The Jubilee Souvenir booklet 1874-1924
For this booklet the Church is indebted to the labours of two of her esteemed members-to Mr. E. Samuel, M.A., headmaster of the Rhondda Intermediate School, and one of “TABERNACLE’S” officers, who compiled its material ; and to the Rev.T.Davies- late of Bethany, Ynyshir – who very kindly undertook the stringing together of the facts-a task which Mr. Samuel himself had hoped to be able to perform. The officers wish hereby to express their warm acknowledgement of their labour of love.
No apology should be necessary for presenting to the members and congregation of TABERNACLE and others an outline of the history of the Church to which they belong and love so dearly. Within her sanctuary many have found the Gate of Heaven.
Many a thirsty soul, driven almost to despair by the failure of the Broken Cisterns, has crossed her threshold and drunk of that crystal stream which ever flows from under the Throne of the Lamb.
The Church has borne many children, and, to them at least, the story of her origin and development will he of peculiar interest. The younger generation of her members know her only as a queen robed in majesty, and wielding a sceptre of great spiritual influence throughout our beloved land. Their admiration and holy pride will, we believe, be greatly enhanced and intensified when they learn that her majesty is hers by merit that once she, like her Lord and Head, was humbly born and reared in lowliness.
May the reader’s eye be illumined by the Holy Ghost to see, and seeing, he stirred to praise God for the wonderful grace and mercy bestowed on THE TABERNACLE.”
THE TABERNACLE, PORTH BEGINNINGS.
Though the beginning of the period now under consideration is but fifty Years distant, and therefore, well known to many who are still living, the spirit of the present and that fifty years ago, and the scenes in which the parts of our story were enacted, have so changed that the youth of today need the aid of a vivid imagination in order to fully understand the deeper meaning of the events, and the worth of the characters found in the story.
The stage on which the first acts of our Church drama were played was Porth, but not the Porth of today. The white-haired patriarchs we now meet were then the happy, joyous children whipping their tops and playing their marbles in its few streets. A stranger waltzing from Porth Bridge in those days would see on his left the sacred edifice then used by the Wesleyans as a place of worship. On his right no building would meet his gaze until he came to the Square. Where the police station now stands a stream branched off from the river, wending its way towards and along the back of the present Hannah Street, then over the railway and down to the Hafod Pits, where it became the hydraulic power by which the pits were then worked. This stream was known as the “Feeder”.
Walking where Hannah Street is now, the same stranger would see an open space just opposite the present “TABERNACLE” and upwards. In this open space, on Saturday nights, haberdashers could be seen waxing eloquent in modest (sic) descriptions of the excellencies of their wares. Below the present “TABERNACLE,” and on the same side, was another open space, where, now and again, itinerating entertainers would plant their swing-boats and shows to the great delight of the children of those days. This open space was bounded on its lower side by a block of seven private houses standing where “Salem” Chapel is now-known as “The Bows,” because they had bay windows. Lower down still, but on the other side, stood the Old Salem. The Central Cinema is now built on the same site.In those days, before Sunday clubs became the fashion, and the public houses, as now, being, closed on Sundays, a ” brake,” loaded with the rougher element of the town could be seen on holy days wending its rowdy way towards towns and villages beyond the Welsh border, where intoxicating drinks could be had to their hearts’ content. In this moral darkness two divinely-lighted candles were shining brightly. True thankfulness and admiration should well up in our hearts as we think of the Welsh Baptists and the Wesleyans, for they were the pioneers of the Gospel in Porth. (Cymmer, then an independent village, had, of course, long before this, its famous Independent Church.)
In 1872, two years before the actual beginning of our story, there were but few English Baptists in Porth. Those few frequently attended the services of the Wesleyans, the language proving an impassable barrier to fellowship with the Welsh Baptists. The Wesleyans were then enjoying halcyon days, their chapel being hardly large enough to accommodate their own people. Occasionally, the few English Baptists would wend their way to a small room over a certain ” Stores ” situate somewhere near the Dinas Station. In that unpretentious temple they bowed their knees to Him Who respects neither person nor place.
The leading spirit in this little band was a young man of 22 years, by the name of Thomas Jones (now Alderman T. Jones, J.P., of Penrhiwceiber, and President of the East Glamorgan Association of English Baptist Churches). When circumstances drove the Ark from the ” Stores,” an Obededom, whose name was Evans, living in a humble cottage on the side of the tramway leading from Dinas to Tonypandy, flung wide his door and welcomed it to his hearth. The ” Ark ” also, successively, found shelter ‘neath the roof of John Norman, Thomas Juries, and the tenant of Brithweunydd Farm. The blessing that followed the lives of these men testifies clearly that God will be no man’s debtor.
This little band would meet, together in these homely sanctuaries not only for prayer, but also for meditation in the sacred Scriptures. ” TABERNACLE’S ” roots were planted in hearts that loved the Bible intensely. Mr. Thomas Jones, recalling those times, writes “There were also Bible classes held-one or two strangers attending these occasionally Even at that time there were a few stars of great magnitude in the Bible class. Good, honest men ; rugged debaters were they; time was unheeded ; their point must be carried. Referring again to this period, the same writer continues : ” Ultimately we decided to apply for the Llanwonno Board Schoolroom (now Porth Boy’s school) for the purpose of commencing and establishing an ‘English Baptist Church’ at Porth. Mr Edward Powell, Mr Thomas Davies, and the writer had an interview with the Rev. Dr Roberts, Welsh Baptist minister, Pontypridd, who was at the time chairman of the Llanwonno School Board, and succeeded in obtaining the use of the schoolroom for preaching services. But the board could not see their way clear to allow it to be used for Sunday school purposes as well. Upon hearing this, the Welsh Baptist church at Salem offered its gallery of their own chapel. This was gratefully accepted, and so the Porth English Baptist Church was established on 4th January, 1874. The members were:
Mr. and Mrs Edward Powell,
Mr.and Mrs. Thomas Davics,
Mr.and Mrs. Thomas Jones,
Soon afterwards Mr. James Rosser, a native of Pontypool, and a cousin of the writer, joined the little church, by baptism, and became conductor of the small choir which had been formed, hut his early death from typhoid fever proved a great loss to the remaining few, who, however, looked up to God and submitted to Him . . . Soon afterwards, God in His loving kindness sent another to take up the work, namely Mr William Saunders (also native of Pontypool, and whose father and mother with grown up children were members of the Tabernacle, ‘Penygarn Tabernacle, as those of us who hail from Pontypool like to call the place of our spiritual birth), and a very efficient conductor he proved to be. His wife possessed a sweet voice. I think I see them now as I am looking back on past years – father and mother with six children in the morning service.
The congregation in the Schoolroom continued to increase, so that it was thought advisable to secure sufficient ground in Hannah Street, whereon a small vestry could be built, and which, at some future date, could be made into a larger edifice. This was done. The late Mr. John Griffiths, of Porth House ( who was at that time agent for the Porth estate) was approached, and finally a plot of land was secured. The few brethren dug out the foundation for their future vestry in their spare time. Like Nehemiah’s men, I they had a mind to work.’ The small building was soon erected by Messrs. Charles Jenkins & Son, of Porth.
” Enthusiastic meetings were held to celebrate the opening, and the young church enjoyed her bright’ day of small beginnings on the eleventh day of July, 1875.”
At this Period we enter upon a distinct epoch in the history of the church now housed in a commodious building, and , many strangers seeking her fellowship, it was thought advisable to secure the services of a pastor.
He who heads the list of Tabernacle’s prophets, is the Rev. David Thomas: He first appears as a Young man. In those days of small salaries it was not uncommon for the Minister to ply his trade in order to escape the inconveniences of poverty . In this respect Mr Thomas was in the direct line of the apostolic succession, for Paul, we remember, was a tent maker as well as an Apostle. There was in this a decided advantage to the minister, for life’s problems are not all met with and solved in classroom or cloister, but also in the track of the sweating brow. A weaver by trade, Mr Thomas, on week days could be seen bearing a wooden pole on his shoulder, from which hung a bag containing his home-made wares, as he went rounding up his customers. This handling of the mundane with ungloved hands constant staring at the shuttle did not benumb his sensitiveness to the spiritual. Oft, while sitting down to his weaving apparatus, the soft purring of the revolving wheel seemed to awaken the muse slumbering in his soul. The weary eye would shine bright with lustre as it espied some new Parnassus in the poet’s enchanted world, or glisten with tears as, under the brooding of the eternal Spirit, the darkness enshrouding the deeps of Nature receded, and a new creation of God burst into view. Thoughts spiritual and poetic would crowd in on his mind while he made and sold his wares. Who knows but that this prize poem (“The Waterfall”) came to birth in the brain of Dewi Ogwy (for that was his bardic nom de-Plume) while on one of his usual stocking-selling expeditions ! Some hold that he is the David Thomas, the author of that sweet hymn (No.1154 in “Psalms and Hymns”),
” Show pity, Lord!
For we are frail and faint,” etc.
If so, he was intensely conscious of the frailty, brevity, and corruption of human life. To him, God alone, in pity, holiness, and love, could heal the soul’s diseases, He was greatly, beloved by his flock for his geniality and genius. scant are the records, and there are now but few able to speak of this bard-preacher. It would seem that his life, like his death, was a strange mixture of romance and tragedy.
On Sunday, 20th October, 1878, he was expected to preach at Argoed. The congregation came, but the expected herald of the Cross was not in the pulpit. That day the empty pulpit preached a sermon of its own on the text “prepare to meet Thy God” for Mr. Thomas, on his way to Argoed the previous night lost his life in a train collision in Pontypridd. To some kind friends trying to help the dying pastor in the midst of the wreckage, he said “leave me alone: see to the others.” These were his last words, a glowing testimonial to his worth. His ministry had been a fruitful one. The little assembly was prospering on every hand; so much so that it became necessary to lengthen the cords and strengthen the stakes. A larger edifice was commenced, with much prayer and a large exercise of faith. When completed, it was called “The Tabernacle”. The opening celebrations were held on 4th and 5th November, 1877, when Dr Thomas the reverend principal of the Baptist College, Pontypool, officiated. One who was present writes that Dr. Thomas’s mellow voice and dignified appearance on this occasion
made a lasting impression on those who heard him. The converts before those days were baptised either in the “Feeder ” or in the river at the bottom of Hannah Street. The first to be baptised in the chapel was
Mrs. Llewellyn, Cymmer who is still with us
Barely twelve months after opening the chapel while still enjoying much prosperity, Tabernacle is bereft of her first pastor. We lose sight of him among the glorified throng that surround the throne. There, his cut off earthly ministry is renewed in the power of an endless life. The fingers that once turned the spinning wheel are now on the strings of a golden harp, whose music yields fitter accompaniment to his songs than did the purring of his wheel. He is among the blest. But what about the shepherdless flock? Through their tears they see the path of duty. The next year the fallen reins are placed in the hands of the second pastor, the Rev John Davies. But it is evident that Providence did not consider their cup of grief as yet full as Mr. Davies also, after being in charge for only a few months, was promoted to higher service.
In spite of her initial sad experiences, ” TABERNACLE ” was not of those who Yield without a struggle. In 1880, six Years after her formation, her pulpit is filled once again, this time by the Rev. Owen Owens. Mr. Owens came to Tabernacle from Pontypool College.
The calamities which had recently befallen the young church, though not destructive, bad weakened her considerably like a- vessel emerging from the storm, her sails in shreds and her hulk full of gaping rents, she had only narrowly escaped becoming a total wreck.
The congregation when Mr. Owens took over the pastorate was small; so small, that Sunday services for some time were held in the vestry. To this disadvantage was added another, namely, the crushing debt of
the new chapel. How youth and inexperience, aided by a resourceful “help-meet”, and a devout, loyal body of officers, faced and subdued these difficulties is a story worth telling. The arena where the difficulties were met and fought was the prayer meeting. There, on bended knees, the burdened few poured out their souls in supplication to God. The dimensions of the task before them compelled the realisation of their own inability and weakness. Nevertheless, by the grace of God’s they did not despair. By faith they wedded their weakness to God’s omnipotence. God’s power found it’s opportunity. Youth, inexperience and weakness became indwelt by God and gradually, the power within absorbed the weakness without, and Tabernacle began once more to move in from strength to strength
Faith is never left unchallenged. “Blind Bartimaeus, be specific, what wilt thou that I should do unto thee? Thy want. “Praying Tabernacle specify what thy want.” The answer came boldly, ” a large congregation Lord” Again the Lord said, ” Believest thou that I am able to do this ?” The answer to this challenge came not in word only, but also in deed. They left the Vestry (though that had been large enough for the People who used to come), and, henceforth, held their meetings in the chapel. This act of faith was soon rewarded. To the great joy of the faithful, the congregation grew, until, in a short time, the Sunday evening services were held in a full house. In these crowded gatherings God worked mightily, and men and women, in penitential tears could frequently be seen seeking the Lord.
Having proved the efficacy of prayer so unmistakably, it is not surprising to find the number of the prayer-warriors increasing. Success begat more boldness at the throne of grace, and many and fervent were the supplications offered there. Mr. Owens, recalling one of those prayer meetings writes ‘Well do I remember one Monday night when the Vestry was crowded and the prayers were overpowering, while the singing was a real praise to God, and the unction from above was felt moving us to worship with irresistible power. We were singing,
‘There shall be showers of blessing,’
and when we came to the fourth verse, we repeated over and over again the words,
‘Speak the word of power to me,
I held up my hand and asked someone to pray, but no one could pray audibly; our hearts were too full to be expressed in words. The same refrain was struck up again. Then I led the way down the aisle, the worshippers following; and so we left that memorable service in the spirit of prayer and praise. The Lord did indeed speak the word of power to us that night. The influence of that power has followed me through life.”
In the consciousness of this new power the Church sought the solution of the debt problem. First, the interest was reduced; then, the capital. This was done without in any degree injuring the spiritual side of the Church work. “TABERNACLE was now a veritable hive. Its Sunday School became one of the largest in the town. Cottage meetings and tract distribution were inaugurated, and all this in addition to the usual prayer meetings, Bible classes, Band of Hope, etc. And, in spite of these divers activities and the consequent constant contact of the workers with one another, there was no friction. Peace and unity, the gifts of the Spirit, were abundantly enjoyed.
In 1892 one of the greatest privileges God can ever give to a church was given to ” TABERNACLE.” From among her sons one was chosen to become an ambassador for Christ in a heathen land. George David Brown was ordained and sent forth under the auspices of the Baptist Missionary Society to the Congo. For a few years he laboured there faithfully, and then was reluctantly compelled to give up his beloved work because of broken health. From 1896-1904 he laboured in the home ministry in Monmouth, and latterly in Blakeney.
About the same time, another labourer from the “TABERNACLE” was thrust forth into the great harvest~field, a young man named Mr. Arthur Evans. if our information is correct, he was accepted into Spurgeon’s College for training, whence he settled in a Lincolnshire church. He has now for years held pastorates in Canada. The sending forth of such men into definite and important Christian service is a striking tribute to the strength in those days of the spiritual life of the church.
About the time when ” TABERNACLE’S ” first missionary was compelled, through ill-health, to return from Africa, her pastor, for the same reason, was medically advised to go there. Mrs. Owens had been ailing for some time, and it was thought that the South African climate would benefit her. Torn between his love and duty toward his two consorts his wife and his church-the pastor at last assembled his people and announced his intention of leaving them. Speakin2 of that task now, he says, ” It was the hardest and most difficult task I have ever performed.” The Church received this news in dazed silence, but when its significance gradually dawned upon them their feelings could find no expression but in a deluge of tears. These were expressions of real grief, for Mr. and Mrs. Owens had greatly endeared themselves to the flock.
Just here we ought to say that the church had grown considerably under Mr Owens’ ministry. Her membership when he resigned was 253. During this time too the Baptist church at Bethany, Ynyshir, was started as a branch of the Tabernacle.
Thus not only has the “TABERNACLE” sent forth evangelists, Pastors, and missionaries to the great vineyard; it has also spread its branches in its own neighbourhood. Another church which was likewise inaugerated is “Penuel,” Trehafod. It is thus clear that the interests of our church have not been confined within her own walls.
At last the fateful day came when Mr and Mrs Owens must leave for South Africa. So great was the respect for them that it seemed as if all the people of Porth came to the station to see them off. The sorrow that this dear man of God felt that day in being parted from his people was only a foretaste of what was awaiting for him on the other shore. Journeys begun in sorrow, alas frequently end the same. The bitterest parting was yet to come. Mrs Owens journey was longer than his; for in South Africa she received the heavenly call home. Mr Owens is still in South Africa, and is now enjoying comparative rest after many years of faithful labour for his Master in Johannesburg.
For two years after the departure of the Rev. Owen Owens, Tabernacle was without a pastor. But in 1898 she again seeks the aid of a minister. This time her eye wanders westward, and alights upon a winsome leader in the person of the Rev. William Edward prince, of Danygraig, Swansea.
It was a case of love at first sight, and the wooings were intense. In the same year they were joined in the holy bonds of spiritual fellowship and ministry. The metaphor is intentionally used ; ‘for life in “TABERNACLE” during Mr. Prince’s ministry was really a home life.
The tender, sweet, and delicate relations of the ideal hearth, so often lacking, were here realised to the full between those who were bound together by ties closer than blood ties. Base selfish, ill-feeling or any other spiritual weed could thrive in the atmosphere created by the enabling influence radiating from the pastor.
Love is queen among the graces. It is the essence of God’s being the atmosphere of His throne. It grows highest, and spreads widest of all the choice trees of Paradise. The weary traveller in the burning desert of life sees its shadow from afar, and is thereby inspired to another effort to reach refreshing rest beneath its shadow. Its fruit is luscious and nourishing, whilst its very leaves are healing. Near by it runs that crystal stream speaking of inexhaustible life-which springs from the very throne of God.
Love that fragrant plant that grows in God and is so difficult to cultivate in the uncongenial soil of the human heart sometimes struggles into bloom amid many a thorn. The heart filled with it inevitably becomes a magnetic point. Mr. Prince’s heart was such a one. Men naturally drew to him. He also loved to draw nigh to all conditions of men. This mutual attraction resulted in much prosperity to “TABERNACLE.”
In the October of the Year in which he came to Tabernacle we find him organising a scheme by which he could get into closer touch with the people. A home was selected in each district in which prayer meetings were held every Tuesday evening. In this way every district belonging to the Church had a little centre of its own where the members could resort to pray. The sanctifying influence of these meetings on the homes in which they were held can never be estimated. Not content with getting nearer to the saints, he also formed what was called “The Lookout Committee,” for the purpose of inviting to the services those who did not usually come. Toward the end of Mr Prince’s pastorate Mr William Saunders, one of the oldest and most faithful deacons, and once “Tabernacle’s” choirmaster, left for the USA. Before leaving he was presented with a testimonial.
Twenty-three years now elapsed since the chapel was built. Its appearance, inside and out, naturally had not improved with the years. Pastor and people believing that cleanliness and beauty become the House of the Lord, set to, and did the work themselves. When completed they were amply rewarded by the fresh appearance of the sanctuary. This, also, let it be said has been repeated during this year of Tabernacle’s Jubilee. Willing hearts and deft hands have thus saved the church many scores of pounds. The Lord rewards them.
Meanwhile – those were days contingent upon the mighty Welsh Revival – the chapel was becoming too small for the congregation and in order to lessen congestion, it was thought advisable to hold a children’s service in the vestry during the evening service. After some practice, in which – in order to avoid disturbing – the children were made to sing their hymns at the same time as the adult congregation in the chapel sung theirs, the two services were held every Sunday evening without one causing any inconvenience to the other. For a time this scheme solved the accommodation problem, but it was not very long ere it was necessary to think of another expedient. The still growing congregation soon filled the children’s empty seats. Nothing could now be done but to face the question of extension. In November 1903, a resolution to enlarge the chapel was carried and acting on an architect’s advice. It was decided to add a new wing. This plan was carried out at a cost of £1280. While the alteration proceeded, the Sunday services were held in the “town hall”, annd the week night services in the primative Methodist Chapel (kindly lent). The children’s services were held in the YMCA rooms at the bottom of Hannah street.
During this period the great Welsh Revival had broken out and was moving in mighty Power throughout the land. Many in Porth who never used to enter a church door were now blessedly saved, and sought fellowship in “TABERNACLE.”
Mr, Prince, from the commencement of his ministry had thrown himself unreservedly into the work. A story will serve to show the nature of the latter work, as well as something of the man who did it: “At the time the Church had a weakling in the fold whose besetting sin was drink. Time and time again he would resolve to give it up. But resolutions were only made to be broken on the next fortnightly journey home from the pay office laden with hard-earned wages. The strong allurement of several public houses that had to be passed on the way proved too strong. Every fall the diaconate met with stern threats of expulsion. The poor brother’s name would many a time have been struck off the role he was so frequently dishonouring had not the Pastor earnestly taken up his case and pleaded that he might have another chance. These chances had been so abused that – to speak the truth – he hardly deserved new ones. In every new probation, which the Pastor always prevailed upon his diaconate to grant the erring one, Mr Prince would make prodigious efforts to help him overcome the temptation. He used to meet the brother outside the pay office and escort him safely past the seductive doors of the drinking dens. But, home reached, it was evident that the struggle was only the beginning, for there he found nothing during the evening hours to interest him. To get him home was much: to get him to stay there was more. This Mr Prince had to find some way of doing. First of all he tried story telling; but the man had no taste for stories. After many fruitless attempted a solution was at last found. The man was fond of a certain game in which rubber rings are pitched on a number of pegs on a square board. The winner rings each peg in succession. Seeing that the poor man forgot his craving in excitement of the game, the Pastor remained with him every Saturday night for months on end; in fact, until the, man gained sufficient strength of will to successfully resist his old temptation.
This will suffice to show the intensely practical interest this man of God took in the fight which individual members of his flock had to wage against their besetting sins. His loving heart went out to them in intense sympathy. Like His master, he sought the fellowship of publicans and sinners in order that he too might help heal their souls diseases.
But, alas, saviourhood is a costly vocation. In giving health to others Mr Prince lost his own. His physical constitution was now showing marks of strain. The revival, with its extra work, hastened the crisis. In April 1906 he was so ill that he handed in his resignation, but the Church would on no account accept it. Instead, they released him from pastoral work for the time being in order that he might have a chance to recuperate. Two long years pass and Mr Prince officiating only occasionally. In 1908, his health somewhat restored, it was decided to ask him to seek medical advice with a view to fully resuming the pastorate. But it was to no avail; the doctor advised otherwise.
This news which meant the complete severance of Mr Prince’s connection with Tabernacle was received with little short of consternation. Few Pastors have been able to win the love of their people so completely as he did. Every member felt that he had become part of his own life.
At last, Church and Pastor bid each other adieu! The members of Tabernacle had been in a meeting of this kind before. But their experience of that helped them little in this. Singing was out of the question. To be merry on such an occasion was sacrilege. Pastor and flock looked at each other until tears dimmed every eye. His converts felt it the most. Sturdy me though they were, they wept aloud; nor would they be comforted for many a day. And who can say what grief was his whose heart was, perhaps, the most sensitive and broken of all.
Mr Prince left Tabernacle in 1908, but he still remains in the tender and loving recollections of those who knew him. We were glad to think that he has recovered sufficiently to serve His Master, and that he has been able to minister for several years at Maesberllan Church, in Breconshire.
For four years after the departure of the Rev. W. E. Prince “TABERNACLE” was without a pastor. During the year 1909 the wing on the floor of the chapel was converted into a class-room. Towards the end of the same year the Church again attempted to elect a pastor. By unanimous vote Rev. R. B. Jones, of “Ainon,” Ynyshir, and formerly of Salem, Porth, was offered the pastorate. However, at that time, he could not see his way clear to accept it. On November of the following year (1910) it was recommended by the deacons that he might be visited again; but, after a discussion, it was felt that this might be too soon after the first offer. On 12th June, 1911, it was resolved that the name of Rev TW Hart of Shrewsbury, be submitted to the Church with a view to the pastorate. On 30th July 1911 Mr Hart was duly elected, and early in 1912 he took over the pastorate.
During this interregnum the Church had somewhat denegrated. The membership had decreased and the children’s services on Sunday evenings had ceased. The Band of Hope hafd also been in abeyance through dearth of workers. But with the advent of Mr Hart the sound, as of a going, was heard again in the tops of the mulberry trees.
The children’s services were revived a number of members being appointed to conduct them. Among these we find the names Mrs. Tom Evans, Mrs B Thomas, Mrs M Edwards, Miss Bowen, Miss Haywood, Miss C Herbert, Messrs HW Thomas, C Vaughan, Price Lewis, John M Hughes, John Stokes and W Bristowe.
In 1913 an entirely new thing was initiated in the form of a Church Magazine, while among other praiseworthy activities initiated or revived was the weekly Bible class conducted by the Pastor.
Gradually, in this Way, ” TABERNACLE ” Was recovering from the effects of the recent pastorless years. Decline is a hard thing to arrest but harder still to convert into progress. Nevertheless, under God’s blessing this was being done. The Church was almost clear of the shadows, when, lo! her sky is again dark with clouds-the clouds of the Great War which gathered in August, 1914.
Right into the sacred precincts, where peace and goodwill were wont to be preached and practised, the hateful echo of the war bugle penetrated. Its strident discord intruded into the harmony of the Temple. The vulture and the dove were uneasy and restless in their unequal yoking. King and Country’s claim became seemingly as urgent as God’s. Martial music kindled the fires of human nature more than psalmody had ever done. The drumbeat overwhelmed the sound of the holy steeple-toll with its accompanying call of the eternal. The youth of the Church mustered themselves under Britain’s banners and crossed the main to fight the foe on foreign soil.
Mr. Hart came to Porth from Shrewsbury, a garrison town military to the core. The needs of ” The Boys ” in the front appealed irresistibly to him. Hence, in April, 1915, it became evident that he was determined to join the Army as chaplain. In June of the same year he donned the King’s uniform.
The departure of Mr. Hart was received with much regret; for, though he had only been in ” TABERNACLE ” three brief years, his ready helpfulness and companionship with the young people had greatly endeared him to all.
During the War the members of the Church and congregation serving with the forces were regularly communicated with by the Church. The wounded soldiers convalescing in the Auxiliary Hospital, Llwyncelyn were also entertained. Some of the dear Tabernacle boys fell at their posts of duty. Their names have been inscribed on a handsome tablet in token of the affection in which their memory is still cherished. The Women’s League deserve that it should be stated that they were the prime movers in the provision of this memorial, Mrs. H. W. Thomas being the secretary. To her also was given the honour of its unveiling.
Among other things worthy of notice during 1919 were the abolition of pew rents, the installation of electric light, and the affiliation of the Church to the Sustentation Scheme of the Baptist Union.
Occasionally Mr. Hart would return from France to occupy his pulpit at home, and hopes were cherished that the War would soon cease and that, he would be able to take up the full duties of the pastorate once more. Those hopes, to the sincere regret of ” TABERNACTE, ‘ were not realised, and, at last, Mr. Hart, who could not feel free to relinquish his position as chaplain, insisted upon his resignation being accepted.
Had not the War broken out when it did, who knows but that this might have been the brightest period in the history of the Church. As it is, we are thankful to God that His protecting care has been so manifest over the Church in this time of national as well as ecclesiastical crisis.
From1915 to 1919 “TABERNACLE” was again without a pastor, and consequently suffering as usual. But, on September the first of the latter year, it was resolved that the Rev. R. B. Jones be once more invited to become the pastor of the Church. As the reader is already aware, this was practically the third invitation that Mr. Jones received from ” TABERNACLE.” The persistency shown by the Church is easily understood by those who know Mr. Jones, as he is one of the many mighty preachers of the Gospel that Wales has had the honour of rearing.
” TABERNACLE ” has had unique men, each possessing a strong, fine characteristic. Mr. Thomas, the first pastor, was a crowned bard ; Mr. Owens, a successful fisher of men ; Mr. Prince, a philanthropic soul ; while Mr. Hart was a staunch patriot. These worthies having dropped the reins, they have been picked up by a warrior of the Cross. If crusades were now in vogue his commanding figure would be at the head of the host. Mr. Jones is a born leader of men. He is full of faith, fearless, and eloquent. If he were living in the first centuries he would have gladly died in the arena; for convictions are to him sacred trusts and to be declared from the housetops. This holy boldness is irresistible and commands the admiration even of foes.
” TABERNACLE ” thus had a good reason to he jubilant when, on 28th September, 1919, she received a favourable reply to her third invitation. Mr. Jones commenced his ministry on Sunday, November 23rd, 1919.
Mr. Jones having accepted the call, the Church decided to purchase the villa, ” Gwernlwyn”, from the trustees of Ainon Welsh Baptist Church, Ynyshir, as a manse for the pastor.
The induction services were memorable : such men as Dr. W. Morris(Treorchy), W.Chance, M.A. (Cardiff), Rev. Charles Davies(Cardiff), Rev WS Jones(Llwynypia), and Rev J Lloyd Williams(Merthyr) officiating.
The number on the Church Roll at the commencement of Mr. Jones’s ministry was 260.
Very early in Mr Jones’s Pastorate it was felt that if he was to have his hands free for his own special ministry someone must be secured to assist him, especially in the important work of visiting the sick at. The appointment was left in the hands of the pastor and the deacons. In due course “Sister Sutherland” as she has got to be known, of the ” Faith Mission of Scotland” was appointed. The value of her faithful ministry can never be computed. It can safely be said that she has contributed materially to the success which the church now enjoys. She began her work in September, 1920, and has gone on steadily growing in confidence and affection of the people.
In view of the approach of the ” Jubilee” year of the Church, 1924,it was unanimously decided to clear the debt, but also to ra ise sufficient funds to enlarge the premises so as top provide ample accommodation for the rapidly growing Sunday School and other work. Promises were invited from the members: and on the Sunday evening, 5th December, 1920, a memorable communion service was held, at which members brought forward their promise forms, whilst Watt’s immortal hymn-“When I survey the wondrous cross” was being sung. The astonishing sum of over £4,300 was there and then promised – a sum subsequently increased to near £5000- to be paid during the four year ending with the Jubilee.
On account of death and removals the services of six trustees had been lost to the church. It thus became necessary to make up this loss, and the following were unanimously appointed to serve Church as trustees :- Messrs E Samual,MA, W Gibbon, C Vaughan, HW Thomas, C Cooper and Price Lewis..
For nearly thirty years Mr. Anthony Dew had served the Church as secretary, and it was unanimously decided that a testimonial be made him in token of appreciation of his untiring devotion in that office for such a long period. Never was the Church served more faithfully than by Mr.Dew, who is still Secretary Emeritus, Mr. Price Lewis discharging efficiently the active duties of the important office. Another who has done secretarial duty for many years is Mr. J. H. Williams, the financial secretary. He succeeded Mr. John Evans in 1903, and has rendered valued service.
The “TABERNACLE,” as is well known, has been given to play a prominent role in connection with the modern defection on the part of so many Christian bodies from the truth. The suspicion of ” Modernism ” on the mission field stirred her to the depths, and a long correspondence with the officials of the Baptist Missionary Society ensued. On 23rd October, 1922, the secretary read the correspondence which, during the year, had passed between the Pastor and officers of the Church and the secretary of the Baptist Missionary Society re that matter. The tenor of this correspondence was such that, after much prayerful consideration, it was resolved : ” That henceforth no money be contributed from our missionary funds, to any society which fails to give the necessary pledge, namely, ‘ That no worker be sent to the foreign field who does not hold the Bible to be-not merely contain-the Word of God, and that every writing in it is God-breathed, through men who spoke from God, being moved by the Holy Ghost,’ as to do so, in our judgement, would be to incur the guilt of helping forward the present alarming apostasy so prevalent in Christian institutions and work.”
Early in 1923 the Pastor was urged by the North~East India General Mission, of whose council he is a member, to accompany their secretary in a tour of the U.S.A. on behalf of their work and other matters, and on 9th April, 1923, the following recommendation of the officers of the Church was carried That the Church grant the Pastor four months’ leave of absence-mid-May to mid-September, 1923-to enable him to accept the invitation of the North-East India General Mission to accompany Mr. Watkin Roberts on a visit to the United States for the purposes of raising funds for the establishment of a Bible School in Calcutta, and of creating interest in the work of the N.E.I..G.M.” The four months were a real test and discipline to the Church out of which she emerged stronger than ever. Love-links between Pastor and people only grew fonder and stronger.
On.9th April, 1923, Tabernacle, for the second time in her history, was given the honour of dedicating another of her sons for missionary work abroad. Mr. Tudor Jones, -a winsome soul, had heard the call to Japan, and sailed a few days later for his field to labour under the auspices of the Japan Evangelistic Band. In less than a year this privilege was once again repeated, the church gathered together to dedicate and bid God-speed to Miss Nancy Russell and Miss Lily G. Jones; the former being called to work in Ireland, under the auspices of the Faith Mission for Scotland, the latter, the Pastor’s own daughter, to work in Japan under the auspices of the Japan Evangelistic Band.
Then, once more, the Church was compelled to don her armour. A well-known Modernist had been elected to high office in the Baptist Union. It was felt that some action must be taken. And so, at the quarterly meeting of the Pontypridd and Rhondda District of the East Glamorgan Baptist Association, held at Tabernacle, Porth, the following resolution, at the officers request, was moved by Bro.R. Russell on behalf of the Church: “that the churches of the Rhondda and Pontypridd District hereby voice their perplexity at the election of Dr. Clover to the vice-presidency of the Baptist-Union, and respectfully seek assurance as to whether this does or does not imply, official approval of or sympathy with his published theological views.”
At the meeting referred to, owing to the late hour, the Pastor (Rev. R.B.Jones) was requested by the conference to submit the resolution at the next district meeting to be held at Carmel Pontypridd, the whole time to be given him for that purpose. Those privileged to attend the meeting will never forget it. It ought to be described here because Tabernacle was chiefly responsible for it. The atmosphere was tense. Most of those present were ministers. Some preliminaries having been gone through, the Rev. R. B. Jones was called upon to move and speak to the resolution. Calm and collected, he walked up the aisle with dignified step. But when he opened his mouth to speak it was evident that he was labouring under strong emotion. In a quiet, clear tone he commenced his speech. Ere long we became conscious that someone had been tampering with the Wells of Salvation. All the Isaacs there, who hitherto had not had the vision nor the zeal to protest, though the Philistines had filled the wells with stones, were shamed beyond measure. In the speaker’s hand we saw ” Modernism ” unmasked. There it lay, a venomous viper, hissing and darting its fangs even at the Son of God. We thought of the undiscerning mass that had cherished it as harmless, and hearts became sick with fear and indignation. For over an hour Mr. Jones spoke. Some faces became dark with fear and hatred, but the majority were set in solemn determination to respond to the call of God through His servant; to stand up in the defence of the truth, and to guard the precious ” deposit,” even with life itself. Great things were done in hearts that day ; how great, the future alone will show.
While “THE TABERNACLE” Church has gone out boldly against the Lord’s foes, she herself has grown greatly in numbers and grace. The 260 members with which Mr. juries began his ministry in ” TABERNACLE ” have rapidly multiplied, and they now number more than 500.
The following are some of the flourishing institutions which belong to the Church :-
First, there is THE MONDAY NIGHT PRAYER MEETING. The growth of this in the last few years has been phenomenal. Soon the schoolroom became full, then that was enlarged by the adding to it of the ” Committee room “; but both together became too small and the meeting had to be held in the chapel. The attendance often reaches over 200. It would be interesting to know how many churches can rejoice in a prayer meeting of this size, the majority of which being young men and women in their teens and twenties.
Then comes THE WEEKLY BIBLE SCHOOL. This was begun at Ynyshir, and is now in its twelfth session. During its first session at Porth, 1919-1920, Spiritism in Bible Light was the subject. On several occasions the chapel was full of interested hearers. These lectures have had a great and a lasting effect upon the attitude of hundreds towards this old satanic delusion. At the earnest request of many who heard the lectures delivered they were published in book form, the volume being now issued by the ” Religious Tract Society,” London. In the three sessions, 1920-1923, the subject was ” The History of Israel.” This also drew the crowds, and the lectures were of intense interest to students of the Word. In the next session, 1923-1924, the subject was ” The Book of Revelation.” All through the winter great numbers were held spellbound as the seals of this marvellous prophetic book were broken, and out of its treasures things new and old brought forth. The blessing promised at the beginning of that book came too many a bearer ere the session closed.
The twelfth session, 1924-1925, has already begun, and ‘ if the meetings already held are any indication, it will probably be the best of all. The subject this time is ” The Bible: Book by Book.” Enrolled members number over 600, and the average attendance about 400.
Those attending this Weekly Bible School come from every part of the Valleys, and belong to all the denominations. They are well repaid, for the teaching is strong and unadulterated, and will stand them in good stead in time and eternity.
The next we must note is THE YOUNC PEOPLE’S GUILD. This organisation is unique in that it gives irrefutable proof that young men and young women can be won and kept in the Church without resorting to doubtful methods. Every Friday night scores of these satisfied young men and women can be seen reverently serving their God in worship, prayer, reading the Scriptures, studying and discussing prescribed Biblical and spiritual topics.
THE RRONDDA MONTHLY BIBLE CONFERENCES, too, must not be forgotten. “TABERNACLE” is also the home of Bible conferences which, under the Pastor’s leadership, are arranged by a committee of members of various denominations in the district. Their main purpose is ” To defend the Word of Truth, and the Truth of the Word.” The best evangelical speakers in the country have addressed the meetings ; among them the renowned New Testament scholar and archaeologist, Sir William M. Ramsay. ” TABERNACLE ” has made it possible for the Valleys to hear testimonies of sane, scholarly men to their faith in the Word of God.
Mention must also be made of the important offshoot of the TABERNACLE” at Mount Pleasant, one of the newest of Porth’s suburbs. More than one vain attempt, by more than one church, had been made to start Christian work- there. Two or three years ago a portable Gospel Hall was pitched there, and never removed. The young brother, Tudor Jones, fresh from his training at the Porth Bible Training School – a school founded and directed by the Rev. R.B.Jones-was led to put the abandoned hall in order and begin meetings and classes. Much success attended his persistent labour of love. When he left for Japan, Miss Nancy Russell-another student of the same school-took up the task. As in the case of Mr. Tudor Jones, so in hers : difficult pioneering was on the point of achieving definite success when Miss Russell was called to mission work in Ireland. On her departure the church at the “TABERNACLE” realised a call to become responsible for the work. Sunday school evangelistic services, week-night classes, etc., are now being regularly held. Valuable help has been rendered by the students of the Bible Training School, notably Miss Bronwen Hale and Miss Muriel Jones, who share the charge of the weekly Bible class. The Sunday school, with over 200 enrolled members, is now well organized in two sessions under the able superintendence of Mrs. Benjamin Davies and Mrs. H. W. Thomas and the secretaryship of Mr. T. J. Hurn. A new hope has also come into the Sunday evening services under the energetic leadership of the secretary of the “TABERNACLE,” Mr. Price Lewis. The self-sacrifice of these and other devoted workers is now beginning to bear encouraging fruit. The Mount Pleasant branch bids fair to become in every way worthy of its name.
There are other organisations belonging to the Church, the Women’s League, the Band of Hope, Convention, Anniversaries, and Demonstrations which, through lack of space, we regret must be passed with just that mention. This chapter, however, will not be complete unless something is said about the Sunday services. At 9.45 the prayer meeting commences, and at 10.45 the Preaching service. At the latter can be seen weekly a sight which, perhaps, is not frequently Paralleled. Three hundred children regularly attend this service, and fill the sides and front of the gallery. Every Sunday morning the Pastor takes them through a catechism. One long catechism of much substance and valuable teaching on the Bible has already been learnt. Another is in the course of being learned. It is a joy to hear the children answer without hesitation and so vigorously. In the morning service also Sister Sutherland gives one of her children’s addresses, for which work she is specially gifted, and then the Pastor addresses the adults with his usual fresh and lucid exposition of Scripture.
THE SUNDAY SCHOOL has grown so large its enrolled members are 829-that it is held in two sessions both in “TABERNACLE” and in “Mount Pleasant.” Mr. Charles Vaughan has for years been superintendent, and under his faithful leadership teachers and scholars co-operate in a splendid work which continues to bear much spiritual fruit.- Very few of the scholars have not been won to a definite decision regarding the Saviour, excepting, of course, the very young children. The School has been most fortunate in its officers, among whom the senior is Miss M. J. Morgan, who has held the Treasurership for 23 years.
In the evening we again meet in a full sanctuary. Close on a thousand souls hear the fervent and eloquent outpourings of the Pastor’s heart. The Crucified Lord is lifted high, and, according to His promise, He draws many to Himself. It is very rarely that a Sunday passes without conversions. In the five years that Mr. Juries has been in charge hundreds have been added to the fellowship of the Church.
The details of this active period in ” TABERNACLE’S ” history, if recorded, would fill volumes. In such a work as this one can only give an outline, trusting to the reader’s familiarity with the work to supply the unrecorded details.
Here then our story preforce must end. Hitherto hath our Lord led and helped us. Here our “Ebenezer” we gratefully raise. Ahead lies an impenetrable future. The Tabernacle of the past and present we know, but the Tabernacle of the future has yet to be known. Her destiny is in God’s hand, and a s long as she remains faithfully and loyal to Him the tide of her prosperity will never ebb. Her testimony is known in Jersualem, and in Samaria, and is also swiftly spreading in ever widening circles to the uttermost parts of the earth. Her heart and hope are too big to be satisfied with mere local success. In the prayer meetings her petitions embrace the world, and while God hears and answers prayer, the Tabernacle of the future will be blessing to all nations. Her sons love her gates, and pray daily for her prosperity. She is energised with God’s strength, and by it she is moving on, fearful as an army with banners, and fair as the moon, to that trysting-place in the air where she will meet her Lord and King.
“Amen; even so, come Lord Jesus”
THE SIXTH PASTORATE
THE SIXTH PASTORATE.
REV. RHYS BEVAN JONES.
THE FIFTH PASTORATE.
REV. THOMAS WILLIAM HART, 1912-1915.
THE FOURTH PASTORATE.
REV. WILLIAM EDWARD PRINCE, 1898-1908.
THE THIRD PASTORATE.
REV. OWEN OWENS, 1880-1896.
THE FIRST AND SECOND PASTORATES.
REV. DAVID THOIMAS, 1875-1878.
REV. JOHN DAVIES, 1879-1880.