Introduction to the 1904 Welsh Revival
Each revival in time past had God’s unique signature and outpouring of the Holy Spirit. For example, in the Toronto outpouring in the nineties, the Father’s love and outpouring of joy characterized the move of God. The Welsh Revival in 1904, similarly, had God’s special imprint: the spontaneous outbreaks of singing, prayer, open repentance, and confession.
Of this revival, Reverend W. T. Stead remarked, “Hitherto the revival has not strayed beyond the track of singing people. It has followed the line of song, not of preaching. It has sung its way from one end of South Wales to the other. But then the Welsh are a nation of singing birds.” Here was revival led not so much by the preaching of man but by the Spirit of God lavishly pouring out on all flesh. There were also no advertisements, posters, or huge tents, yet throngs of people flocked to church meetings from England, and even America to experience firsthand the mighty outpouring of God’s presence.
The beginnings of the revival could be traced to church services where ministers like Joseph Jenkins and Seth Joshua sought to share their passion and encounters with the Lord. Simultaneously, long meetings were held to seek the Lord’s presence and empowerment, and many people were baptized with the Holy Spirit. Over the course of less than a year, the Lord moved in Wales, and the rest of the UK, capturing tens and hundreds of thousands of souls for the Kingdom.
The story of Evan Roberts and the Welsh Revival are intertwined and almost synonymous. Evan Roberts was a man marked by the Lord as His catalyst for the revival. Born in Loughor in 1878 and into a godly family, his parents raised him up in the fear and ways of the Lord. From a young age, Evan was deeply devoted to the Word and never left home without carrying his bible with Him. When he grew up and started working in the mines, at every spare moment available, he would be found seated on a piece of coal, absorbed in the Word of God.
Despite all that, Evan wasn’t satisfied with just working the mines, and when he was almost twenty, he considered taking up the call of God seriously and sought to further his education. One could surmise that Evan may have struggled with this decision. One night his breakthrough came as the Lord apprehended him at an evening service. The minister gave a call for those who wanted to be used by the Lord for His service, and Evan responded and went home seeking the Lord through the night. In the morning, he rose from his prayers, surrendered to God, with his decision firmly made to go to bible school.
Evan had also a deep life of intercession. He would be awoken by the Lord at 1 am and be in prayer for 4 hours till the break of dawn, as he sought the Lord’s face for revival to break out in Wales. It wasn’t long before God spoke to Evan about bearing the burden of the imminent revival in Wales in prayer. About a year into his study at the Ministers’ Training College at Newcastle Emlyn, Evan had a vision of what seemed to be an arm outstretched from the moon, reaching down into Wales. This vision thrust him into prayer and intercession and ultimately into the Welsh Revival.
The visitation of the Holy Spirit was widespread and ubiquitous in the country of Wales. The revival was felt everywhere. To quote an example, at a smoke-room conversion in Bangor University College, students gathered to discuss the topic of revival. It wasn’t long before one student broke out in song. The students stayed on in prayer, which cut into their lecture! It was commented by one who attended the meetings that “the most extraordinary thing about the meetings I attended, was the extent to which they were absolutely without human direction or leadership. “We must obey the Spirit,” is the watchword of Evan Roberts,…”1. It truly was a revival where God poured out His presence unilaterally, and without focus on any man. It is a divine visitation in which God moves in answer to a praying people.
Go back in time and imagine yourself arriving at the town, hoping to visit a revival meeting. An all-too-common scene is that of visitors being turned away at guesthouses near the site of revival meetings. Upon arriving at the meeting, you would barely have any standing space as the place is packed to the brim with people, hungry to receive from the Lord. It wouldn’t be long before you hear pockets of saints lifting their voices in beautiful melodies. The sound of their voices would cascade across the room until the whole place would erupt in thunderous praise. Occasionally, one would stand to seek prayer for an unsaved loved one. The singing would segue into intercession as loud cries of “mercy” rise to heaven like incense. After a series of urgent prayers, the Spirit would lift the burden and the meeting would transit seamlessly into the next section, as the invisible hand of the Almighty Conductor Himself orchestrates and directs the order. Another would stand up to testify of the Lord’s hand upon his life. Tears of joy and gratefulness would roll out uncontrollably as he speaks of his divine encounter, as the meeting once again is crowned by a symphony of praise. Such was the account of God’s move in Wales.
All over the country, testimonies of hardened souls receiving salvation and lives being changed were the talk of the town. The impact of the Lord’s hand was noticed evidently in the lives of people. Stories of profanity silenced, theaters deserted, courts abandoned due to a lack of crime, and bars shutting down were commonplace. Entertainment such as football matches simply could not compete with the presence of His glorious visitation. Sales of beer and alcohol declined steeply while pocket testaments were snapped up like hot cross-buns as people hunger for the Bread of Life and true living waters.
A story was told of how the horses in the mines were confused because once they were driven by men with use of obscenity and kicks but now there weren’t any. The Revival so seized the nation that the Western Mail in Cardiff published “Revival Editions”2. How often does one see religious news take front page in a national and secular newspaper? In these editions, revival news superseded current affairs, and testimonies replaced tabloid, telling of how the Welsh were more interested in God and His kingdom than the affairs of this world. The back of the paper even contained a hymn and a summary of the number of conversions to-date.
1. Page 69, The Great Welsh Revival by Rev. S.B. Shaw
2. Page 79, The Great Welsh Revival by Rev. S.B. Shaw
Pisgah Chapel was founded in 1895 by Mr. Evan Roberts where it was instituted as a Children’s Sunday School which later became one of the focal points in the 1904 Welsh Revival. Pisgah Chapel was where Mr Evan Roberts spent long periods in great intercession, prayer, and preaching. It has witnessed countless conversions and penitence of sins among the youths during the Welsh Revival between 1904-1906. However, the chapel closed in 2010 because of its unstable and derelict condition and was proposed to be demolished in 2012.
In 2015, hearing about the demolition, Cornerstone Community Church stepped in to purchase the property lease from Evan Roberts Institute and renovation of the chapel was completed in December the same year. Prayer meetings then began to be held in the Chapel in the first quarter of 2016 once again. Pisgah Chapel was officially rededicated on 21 May 2016 by Darren Millar AM, National Assembly of Welsh.
Over the coming years, Pisgah Chapel is to be re-established to its original commission as a prayer house, to enable those in the larger Christian body who have a passion, to see revival break forth once again in Wales and in the nations to join in this pursuit.