Trinity Chapel - Llanelli (1904)

It was my privilege about five weeks ago (says a Llanelly representative) to describe the early meetings at Loughor, where Mr Evan Roberts began his great work, which, as he confidently told me at the time, was going to transform the face of the country. Since then a great deal has happened, and the prognostication of the revivalist is now in a fair way of being fulfilled. Curiously enough, however, although situated only a few miles from the Mecca of the movement, Llannelly has been comparatively untouched by it. While distant towns in Glamorganshire have been aflame with religious fervour, the tin-plate town has been but slightly moved. It is true that in most of the chapels a series of prayer meetings have been held, but one looked in vain for the dramatic scenes which are being nightly enacted elsewhere. But signs have not been wanting that the dry bones of conventionality were being breathed upon, and on Saturday, when Mr Sydney Evans visited the town and asked, “Shall these bones live?” the response was unmistakable in its significance. Mr Evans was the central figure at a wonderful meeting held at Trinity Chapel. The building was packed at seven o’clock, and the proceedings were protracted until two o’clock this morning. The congregation had seven hours of crowded glorious experience. Even Mr Evans himself, accustomed as he now must be to displays of intense religious fervour, was powerfully affected by what took place. He had no hesitation in saying that in no town had the first meeting been charged with such an amount of magnetic power. “I can see,” he said, “that a great work is to be done at Llanelly, and before many days are past the town will be on fire.” Mr Evans arrived late at the meeting, and in his absence the proceedings were conducted by the pastor (the Rev. W. D. Rowlands). When the missioner rose to address the multitude every ear was strained to catch his message. He told his hearers, however that he had nothing new to tell them. He had his faith rested on the “old, old story,” and he told it again with a beautiful simplicity “as to a little child.” His address was followed by the singing of “Arglwydd. dyma fi,” after which Miss Roberts, a sister of Evan Roberts, rose and asked the meeting if they fully appreciated what they had been singing. Then came the famous hymn. “Pen Calfaria.” By this time the tide of feeling was running high and when a young man rose in the gallery and asked the congregation to join him in prayer on behalf of his wayward brother there was a remarkable outburst. This was accentuated when a well-known working man walked into the “set fawr,” fell on his knees in a paroxysm of weeping, and sobbed a broken prayer for forgiveness. In his moment of self abandonment he described how, like the Prodigal Son, he had gone to a far country, but was recalled to his better self by prayer meetings held at the works. His story moved all who heard it, and there was not a dry eye in the chapel as the pathetic recital went on. Meanwhile, the Rev. Mr Rowlands, himself deeply affected, cried out: “Let him go on. He is fighting for his life now!” Sydney Evans then went on to the penitent and administered consolation, and the Rev. Elias Davies gave utterance to the feelings of the meeting as he prayed that the convert might have Divine strength in the days that were to come. A few minutes later a voice of anguish was heard from the gallery making the confession, “I’m a sinner—help me.” Mr Evans said that that confession was the beginning of reformation. “I was a sinner myself and I was saved at the gate of hell. Thank God, the gate never opened upon me.” One of the most touching incidents of the evening was the request from a young man, who, in a voice faltering with emotion, begged that the meeting should not close before eleven o’clock. “My brother will be coming out or the public-house then,” he said, “and I want him to have a chance to come here. Even if he comes in drunk I shall be glad.” Later on a young woman described her concern for her brother, who was a slave to drink. She said that she had kept him at her side that evening until it was time for him to attend the meeting of his Union, where he was to pay his subscription. The meeting was held in a public-house, and once inside he did not leave until closing time. She went on to say, “It is a great shame and a disgrace to the leaders that the Unions, which do so much good, have their headquarters in public-houses. I pray to God that this wicked practice will be put a stop to, for the sake of weak men who cannot resist the temptation of such places.” Shortly before eleven o’clock it was decided to make a tour of the New Dock district, and hundreds of people formed themselves into a procession. They marched through the streets singing hymns and gathering strength as they moved along. A number of men and women under the influence of drink were approached, and all these were persuaded, to return to the chapel, where prayer was offered on their behalf. The converts included sailors, tin-plate workers. colliers, and several women, all falling on their knees and asking for forgiveness. Mr Evans and others prayed with them, and this went on until the Sabbath had been ushered in. Today was a busy day for Mr Sydney Evans. Several very crowded meetings were held, at one of which Mr Evans delivered himself of a scathing denunciation or the drink traffic and of the hold which football had obtained over the people of South Wales, “There is no room for drink in the Churches,” he exclaimed with passionate earnestness. “People say they can go into a public-house for a glass of beer without any harm. I say no. There must be no truck with this accursed trade. If people want drink let them go out of the Church—there is no room for them. Last night, when we went around the Dock district, we came across men under the influence of drink who told me that they were members of Churches. Shame! It is the drink which is sapping the strength of religion in Llanelly, and it is members of Churches who are drunkards who bring disgrace upon the cause of Christ.”

From, 'The Western Mail', 25th December 1904.

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