The beautiful hills and valleys of Wales once echoed to the sound of singing especially during some of the many spiritual revivals between the years 1735-1904. Today, the nation waits for the unpredictable winds of God’s blessing to blow across this land again.
Land of Song
In Wales people sing. The country is famed for its Eisteddfod, the male voice choirs and the biennial Cardiff Singer of the World competition.
My first meeting with the singing soul of this country was as a youngster, hearing the local male voice choir singing in the evening in the village street outside where we were staying the night. It was a moment I’ve never forgotten.
Wales was world famous for its coal mining, steel and slate industries. Today it’s known for its rugby team. On match days the Principality Stadium in Cardiff rings with the sounds of William William’s famous hymn ‘Guide me O thou great Redeemer‘ along with the patriotic ‘Land of our fathers‘ expressing the nation’s singing heart.
Land of Revivals
As the wind blows through these hilltop grasses it also brings a sense of loss. Something is missing in this land. This quiet countryside around the Brecon Beacons was once mightily blessed with divine favour, but now just memories remain. Times of spiritual renewal often begin in insignificant, out of the way places as here.
On one holiday here I made a personal pilgrimage to the remote village of Trefeca near Brecon where a remarkable work of God had its beginnings in the 18th century. It was here in 1735 that a young man, Howell Harris, after a time of earnest searching, discovered a deep peace with God through faith in Christ. His subsequent open-air preaching, along with that of Daniel Rowland, startled the nation. Thousands of people came into an encounter with Christ creating new churches marked by a deep hymn- singing culture. The voice of praise was ringing over the hills and through the valleys.
A whole series of revivals followed in Wales through the next two centuries until that of 1904 which deeply affected the nation. It was estimated that more than 100.000 people became new followers of Christ, the churches were filled, crime rates dropped to an all time low and the national papers were full of news of what was happening.
Sadly, the winds of God’s Spirit no longer blow as they once did and a prevailing culture of secularism has settled in Wales.
Land of Blessing
Blessings are meant to be shared and Wales has done this in good measure. The classic story of the young girl Mary Jones’ 24 mile walk to get her own Bible in Bala resulted in the foundation of The Bible Society in Wales in 1802 with the slogan: ‘If for Wales, …. why not for the world?’ Today there are Bible Societies spreading Bibles in local languages in many parts of the world.
Following the 1859 revival, Welsh missionaries took the Christian faith to many parts of the world including the former head-hunting tribes of NE India. Here today 87% of the population are Christian. (See photo) The revival fire of 1904 also spread here and to America in 1906 and to Korea in 1907.
Since then, in places like South Korea, China, South America and parts of Africa the winds of God have been blowing powerfully bringing much blessing in thriving, fast-growing churches. Today over 40% of South Koreans are Christians, including the world’s largest church in Seoul with over a million members. Korean missionaries can be found all over the world, even back in Wales!
Closed collieries like this are a sad sight of hard economic times. Wales has seen better days, with a great spiritual past. No wonder they say that ‘Welsh’ is the language of Heaven! Such memories lie like embers waiting to be rekindled by the winds of God one day. One woman who had witnessed the 1904 revival was asked 70 years later when it stopped. She replied: ‘In my heart the revival fire still burns.’
Like those seams of coal, just under the surface of the closed collieries, is that ‘singing soul’ waiting for something to sing about (other than rugby!) Occasionally it surfaces as at Ffald y Brenin, near the ‘Pembrokeshire Coast National Park’ (above) and in some other places. Now Wales waits. Hopefully, such places are a portent, the first rustling in the leaves of the trees, a sign that refreshing new winds are coming. When they do blow, the people of this ‘Land of revivals’ will sing again in praise and thanksgiving. So will we….
Thank you for joining me.
Next time – ‘The Glory and the Dream.’
Featured image – the Black Mountains -Photo Jonathan Billinger – Geograph