Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Edmund Jones of Pontypool

This is the grave of Edmund Jones, Pontypool, a leader in the great Revival of the Eighteenth Century. An Independent, he embraced the spirit of revival. This stone, found in the graveyard of Ebenezer United Reformed Church, Pontypool, replaces the original stone.


Sunday, July 04, 2010

How Not to be a Pastor

In 1909, Crane Street Baptist Church, Pontypool, welcomed Daniel Hughes as pastor. The pulpit was a prestigious one, having been occupied in the past by prominent Welsh Baptist leaders such as Thomas Thomas and William Edwards. Hughes, a native of North Wales, was described as 'outspoken and fearless in his convictions'.

He proved to be all that.

In December 1912 the deacons attempted to sack Daniel Hughes. Among the grounds cited were: 'continuous absence... neglect of visitations... want of interest in the Sunday School... lack of spiritual life in the church... strained relationships... disregard of the deacons' wishes... and no new members being added to the roll'. This was not all, however. Apparently Hughes had decided that the proper place to demand a pay rise was from the pulpit.

So the deacons sacked the man. Or tried to. Hughes refused, point-blank, to pack his bags. So the deacons locked the chapel and refused to let him in. Not to be daunted, Hughes climbed the railings outside the chapel, smashed open the gate with a hammer, and broke into the church, opening the chapel to the general public. He was planning to baptise so many new members that he would have control over the church.

The deacons were forced to go to the High Court for an injunction to ban him from the premises. Hughes refused to recognise the right of the deacons to dismiss him. Mr. Justice Eady decided otherwise, and in May 1913, the High Court ruled that Hughes had been legally dismissed. At the same time, the Baptist Union of Wales removed Hughes' name from their approved list.

Huw Edwards concludes that Hughes, no stranger to controversy, 'was either mentally ill or just an exceptionally unpleasant man'.

with acknowledgments to Huw Edwards, Capeli Llanelli (Carmarthen, 2009), p.393.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Cardiff Churches 2: Roath Park Congregational Church

Many of the churches of Cardiff stand witness to the remarkable work of God in Cardiff and District between 1880 and the outbreak of the Great War. The fate which has overtaken a great number of these is a reminder of how the spiritual climate has changed since those heady days.

Roath Park Congregational Church was one such church. The church owed its existence to the efforts of John Gore, a member of Richmond Road Church, who began a work among the children of the Roath Park district in 1896. Following a ten day mission, Roath Park Congregational Church formally came into existence on 16 June 1897. The missioner, John Thomas, was called as the first minister, for a trial period, but left after three months when the church was unable to pay his stipend. The motto of the church at this time was 'thank God and take courage'.

The situation had improved somewhat by 1898, when the Revd Silas Charles, minister of the English Congregational Church at Ferndale, in the Rhondda, was called as minister. A tin church was erected at the end of Mackintosh Place, opposite the present buildings. The service was conducted by the Revd Urijah Thomas of Bristol, and presided over by D. A. Thomas, MP for Merthyr Boroughs, a generous benefactor of English Congregationalism in Wales.

In 1902, Silas Charles left the church for Chepstow, and was succeeded by W. Whittington of Griffithstown, who remained minister until 1912. Under his ministry, the church experienced a period of steady growth, leading to the construction of the church building (on the right of the photograph), which opened in March 1910. The speaker at the opening service was J. D. Jones of Bournemouth, who chose as his theme, 'Christianity and Socialism', an apposite subject, given the industrial unrest which was at that time blighting the mid-Rhondda coal mines (largely owned by D. A. Thomas, by that time MP for Cardiff). The building seated 650, and the tin hall remained in use by the Sunday School.

In 1913, R. E. Salmon of Porth was called to Roath Park, where he would remain until the 1950s. Under his ministry, the church experienced further growth, membership passing the 400 mark by 1920, apparently unaffected by the disruption of the Great War. The church was open every day, its busy programme including Scouts, Girl Guides and a drama group. Early arrival on Sunday was recommended in order to secure a seat. The building of a substantial hall next to the church in 1928 reflected the community-focused ethos of the church.

The Second World War was a challenge for the Church, which suffered some bomb damage. However, the church 'did its bit'. Again, young men from the church marched off to war, while the ladies mended kit for the soldiers from nearby Maindy Barracks.

A thorough refurbishment of the church took place after the war. In 1944the present pulpit, enclosure around the Lord's Table and front to the choir gallery were erected as a memorial to Sir William James Thomas, a liberal benefactor to the church. Renovations in 1950 saw the removal of the pinnacles on the roof of the tower and the rear of the organ loft.

The Revd Glanville Jones replaced Salmon in the mid 1950s. In his turn. he was succeeded by the Revs Bale, Forecast and Ploughman. The church continued to serve its community, focusing particularly on the young people of the district, albeit with declining congregations. In 1972, the church became Roath Park United Reformed Church, following the union between the English Presbyterian Church and the Congregational Church.

The 1990s saw major repairs to the church buildings and halls. With the financial strain this entailed, it was increasingly difficult to support a full time minister. On the retirement of Bob Banner, the Revd Alison Dummer took pastoral oversight of the Roath Park and Minster Road United Reformed churches.

It was only a step from this to the decision to merge the two churches, and in 2008 it was decided to sell the Roath Park buildings and consolidate the work on the Minister Road site, where the church shares space with the Wales Synod offices of the United Reformed Church.

And there the story of the Christian witness on the site could easily have ended, the Grade II listed buildings becoming a community centre or a mosque. However, the buildings were acquired by Tabernacle, a splinter group from Heath Evangelical Church, who have embarked on an ambitious programme of restoration. On 24 March, 2010, the centenary of the building was marked by a special service. Alison Dummer gave a short talk on the history of the building, to which part of this post is devoted, and Alun McNab of Great Bridgford preached on the sin of despising the word of God.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cardiff Churches: 1 Plasnewydd Presbyterian Church (to 1936)

Founded 1885, Plasnewydd Presbyterian Church was the third English Calvinistic Methodist Church to be founded in Cardiff. Meetings were initially held in a house at the top end of Richmond Road, a few hundred yards away. Edwin Reese, later a deacon at the chapel, played a large part in its foundation, encouraged by John Pugh of Clifton Street. In May or June of 1886, the congregation was formally organised as a church, somewhat to the dismay of the denomination, who nevertheless agreed to support the fledgling cause.

The cause was greatly blessed of God, and by 1886 had outgrown the house in which the meetings were held. Interviews with the trustees of the Mackintosh Estate secured a site on Keppoch Street, close to the mansion of the Mackintosh family, Plasnewydd. The chapel was opened by Alfred Thomas, MP for East Glamorgan. A Baptist, Thomas was not unaccustomed to this task, laying the memorial stone at Minny Street Independent church, Cathays. At the same time, the services of W. Francis Jones were secured as minister, albeit on a small salary. He retired a year later, the church securing the services of B. T. Jones, Briton Ferry, in 1888.

Following a mission by Seth Joshua, the Church received twenty-six members in 1891, Joshua himself being received into the denomination a little later. Only a little way from the work of John Pugh as Clifton Street and East Moors, the church was soon caught up in the revival work, the membership rising from 72 in 1888 to 92 in 1894, when B. T. Jones resigned the pastorate.

From 1895 to 1904 the church was Pastored by Pulford Williams. The life of the church continued to flourish, a choir being formed.More of the chapel debt was paid off, and by the end of 1895 there was talk of erecting a new chapel. The gothic edifice depicted was finished in 1901. It was designed to hold 850, a far cry from the large room at the end of Richmond Road.

This was not mere pride. Membership figures indicate that the church was already experiencing something close to reviva. Between 1895 and 1902, the membership of the church grew from 110 to 228. In 1902, a further sixty-one new members were received. By the time Pulford Williams resigned, on grounds of ill health, in 1904, the church was self-supporting.

Under the long ministry of E. P. Jones (1904-32), the church was visited with full revival. By 1906, membership had increased to 388. By 1918, the figure was 487. The Great War, and the spiritual dearth which followed, cut that figure to 339 by 1932. This was offset by the continuing zeal of those who stayed. E. P. Jones' ministry was ended by his death on 5 March 1932. His place was taken by R. M. Roberts of Prestatyn. Membership began to increase once more, rising above 370 by 1935.


Monday, October 19, 2009


One of the great features of Revival is the adding to the Church of people who have not grown up within the bosom of the church visible. The 1904-5 Revival was no exception. In his Reminiscences of My Country and People David Davies gives a few examples of the prayers of older people converted in this revival.

A farmer, aware that someone had been pilfering potatoes, prayed in family worship that God would convince the thief of his sin, saying 'Lord, Thou knowest well who he is! - I suspect, too!'

Another farmer, having lost £5 - then a considerable sum of money, prayed: "O Lord, thou knowest I have mislaid the £5, and Thou, too, knowest where they are - tell me. Lord, tell me, for Thou knowest where they are'. When this did not avail, he added 'If Thou hadst lost them, Lord, and I knew where they were, I would tell Thee'.

If this prayer had been uttered by one brought up in church or chapel, it would have been the very height of irreverence, but the old farmer had never before known God as Father. And, Davies remarks, the Father who knows us so well heard the prayer in the way it was meant, and answered it. "[H]e no sooner opened his eyes, and got up on his feet, than he placed his hand upon his mislaid treasure!"


John Calvin: By J.P. Struthers

[In commemmoration of the 500th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin, Free St George's is pleased to be able to reproduce the following article and its accompanying illustration from The Morning Watch Vol. 2. The Morning Watch was the children's magazine of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland, and was published from 1888 to 1915 under the editorship of Rev. J.P. Struthers of Greenock. The illustrations for the magazine were produced by the lady who eventually became Mrs. Struthers.]

You all know the name of John Calvin, but I am not sure that you have ever seen a picture of him before. You are far more likely to have seen one of Luther. Calvin was a very different man, and a great many people do not like him as well. They do not like him often because they do not like what is called ‘Calvinism.’ But Calvin would have been very sorry to hear his doctrines going by his name. He did not think them Calvinism, but Christianity. He found them in the Bible.

He was a Frenchman, and the ablest Frenchman who has ever lived. He was born in 1509, and so was just a little boy when Luther kindled the fire that ended in the Reformation. What Calvin had to do then was not to begin to protest against Popery, but to prove to the world that the religion of the Protestants was the religion of the Bible. Ignorant priests were telling the ignorant people that the New Testament was a wicked book that Luther had discovered, and with the new ideas that the Reformation was bringing into men’s minds there was a danger that they would be loosed from the superstition of the old Church without being won to the faith of the new. Calvin was brought by what he himself calls ‘a sudden conversion’ to the knowledge of Christ. Driven from Paris by persecution he came to Geneva, where, though he little thought it, his life work was to be done. Here he wrote, when he was only twenty-six, his great book, ‘The Institutes of the Christian Religion,’ perhaps the most powerful statement of the faith that has ever been given to the world.

Geneva was in a very corrupt state under Popery, and Calvin tried to reform it. He was so eager about the purity of the Church, kept godless people so strictly from the Lord’s Table, that he was driven from the city. But things there went from bad to worse. They could not get on without him, and so after three years they sent for him and brought him back in triumph. He became practically the ruler of the city for more than twenty years after this, till his death.

Luther pulled down the old fabric of Popery, but it was Calvin who built up and strengthened the new church. He was the master-mind, the statesman of the Reformation. Though he was the ruling influence in Geneva, he could not do everything as he wished it, and he has been held responsible for a great many things he could not hinder.

He studied and worked so hard that he hardly ever had a day’s health. He had many sorrows, he lost all his children young, and he had on him, like Paul, ‘the care of all the churches.’ But, often sad, and always ill, he wrote one of the greatest commentaries on the Bible, and was the guide and adviser of nearly all the Protestant leaders of the time. His great work, The Institutes, is divided into four parts, and yet the ‘heads’ of it all are Christ and His Church. He gathers everything round God and the love of Christ.

Calvin lies buried in Geneva, but we cannot be certain of his grave, for he ordered that no monument should mark it. This was like the man. The motto of his books, and of his life, might very fitly be, ‘To Thy Name be all the glory.”

J.P. Struthers: The Morning Watch Vol. 2 (Greenock, James M’Kelvie and Sons, 1889) Pp. 55-6

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

'What You Can Remember'

'History', as readers of 1066 and All That, know, 'is not what you thought. It is what you can remember'. The same may be said of the Bible, at least in connection with Sunday School. Here, courtesy of the Cardiff Times of 4 August, 1900, are a few specimens showing that the fall has affected the human memory.

Q. Why was Jerusalem surrounded by walls?
A. To keep in the milk and honey.

Q. What is manna?
A. Please, Sir, it's taking your hat off to the master and missus.

Q. Where did Cain go after he had slain Abel?
A. To bed. [Cain went to the Land of Nod.]

Q. What is the Fourth Commandment?
A. Six days shalt thy neighbour do all that thou hast to do.

"We know that St. Peter was crucified upside-down because he mentions it in several of his epistles".

"It is cruel to cut off dogs' tails as some wicked men do, for what God has joined together let no man put asunder".


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Martyn Lloyd-Jones - The Lord's Supper guards Doctrine

I am currently preaching on the early chapters of the Book of Acts in the mornings at Bethel Evangelical Church, Hanley. While doing preparation for a sermon on the latter part of Acts 2, I came across this Lloyd-Jones quote in his Authentic Christianity:

“So the Lord’s Supper was not just the idea of the apostles, not something conjured up by the Church, but it was a solemn command of the Lord. Why did He command them to keep it? And here is a most significant thing. I believe he gave this command in order to preserve the doctrine, it is a kind of display of the truth, and our Lord wanted to preserve the truth throughout the centuries until the end of the Christian era.
“What a wonderful thing this has been! This table with its bread and wine has often been a terrible condemnation of the pulpit. Men have entered pulpits and said that Jesus was only a man, that he was nothing more than a moral exemplar and a good teacher. They have said that his death was the death of a pacifist, that it was a great tragedy and that we must imitate his spirit and live in the same way. They have preached like that in pulpits and then they have gone down to the Communion table, and there has been no connection between their preaching and the message of that Communion service. The Communion table, the broken bread and the poured out wine, has been preaching a message.
“And so, because of men and their fallibility – and we are all fallible – the Lord took a step to preserve the truth, the doctrine. And if you want to know how to test modern teaching and modern preaching, here is your test: what relationship does it bear to the bread and the wine? Does it lead to that? Is the Communion service a demonstration of the message that has been preached? If it is not, the message has been false. Here is the Lord’s own command and he has commanded it in order to preserve the teaching.”

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Authentic Christianity Vol. 1 (Edinburgh, Banner of Truth, 1999) Pp. 159-160

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