Bethany History- 1st 90 Years (Part 2)
by Mr Bill Phillips
Rev Samual Davies 1906-1917
With the growth of the Church in the hall, the vision of possessing their own building developed. Indeed to give a fair account of its growth we only have to look at the Sunday School attendance register. Average July to December 1904 was 126, July to December 1905 163, January to June 1906 was 183 and thus thus it grew. I somtimes wonder how many could have been accomadated in such a small building – oh that it was our problem today.
Another problem which was uppermost oat this time was the finance. How was the debt (which was enormous for the early days) to be paid off. Monies had to be raised from somewhere and there was a salary to be paid for a full time pastorate, when this would occur, “calls” were given to Dr Hughes of Ararat, Whitchurch, Cardiff, but he went to Coedpenmaen Baptist. Rev. Williams of Glastonbury was also invited but he could not accept. Then in February 1906, while still in the hall, an invitation was extended to Rev. Samuel Davies of Penygraig who accepted the Pastorate of the Church. (Extracts from the original invitation reads “It was unanimous decision”, Salary of £7.00 per 4 weeks, but to increase as the Church grew. One month’s holiday per year church to find supplies, 6 Sundays extra, but Pastor to find supplies, 3 months notice on either side. An appeal to come as a number of converts were awaiting Baptism).
The only solution to paying off the dept would be in borrowing and thus the members and friends were invited to subscribe. Earliest subscribers amounted to 24 which included English Baptist Building Fund and Rev Samuel Davies himself. Loans ranged from £20 to £450, such was the faith of investors had in the early baptist cause. Eventually, little by little, debts were cleared but it was not until 40 years had elapsed before the church became clear of all dept. But that is another story how this was achieved. Then on July 15th 1906 the new Chapel Bethany was opened by Dr Principal Edward of Cardiff Baptist College. To celebrate the opening they had various ministers to preach, the first to preach was Rev. Anthony Williams of Hebron Ystrad. Rev Evan Lewis, Calvary Treforest, Dr Morris, Treorchy, Rev Joshua Thomas, Coedpenmaen, Rev Humphreys of Penrhiwceiber.
On October 8th 1906 a Building Fund was opened. The Secretary was William Holbrook, Treasurer William Parry and John Steer and Precentor David James were in charge of the fund. Credit was given to Rev Samuel Davies who himself found about £3000 from various people.
For a long time interest only was paid together with a small amount of capital borrowed. Some of us older members vividly remember the ‘Ministerial Fund” “Penny a Week” collections. This ministerial fund was collected door to door from members to supplement Pastor’s wages. The penny a week fund to defray other items of expenditure. Running together with this was a Building Fund collection taken once per month at the Sunday evening after meetings. Every effort was made to keep solvent. The choral society of the church held many cantatas and oratorios at the “New Town Hall”. To name but a few – Josiah King of Judah, March 1910, The Crusader, April 1912, The Oratorio Judas Maccabaeus, December 1912. One of the chief characters was of course our own member, Bert Gregory Evans RCM, of whom I shall write later.
On August 19th 1908, it was decided to apply for a licence for marriages, 28th September 1908 saw the inauguration of the Band of Hope. How well one remembers in later years, the Band of Hope meetings held on Monday evenings, 6pm – 7pm. It was a ritual to repeat the pledge before every session – Can we ever forget it? A very active Dramatic Society was also in existence. How well we remember some dramas held in the Town Hall in later years – “Saints and Sinners”, “Middleman”, “Passing of the 3rd Floor Back”, to name a few.
The lighting of the Church was by gas. Perhaps you may have noticed remnants of the gas fittings in the walls. There was a scare before the day before the opening of the Church – the gas supply had failed and the ‘gas people’ had to be called in. There seemed to have been a bad leakage of gas somewhere. This was not changed to electricity until some years later. The electricity supply was installed by a member, Mr Hugh Pugh Jones, and electrician at the Great Western Colliery on Wednesday 19th August 1908, a special church meeting was convened to reaffirm the Deeds and doctrine of Belief of the Church. There appeared to have been some heresy creeping into the Church. I would like to quote this minute – it is worth repeating, to show how steadfast were the older brethren to the Word of God.
“That we as a church desire to emphasise most strongly the detailed statement of our Deed, referring to our general belief and Doctrine as a Church belonging to the Baptist Denomination, and that we consider some of the doctrines prevalent most injurious and wicked and according to the text of said Deed that neither Chapel nor any other building connected can be used to teach or practice and doctrine contrary to the Deed. The Doctrine of our deeds are those preached , taught and practiced by the Baptist Denomination for centuries. That we ask each brother and sister to act conscientiously in the matter. Also that the superintendent at the school is expected to carry out his work in accordance with the resolution. That we desire to place this resolution on record of the church book to avoid any further misunderstanding”.
This resolution was further ratified in a minute dated October 8th 1911. What was the heresy? I believe it was the “Theory of Evolution” that was being discussed in the Sunday School and the ‘Saints of Old” were determined to ‘nip it in the bud’.
In July 1918, William Holbrook resigned after being Secretary since 1901, and his place was filled by a younger brother, Harry Selway. Late in the year 1917 the Minister Rev Samuel Davies’ pastorate was terminated. Nothing appears to be in the minutes for the reason, but it was well known that at the time that matters had not been too well between Mr Davies, Deacons and Church.
Still the Church grew, year by year Sunday School scholars increased in numbers from 183 in 1906 to a highest figure of 433 in 1910. There was one tragic occurence on August 26th 1916. During the Sunday School outing to Barry Island one scholar, Stanley Woodall (aged ten), was drowned. From then on before the start of each outing, scholars assembled in the Church for a prayer to God for His guidance and safety for the day.
The first trustees of the Church were:
David Jones, Richard Henry Jones, William Parry, Rev Samuel Davies, Joshua Holbrook, John Jenkins, Abram Kingdom, Henry Thomas, William Hughes, George Pitt, William Lewis, John Watkins, William Gimblette and John Griffiths.
On the 21st November 1916, a Bible Class was started for young people of the Church and on the 10th May 1917 a register of members names and addresses was kept.
The Church did not remain long without a pastor for after his supply to the Harvest Thanksgiving Service (October 21 1917), a “call” was extended on February 8th 1918 to Rev George Frederick Tansill of Meardy to become Pastor of Bethany.
In our next issue we shall look at the ministry of this gracious brother who faithfully administered the ‘Word’ for eleven years.