The 1904-1905 Welsh Revival was the last full scale Christian Revival the nation of Wales has seen. Although some might argue that small-scale revivals have happened in different localities such as the blessing of Cross Hands in the 1940s and the blessing amongst Welsh students during the 1970s – nothing has come near to the wind that swept through Wales over a century ago.
Before the 1904-1905 revival the last revival that Wales saw was in 1859, prior to that change was afoot in the Christianity of Wales. From 1850 onwards the Christianity of Wales was loosing more and more of its historical Calvinistic roots. It was an age when a generation of powerful biblical preachers came to an end, leaders such as Christmas Evans (1838), John Elias (1841) and Henry Rees (1869) all deceased. From this point onwards the emphasis in preaching was shifting from biblical correctness to simply entertaining the crowd.
Prior to the 1904-1905 revival two thinkers came to prominence, the political philosopher Karl Marx with his Communist Manifesto in 1848 and Das Capital in 1867 and the scientist Charles Darwin with his major work the Origin of Species in 1859. Both of these men’s works challenged the Christianity of Wales. In face of hardship the poor quarrymen of North Wales wanted hope and so many turned to politics, the preachers followed and so the gospel of grace turned in to only a Social gospel. In the same way Christian leaders came to accept the theories of Darwin despite the conflict with the teachings of the Bible.
Leading up to 1904 many Churches and Christian leaders in Wales had turned it’s back on the Calvinistic tradition, their Christianity was nothing more that an aspect of the Culture of Wales; it had no serious divine nature to it. It is from this background that we must see how the 1904-1905 Revival came to be, Wales was hungry for a spiritual injection.
Paving the way for revival
Thus far perhaps I have painted a too dark of a picture of Wales between 1859 and 1904. God did work in different localities at different times; there were local revivals in Cwmafan (1866), Rhondda (1879), Carmarthen and Bleunau Ffestiniog (1887), Dowlais (1890) and Pontnewydd (1892). These local blessings came to be after intense praying by local Christians. And so the same preceded the 1904-1905 revival, prayer was vital and Christians were devoted to prayer. For example through 1902-1903 the Baptist leaders of Rhondda Valley, all 35 of them, held regular prayer meetings. In Hebron, Ton, the prayer meetings carried on in to 1904 and in the last week of 1904 as news came of a blessing upon the congregation of Hebron, Dowlais the praying intensified in Hebron, Ton, in hope that they would witness a similar blessing.
It cannot be said exactly where and when the Revival broke out, but perhaps these areas can bee identified as crucial locations.
Ceinewydd (New Quay) and Blaenannerch
A prominent leader of the Revival was the Methodist preacher of Ceinewydd Joseph Jenkins . During 1903 his heart longed for a spiritual awakening in Wales. It was seen fit to arrange a conference in Ceinewydd under the theme ‘to deepen our loyalty to Christ’. No special blessing came to be during the meetings of the conference; but later Joseph Jenkins during prayer a strange feeling fell on him. Soon afterwards while preaching he came to realize that God was indeed blessing. It was in February of 1904 while preaching that Joseph Jenkins came to fully realize that the wind behind his preaching was the wind of Revival. After this meeting the regular Sunday meetings as well as the newly founded mid-week meetings became lively and Joseph Jenkins’ Church went to other surrounding Towns and Villages to whiteness.
In September a conference was held in Blaenannerch . It was reported that massive blessing was upon this conference and the news quickly spread thought the area and beyond. The South Wales Daily News picked up on the events and reported that the third grate revival was afoot through the nation! (the other two being the Welsh Methodist revival and the 1859 Revival ).
In the months after the blessing in Blaenannerch Joseph Jenkins lost many hours of sleep to prayer as he became more and more aware of the greatness of God. At the beginning of November 1904 he was invited as guest preacher at meetings in Bethany Ammanford, the Church of Nantlais Williams. When it was arranged that Joseph Jenkins was to be guest preacher there was no news of the blessings of Ceinewydd and Blaenannerch, but an extra meeting was hastily arranged on the Sunday afternoon so that Joseph Jenkins could tell the story of the blessing that was afoot in Ceinewydd and Blaenannerch. Nantlais Williams is recorded to have said that he was worried that there would be no interest in such a meeting and he was sceptical what the turn out would be; when he himself arrived he could only just squeeze in to the Chapel to hear Joseph Jenkins.
It had been arranged before the blessings that Joseph Jenkins was to preach on the Monday night before his return to Ceinewydd. The Church was again full with people professing their faith in Jesus; but perhaps the most dramatic turn was when one of the crowd announced “Another meeting like this will be held here tomorrow night...”, and so that meeting again was well attended and went on until the early hours of the morning. Despite already having been ordained as a Minister it is worth noting that upon till this weekend in November 1904 Nantlais Williams himself was not a Christian, he came to conviction on the Saturday night prior to Joseph Jenkins’ arrival.
In December of 1904 Joseph Jenkins embarked upon a three month period preaching and professing in areas of North Wales. Many meetings were blessed in Amlwch, Llangefni, Llanerchymedd, Talysarn , Llanllyfni , Llanrwst, Dinbych , Dinorwig, Disgwylfa and amongst student in the University of Wales Bangor. But perhaps the largest blessings were seen in Bethesda, another leader of the revival J.T Job described the meeting held in Jerusalem Bethesda on the 22 of December 1904 as ‘a hurricane’. A packed Church after over an hour of praying welcomed Joseph Jenkins to preach, it is said that twenty minutes in to the sermon the crowd started to erupt like they were drunk on the holy spirit! Men shouting out hymns and people dancing in the aisles.
Evan Roberts and Casllwchwr
Evan Roberts was a young man influenced by the stories and experiences that were happening over in Ceinewydd and Blaenannerch. He felt a call to the ministry and so he went for his ministerial training in Newcastle Emlyn, he therefore landed up in the, then, hot-bed of the Revival in south Ceredigion. The zeal of the blessings in Ceinewydd and Blaenannerch had already spread to Newcastle Emlyn and served as quite a distraction for a man who had been sent there to study. Seth Joshua , another prominent leader of the Revival came to the area to hold meetings, Evan Roberts attended eagerly. During the second meeting in Blaenannerch as Seth Joshua was drawing to a close Evan Roberts fell to his knees and cried out “Fold me; fold me; Fold us!”.
After his three months training at Newcastle Emlyn he was to return to Casllwchwr to start his ministry. He is said to have direct visions from the Holy Spirit; very specific visions such as the number 100,000 representing the souls God is to use him to save. As the revival unfolded Evan Roberts is said to depend more and more on his dependency on the Holy Spirit and thus neglecting the authority of the scriptures. Nevertheless his ministry did bear fruit in Casllwchwr. Firstly his ministry to young people was successful and fruitful – the meetings started always with stories he brought back from Ceinewydd and Blaenannerch and then he would turn around and challenge the listener about their spiritual state. Slowly was the response to Evan Roberts’ ministry at start but soon the crowds turned out and the meetings were blessed and carried on until the early hours of the morning. After the blessings at Casllwchwr Evan Roberts got together a team and went on a tour of the Valleys of Wales to spread the revival.
Role of newspapers
A feature of this revival that was not seen in any other revival prior to 1904 was the role of the media. The Western Mail and the South Wales Daily News , Wales’ daily newspapers were the main means of spreading the story that revival was in the land. The Western Mail gave extensive coverage to Evan Roberts’ meetings in Casllwchwr.
Reflections on the Revival
It is believed that at least 100,000 people became Christians during the 1904-1905 revival. But despite this mass of people who turned to Christ the revival did not put a stop to the gradual decline of Christianity in Wales, it only held it back slightly. It is said that the 1904-1905 revival lacked the depth of previous revivals in terms of nurturing the newly converted Christians in Bible doctrine . Those areas which were blessed with a revival leader whom put emphasis on the authority of Scripture such as Rhosllannerchrugog saw the effect of the revival last longer than areas who had a revival leader whom put emphasis on direct visions from the Holy Spirit and thus neglected the authority of scripture.
The effect of Christianity on Wales is, one could argue, grater that the effect of Marxism on Russia. What happened in Wales during 1904-1905 was indeed a hurricane as J.T Job put it but perhaps it was not the typhoon of the Methodist revival revisited.
Amazing Grace musical
In 2005 a musical was made about the 1904-1905 Welsh Revival. The music and lyrics are written by Mal Pope and the book is by Frank Vickery . It's first tour began at the Grand Theatre in Swansea, Wales and was directed by Michael Bogdanov with the Wales Theatre Company . The first tour included an appearence from Peter Karrie. See Amazing Grace official Web Site
- Evans, Eifion: “Diwygiad 04-05” : 2002
- Gibbard, Noel: “Nefol Dan – Agweddau ar ddiwygiad 1904-1905” : 2004
- Davies, Gwyn: “Golau Gwlad – Cristnogaeth yng Nghymru 200-2000” : 2002