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.



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