small townships of Aberfan and Merthyr Vale in this narrow valley are on opposite slopes, separated only by the Taff. The united population is about 9,000. There are four public-houses, three of which are tied houses. Throughout the day they are in a state of semi-desertion. The coffee tavern is besieged at all hours, and the swarming visitors, who cannot get in, satisfy their hunger by purchases at the grocers and fruiterers. For beds they flee to other towns and take what they can get. I interviewed the landlady of one of the pubs, who told me she was against the revival, and — Preferred Ordinary Religion. I asked her why, and she said that on one night the enthusiasts gathered outside her establishment, and sang heartily, and then prayed fervently that God would have mercy on the prodigals inside — and her customers were not prodigals, and were not likely to be. As soon as the policeman could release himself from the society of the barmaid, standing at the door of the largest and noisiest public house in the centre of town, I interviewed him. He assured me that foul language and drunkenness had greatly diminished and that his own duties (and evidently the barmaids) were considerably lightened. He added, the barmaid has just told me that the publican and his wife have gone to the service, and that is a new thing for them. Is there much diminution in his receipts? I asked. Oh, yes; but he puts it down to the approach of Christmas, and to the fact that the colliers are saving their wages for the time of feasting — but others know differently, he remarked with significant emphasis. On inquiry of the tradespeople, they also admitted that their sales were not what they should be. How is that? Well, you see, people are paying their debts and settling old scores. It will be all the better for us in a little while. I talked also to pit-men who had the same story to tell of amendment and reformation. Having obtained these facts from the business and trading community, I asked the local ministers what reports they had to give. I found that for three weeks previous to the visit of Evan Roberts they had conducted among themselves mission services, that hundreds had professed conversion, and that all the churches had been daily gladdened by the addition of those who were being saved. What sort of converts are they? I asked. Mostly backsliders said a man in the street. When a church is not aggressive it consoles itself by saying that it is just about holding its own. What a false notion! Mostly backsliders tells another tale.

From, 'The Great Revival in Wales', by R B Shaw, page 15-16.


The Revival is going forward here, we have held two meetings every day, sometimes three, the last seven weeks have included some of the most wonderful meetings we would ever expect on earth. On Saturday, Dec 17th, the meeting was advertised to start at seven pm, but the place was crowded, and the meeting had to start long before this, and all the signs were that God was near, and the Spirit took the lead of the meeting. As we came through the doorway of the chapel we felt, "how terrible is this place here unless this is a house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." A young man, who has just joined the church, prayed simply, adroitly, earnestly and seriously for an exceptional visit of the Spirit. He was followed by several other converts. At half-past eight, there was in this marvellous place, some praying, some praising, others singing, others shouting, "what must I do to be saved," another asks aloud for those closest to him, is it not glorious. A voice, sweet, charming, insightful, thrilled the audience with the words "Bring forth the Royal diadem." It was sung ten, fifteen or twenty times over. Then we had the literal words in the book of Acts, “and suddenly there came a sound from heaven like a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting." From fifteen to twenty prayed at the same time, some praying for forgiveness, some wishing for deliverance from hell, a young boy over there praying for salvation of his brothers, another praying for God to save his brother who was a prodigal living in one of the towns of England, and that widow begging for the Spirit to save her inconsiderate son. We felt a certain awe when God was so close. We believe this meeting will be a means of eternal salvation to many souls. In short, we find some unusual beauty on the faces of some who participated in the meeting, such as they were thoroughly transformed.

Goleuad - 10th February 1905.

Additional Information

Myned yn ei flaen y mae tan y Diwygiad yma, yr ydym wedi cynal dau gyfarfod bob dydd, a thri weithiau, am y saith wythnos ddiweddaf ac yn eu plith rai o'r cyfarfodydd rhyfeddaf ddisgwyliwn gael byth ar y ddaear. Yn gyntaf cyfeiriwn at nos Sadwrn, Rhag. 17. Cyhoeddwyd y cyfarfod i ddechreu am saith ar y gloch, ond yr oedd y lie yn orlawn, a'r cyfarfod wedi dechreu yn hir cyn hyn, a phob arwyddion fod Duw yn agos,. a'r Ysbryd wedi cymeryd at arwain y cyfarfod. Yr oeddym yn gorfod teimlo gyda ein bod yn nrws yr addoldy, "mor ofnadwy yw y lie hwn nid oes yma onid ty i Dduw, a dyma borth y nefoedd." Dechreuwyd gan wr ieuanc, sydd newydd ymuno a'r eglwys, yn syml, deheuig, gweddiai yn daer a difrifol am ymweliad neillduol yr Ysbryd. Dilynwyd ef gan amryw eraill o'r dychweledigion, fel erbyn haner awr wedi wyth o'r gloch yr oedd yma le rhyfedd, rhai yn gweddio, rhai yn molianu, eraill yn canu, eraill yn gwaeddi, "pa beth i wneyd am fod yn gadwedig," un arall yn gofyn yn uchel i rai agosaf ato mewn hwyl nefol, onid ydyw yn ogoneddus. A dyma lais peraidd, swynol, treiddgar, yn gwefreiddio y gynulleidfa gyda'r geiriau "Bring forth the Royal diadem," &c. Canwyd hwy ddeg, neu bymtheg ar hugain o weithiau, trosodd. cawsom gyflawniad llythyrenol o'r geiriau hyny yn llyfr yr Actau, ac yn ddisymwth y daeth swn o'r nef megis gwynt nerthol yn rhuthro, ac a lanwodd yr holl dy lie yr oeddynt yn eistedd," O bymtheg i ugain yn gweddio yr un pryd, rhai yn gweddio am faddeuant, rhai yn dymuno am waredigaeth rhag uffern. Dyna fachgen ieuanc fan acw yn gweddio am achubiaeth ei frodyr, un arall yn gweddio am i Dduw achub ei frawd oedd yn byw yn afradlon yn un o drefi Lloegr, a dyna wraig weddw fan yna yn erfyn am i'r Ysbryd achub ei mhab anystyriol. Yr oeddem yn teimlo ryw arswyd pan oedd Duw mor agos, Credwn yn ddiffael i'r cyfarfod hwn fod yn gyfrwng iachawdwriaeth dragwyddol i eneidiau lawer. Mewn gair yr ydym yn canfod rhyw brydferthwch a thlysni anarferol ar wynebau rhai fu yn cymeryd rhan ynddo, maent megis wedi eu gweddnewid drwyddynt oll.

Goleuad - 10th February 1905.




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