Bethany History- 1st 90 Years (Part 1)
by Mr Bill Phillips
It would be no exaggeration to refer to them as near Ninety wonderful years This Broadsheet tells briefly the growth and history of the church. It recalls the venture of faith by a small company of believers in the early “Nineteen Hundreds”. They may have lacked “worldly goods” but they had faith and courage. The present Bethany is a living monument to their hallowed memory
For a long time I had promised myself i would as far as possible from information gleaned of the brethren and sisters now passed on into glory, try to write a history of the Church. As one grows older, we have a tendency, not unpleasant I may say to look back into times past, not only in our own life time but also to wondering what it was like during our parents age. This would be fascinating reading – the trials, hardships, the “ups and downs” of their daily life. Indeed it was such in the history of Bethany, not unlike many other chapels starting out in their early existence.
Of course I can not recall every incident, some of the members older than myself would probably remember some peculiar happening which I do not know. I con only give what I myself know, and what I have learned from the “old brethren”.
There was one problem I had on my mind. How could I set it out. Would I sectionalise the story, giving a short account ‘inter regnum” of each minister , or giving a general outline from the beginning to the present day. Then there would be so many names of the brethren and sisters past who were worthy of mention. My mind was made up when Pastor asked me to contribute in our broadsheet. I would try and sectionalise the account giving some contribution to each issue.
It all began when the minister of Capel Rhondda Rev.W Rees left to form an English Baptist cause at Hopkinstown. Here I quote an extract from Capel Rhondda History 1853-1953 translated from the Welsh “The rev William Rees came to Capel Rhondda from Aberaman in 1894 and hi ministry extended for a period of six years. During this time the Church now known as Bethany was built for English members. It was the experience of everyone that there was a warm Christian Fellowship and the atmosphere was a blessed one” (Translated by Rev Dewi Emlyn Lewis) I would like to point out that Bethany did not come into exsistance until 1906, although the cause was started in 1900.
The Rev. William Rees and family (Mrs Rees, Misses Katie, Deborah, and Maran Rees, who where talented instrumentalists) and over 55 members left Capel Rhondda for the new English Baptist Cause.
Unfortunately 22 members returned to Capel Rhondda. Accommodation was found for the beginners in a large black tin shed leased from the publican “Patsy” Gowan adjacent to the Castle Ivor Public House (now demolished) on Hopkinstown Road. This building was also occupied by the workmen of the Great Western Colliery who held their meetings for part of the week. Entry to the premises was made on May 15th 1900 (Hence our Church Anniversary became known as our “May Meetings”).
Formation of membership was on July 8th 1900, and services were held on Sundays 10.30am, Sunday School 2.30 and Evening 6pm. Young peoples meetings were held on Wednesday at 7pm. The other days of the week were used by the workmen of the Great Western Colliery. It was ironical that Bethany originated in the same place as the Workmens’ Hall. Never did the originators of the Hall (now Regent), many of whom I knew envisage that the Workmans’ Hall eventually would become a club. One John Steer was a member and deacon. The secretary for the first six months was William Hughes (Bill Hughes “AMEN”). The treasurer for the first six months was Mr John John. The very first member to join Rev. Rees and family was Mrs Holbrook at an open air meeting where the present Workmans’ Hall (Regent) now stands.
From February 1901 the secretary was Mr William Holbrook and the Treasurer Mr William Parry. The first deacon inducted was Mr Joshua Holbrook, and. the first Precentor was Mr David James. The piano was played by Rev Rees’ family, but after they left for London, by Mrs Gwen Davies, Mrs Morgan and Miss Lily James who took over the duties (incidentally from the 27th Nov. 1908 Miss James became our permanent organist for many years until her death). Perhaps you would like to know the very first collection amounted to £2.210.1/2. First payments to Pastor July 29th £1.10.0 per month. A “poor” fund was started Jan 25th 1903. Prayer meetings and all business meetings were held at Mr Holbrooks’ house for a period of 2 years.
You may wonder what happened when a person sought baptism. Well a baptismal font was installed in the hall for such occasions. As for heating a large black stove was the only provision during the winter months, and from what I gathered young people spent many hours around the old stove discussing many matters of interest both secular and religious and the singing of the talented “Bertie” Evans until late evening.
I have purposefully omitted mention of some of other prominent members. Of these I will give a short account later and how monies were raised to start the building of the Church.
Next edition will begin with the history of the first Pastor.
Rev. Samuel Davies