Derek opened the Meeting welcoming everyone back after the summer break. As Geraint was present, Derek made a brief reference to the fact that Rosemary, Geraint’s wife, passed away last week-end, and to compound the challenges faced by Geraint, his daughter had had a heart attack about 3 weeks ago and is currently in a coma. Rosemary had given a talk to the group 1st September 2014: “A History of Medicine and Social Care in the Penybont Area given by Sister Rosemary Hughes S.R.N. https://wordpress.com/post/penybontlhgnotes.wordpress.com/60 A card signed by members present was given to Geraint.
Derek also told the group that Richard Davies had had a ‘mild’ stroke a few days ago and Mary was unsure about how he was doing due to the fact that there were no Consultants on duty over the week-end. A card was signed by members to be sent to Richard.
Derek told of a coach visit from Carmarthen to the Thomas Shop. An elderly man had approached him during the visit to say that he had taken part in the Trotting Race Day in Penybont 66 years previously. He was not on horseback however but in a motorbike sidecar. He said that at that time the horse racing was combined with motor bikes.
Geraint then introduced our speaker, Revd. John Davies. Despite everything going on for Geraint he wanted to introduce John who he described a close friend who had done a lot for ecumenical Church activities locally. In particular John has had a very close connection with the Parish Church, Llanbadarn Fawr. John lives in Llanidloes and to serve the Rock he travels regularly to the area. Rock Chapel has been very closely tied up with the history of the village and, in the not too distant past, there were over 100 in the congregation. Geraint referred to the 2 Deacons of Rock Chapel who were present describing them as ‘acolytes’ – Ray Price, who of course lives here in Penybont, and David Davies. The importance of David to the Rock was highlighted by Rosemary when she heard David Davies (the Brexit Secretary) had resigned, Rosemary’s response was: How will the Rock manage?!
Main Topic: History of Rock Baptist Chapel (Based on Notes provided by Revd. John Davies)
John opened by acknowledging the health problems and the sad loss of Rosemary. He himself has his own health challenges as he is waiting for Heart surgery.
History is clearly a passion for John and he started his talk with a few quotations:
Viscount Alexis de Tocqueville, 1805 – 1859, an advocate of liberal democracy in France, and also America, said: ‘ When the past no longer illuminates the future the spirit walks in darkness’.
George Santayana, 1863 – 1952, was an American atheist, with a Spanish passport who said: ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ George remarkably supported a number of philosophical writers including Bertrand Russell, whose views he fundamentally rejected.
Cicero, 106BC – 43BC, the Roman Statesman and Philosopher, of whom it was said, “the influence of Cicero upon the history of European literature and ideas greatly exceeds that of any other prose writer in any language”, said: ‘History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illuminates reality; it vitalizes memory; it provides guidance in daily life; and brings us tidings of antiquity.’
R.G. Collingwood, 1889 – 1943, an English philosopher, historian and archaeologist wrote: ‘The value of history is that it teaches us what man has done and thus what man is.’
John himself added that in talking to us, as a History Group, he assumed we are all here because, like those writers, we believe that history is important for us to understand where we are now, and to learn from the past so that as we move forward, hopefully we will not make the mistakes of the past.
John explained that he would start with a brief outline of his own life and how he came to be Minister at Rock Chapel, before taking us through the history of the Chapel, and, while taking us through the History of Rock Chapel, he would tell a few short stories – Faded goods; the Scotsman playing his bagpipes; the miser and his money; etc.
At this point John looked up, and spotted Holly, and remembered her singing so beautifully in Rock Chapel.
- John’s Story
John comes from a long line of Ministers. His Great-great grandfather was noted for his ministry, and for his 18 children. His grandfather had just 2 children but both joined the ministry. He was born in Cardiff where his father, Penry Davies, was a Minister. Around the time of John’s birth, his father became seriously unwell and was determined to get out of Cardiff. John, at 2 yrs. old, moved to Sarn, just outside Newtown in the Parish of Ceri, where his father once again became the Minister. Sarn Chapel also has an interesting History: see: http://www.sarnbaptist.org.uk/shistory.htm
It was then on to Ewyas Harold in Herefordshire, at the age of 11yrs, which is within the Golden Valley. This is a Welsh Marches community that shares some Norman history with Cefnllys. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ewyas_Harold_Castle
John felt called to the Ministry at the age of 15yrs and was taking services before his 16th birthday and was commended for Ministerial training by the Hereford and Gloucester Association. In 1961 the family moved to Walsall in the West Midlands where John’s father served for 12 years as Minister. John did his A’ levels in History, English and Latin and sat the entrance exam for SWBC. So in 1963 John embarked on 7 years training in Cardiff taking a BA (Hons) degree in Philosophy, Classical Greek, and Hebrew and Semitic Languages (15 three hour exams). Not satisfied with the 15 exams he embarked on postgraduate study for his B.D. – this involved a further 21 three hour exams. He then stayed on for a further year to complete a Master’s Degree in O.T. work.
During these 7 years of study John would be expected to study Pastoral Care and Baptist History, and then be sent out each Sunday to preach around South Wales. On one of his summer ‘breaks’ he did a further 3 months of study in Zurich, Switzerland.
John’s first calling was to the Rhondda where he spent 4 very hard years serving 4 churches in the Valley. In his last year John added to his qualifications and studied for a PGCE with a view to taking up a part-time teaching post to supplement his Ministerial salary, which was very little at that time. Now married to Glain, and with a baby daughter, and no Health Visitor’s jobs in the Rhondda, John decided to apply for a job as Head of RE at Llanidloes High School. He had a somewhat formidable interview, faced by 20 governors, but he was offered the job. John was to each at Llanidloes High School for the next 23 years. Alongside his teaching commitments John supported churches across Mid-Wales in any way he could. He had oversight of Newchapel and Cwmbelan for a number of years. He became fully integrated into the Llanidloes community becoming a Town Councillor in 1985, and served as Mayor from 1992-4. He was a governor of the Primary school and ran a junior football team for a few years. With his teaching and ministerial duties it was not surprising the John was appointed to County Committees including Powys SACRE (Powys Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education). In addition to his teaching commitments, teaching up to and including A’ levels, John marked GCSE and A’ level papers for a few years. He took full school assemblies for 9 years, which meant conducting a short act of Christian worship for 650 eleven to eighteen year olds.
In 1997 John became mentally and physically exhausted under the pressures of having a headmaster who had no time for RE (hence the reason for taking the school assemblies, and when he discontinued A ‘level RE, John took early retirement. Eventually John was able to start taking services again and had oversight of the Congregational Chapel in Llanidloes for a year. It was then that John was approached about becoming the Minister for Rock and Dolau. John has always attempted to serve these churches to the best of his ability and it was not long before he was presiding over weddings and funerals in other churches in Radnorshire, including virtually all the funerals at Rhayader Baptist Church. During this period John became Superintendent of the churches in Radnorshire and Montgomeryshire, a post he held for 5 years.
- History of Rock Chapel
In thinking about Rock Chapel we must look back over 300 years or so and look briefly at the period that gave rise to the Rock and the Baptists in this area. The 16th and 17th centuries were centuries of turmoil and especially for religion. Henry VIII broke with Rome and established the Church of England and this brought Reformation ideas from Europe to Britain. During the 1530’s Henry destroyed the monasteries in Britain, including the Abbey at Abbeycwmhir. During the 17th century there was a great religious ferment in the country; as at one time RC was popular; then Protestantism, in the guise of the Church of England, was in vogue; then the Puritan and Separatist groups, during and after the Civil War; then back to the C of E; back to RC; and then Protestantism in the form of Non-conformity took hold.
When the Monarchy was restored with Charles II, in the 1660’s, draconian laws, known as the Clarendon Code were passed.
“The Code was named for Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, who was Charles II’s Lord Chancellor. Clarendon enforced the laws despite his personal opposition to many of the provisions of the Code.
Corporation Act (1661)
This first of the four statutes which made up the Clarendon Code required all municipal officials to take Anglican communion, formally reject the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643. The effect of this act was to exclude Nonconformists from public office.
Act of Uniformity (1662)
This second statute made use of the Book of Common Prayer compulsory in religious service. Upwards of 2000 clergy refused to comply with this act, and were forced to resign their livings.
Coventicle Act (1664)
This act forbade coventicles (a meeting for unauthorized worship) of more than 5 people who were not members of the same household. The purpose was to prevent dissenting religious groups from meeting.
Five-Mile Act (1665)
This final act of the Clarendon Code was aimed at Nonconformist ministers, who were forbidden from coming within 5 miles of incorporated towns or the place of their former livings. They were also forbidden to teach in schools. This act was not rescinded until 1812.
Effect of the Code
The Clarendon Code effectively ended any possibility of the Anglican Church and Nonconformists coming together under one religious and social banner. The religions of Britain were deeply polarized, and religious intolerance would be an ever-present feature of British life for at least the next century.” https://www.britainexpress.com/History/stuart/clarendon-code.htm
This meant that people who did not attend communion regularly in the C of E, or who were caught preaching, could be fined, have property confiscated, and even be imprisoned. It was not until 1689, after William of Orange and Mary, became King and Queen, in 1688, that the Toleration Act was passed.
“The Toleration Act 1689 (1 Will & Mary c 18), also referred to as the Act of Toleration, was an Act of the Parliament of England, which received the royal assent on 24 May 1689.
The Act allowed freedom of worship to nonconformists who had pledged to the oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy and rejected transubstantiation, i.e., Protestants who dissented from the Church of England such as Baptists, Congregationalists or English Presbyterians, but not to Roman Catholics. Nonconformists were allowed their own places of worship and their own schoolteachers, so long as they accepted certain oaths of allegiance.
The Act intentionally did not apply to Roman Catholics, nontrinitarians, and atheists. It continued the existing social and political disabilities for dissenters, including their exclusion from holding political offices and also from the universities. Dissenters were required to register their meeting houses and were forbidden from meeting in private homes. Any preachers who dissented had to be licensed.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toleration_Act_1689
This made it a little easier for Non-conformists, or separatists as they were sometimes called. They wanted to get back to Bible Study and worshipping as they thought fit.
In 1646 a young man named Hugh Evans, whom it is thought hailed from Llanyre, went on a preaching tour of Radnorshire. He had spent some time in Worcester, training to be a clothier (outfitter). He moved to Coventry where he became a member of the Baptist Church in the city. He later became a student under the guidance of Jeremiah Ives, Minister of Old Jewry, in London.
“EVANS , HUGH (d. 1656 ), General (i.e. Arminian) Baptist .
Details of his early life are wanting; some years before the Civil War he was clothier’s apprentice at Worcester . He moved to Coventry and ostensibly made a visit to London to see Jeremiah Ives , minister of the Old Jewry Arminians , and both proceeded to Wales (about 1646 ), full of the new gospel of general redemption but close communion. Their sphere of labour was mainly in Radnorshire — the parishes of Llan-hir , Cefnllys , Nantmel , Llanddewi Ystradenny — but included districts across the upper Wye in Brecknock . Ives returned to England , but Evans went on propagating his doctrines, aided by half-a-dozen other preachers , till his death in 1656 . These Arminians were fortified by a confession of faith drawn up in the Midlands in 1651 , but applying also to Wales , and by the salaries paid some of their preachers as itinerants under the Propagation Act of 1650 (one of them, John Prosser , was for a time Puritan schoolmaster at Talgarth ). But the Quaker invasions wrought sad havoc in their ranks; a Quaker named John Moon made a vicious attack upon the Arminian Baptists of Radnor in a pamphlet; and it is in a vigorous rejoinder by two followers of Hugh Evans — The Sun outshining the Moon — that we get the most authoritative account of the dead leader’s life and activities.” http://yba.llgc.org.uk/en/s-EVAN-HUG-1656.html
Both came on a preaching tour of Radnorshire, but when Jeremiah returned to London, Hugh remained, giving up his material prospects. He preached in the area for some 10 years. He established a congregation of Baptists at Cwmfaerdy, near Abbeycwmhir, with some of his followers arounf 1660. Cwmfaerdy was built by the monks of Abbeycwmhir. Hugh Evans was essentially a General Baptist who followed Arminian views and believed in general election as opposed to Calvin’s particular election.
Election refers to the concept of how people are chosen for salvation. Calvinists believe election is unconditional, while Arminians believe election is conditional.
Calvinism: Before the foundation of the world, God unconditionally chose (or “elected”) some to be saved. Election has nothing to do with man’s future response. The elect are chosen by God.
Arminianism: Election is based on God’s foreknowledge of those who would believe in him through faith. In other words, God elected those who would choose him of their own free will. Conditional election is based on man’s response to God’s offer of salvation.” https://www.thoughtco.com/calvinism-vs-arminianism-700526
Vavasor Powell, another evangelist who spent much time preaching at Garthfawr in Montgomeryshire was a Particular Baptist (Calvinist). Hugh Evans faced great persecution from the Quakers at the Pales. John Moon wrote a scathing article about him which was answered by 2 articles by John Price of Maesygelli, Nantmel, and William Bound of Garthfawr, who were great supporters and helpers of Hugh Evans.
In the north of England George Fox was very successful in his pilgrimages recruiting people to the ‘Children of Light’. A Welsh convert, John ap John of Ruabon, returned to his native land determined to spread the word. By bringing in well known English Quakers he converted many Baptists, and in 1657 he toured Wales with Fox himself preaching to thousands. Many were recruited into new congregations, but Fox met with hostility also and he was convinced that there were murderous plots being hatched against him in Brecon.
Welsh Quakerism at this time was a militant creed, antagonistic towards the established church and willing to confront its opponents. Quakers would interrupt church services, refuse to pay tithes,or doff their hats to their ‘betters’. This challenge to secular authority brought them into direct conflict with the authorities, and many were locked up. Puritans from other sects resented their success and violent clashes were not infrequent. Vavasor Powell took on leading Quakers in Radnorshire in public debates.” http://history.powys.org.uk/history/common/dissent4.html
It is not known where Hugh Evans was buried, but on his death a member of the congregation, Henry Gregory, who had a farm at Llanddewi Ystradeny came forward and was encouraged to lead the church at Cwmfaerdy. It is possible that Henry Gregory may have been imprisoned for a time, but he certainly suffered greatly for his preaching. On one occasion his persecutors took all his cattle except one, they left one as a mockery to him so that his children could have milk. Not long afterwards they stole the remaining cow when Henry was away from home. Members of the congregation came to the family’s aid. It would appear that all his persecutors met tragic ends to their lives!
The Toleration Act of 1689 meant that all meeting houses had to be registered in the court of the Bishop or Archdeacon. Henry Gregory died in 1700. He had by then several assistants in ministry: Peter Davies and Thomas Evans of Pentre (Newbridge); and Francis Davies from Cwnfaerdy. One of Thomas Evans’s sons, Caleb, also preached, and one Francis Davies’s sons Nathan (a wild lad who had a dramatic conversion) became a leading minister at Cwmfaerdy, with Caleb assisting him. Nathan was ordained in 1703. Caleb lived near Pentre and looked after the group living in that area who all belonged to Cwmfaerdy fellowship.
About 1717 there was a huge split as one member of the Pentre Group stole an employee from a member of the Cwmfaerdy Group. It was not until 1721 that this rift was healed with support from the Association. The Cwmfaerdy Group then moved to Rock in that year when Stephen Price, a member at Cwmfaerdy, donated the building there for worship. It was described as a ‘tenement in a country place’: part of it was fitted up for a ‘meeting house’, with the rest being a ‘dwelling house’. There was also a stable, a garden for the house and for a graveyard, and the site included a 2 acres of land. He also gave £100 to maintain a Minister.
Nathan Davies died in 1726 and was buried at Rock, and by 1727 there was a further split with Pentre. There was at this time some uneasiness between the 2 groups over the £100 that was meant to mantian the Minister. Rock claimed the £100, but Pentre claimed £40 of this as Stephen Price, during his lifetime, had paid part of the interest on the money to them. The matter was eventually settled with Rock having £60 and Pentre £40. Later, when the cause at Rock weakened, due to lack of English preaching, the £60 was taken to Dolau, and it is said that it was used to help buy New Inn Farm for the benefit of Dolau. The upshot of this was that Rock lost the whole of the £100. Stephen Price died in 1743 and was buried at Rock. Caleb Evans was also buried at Rock.
Following the death of Nathan Davies the new Minister at Rock in 1727 was Roger Walker who came from Herefordshire and bought Dolau Farm in Nantmel. He registered this property as a meeting house for Baptists. Despite this he married Nathan Davies’s daughter, and she taught him Welsh so that he could preach in the Welsh language. He lived at Rock House, and his son farmed Dolau Farm towards the latter part of his life. In his Will he insisted that his son should build a Chapel for the Baptists in Nantmel to worship in opposite Dolau Farm. He died in 1748 and was buried at Rock. Roger Walker’s assistant, Thomas Davies, took over from him at the Rock. Seven years later, in 1756, he decided to move to a farm in Monmouthshire, but when he went to visit the farm he became ill and died before he could move there. John said that by reputation he was not liked as a preacher, but was a worthy Minister.
In the same year Richard Davies of Rhayader, who had been a Presbyterian but became a Baptist, came to Rock as Minister. He resigned in 1768 because many of the members felt that their Minister was leading a life of immorality. At this point the Rock members started to worship at Dolau, in the recently built chapel(1761), under the ministry of Rev. David Evans. After a time James Griffiths of Esgairewy Farm, an assistant preacher, began taking services at Rock, and in 1800 David Evans, the son of David Evans of Dolau, became Minister for Rock and Dolau. He was instrumental in building a new chapel at Rock, built entirely of wood, in 1806. It was a barn-like structure in appearance. David Evans extended the chapel in his later years, lengthening it and adding a second gallery. It had a low roof and small windows. David served Rock and Dolau diligently and also established causes at Bleddfa, Llanddewy, Pilleth, Presteigne, Rhiwe, and Kington. He also went on preaching tours of North Wales establishing groups there. Added to all of this he was a famer who travelled around on horseback. After his death, in 1828, Rock and Dolau agreed to separate. They had both grown such that the members needed their own Minister.
Rev. James Jones became the next Minister at Rock in 1829. He had been brought up at Brondrer Fawr Farm near Bwlch-y-Sarnau. Rev. James married Mary Jones of Oldcastle Farm where they lived for a while before occupying Coedmawr Farm in Bettws and finally settling at Lower Trelowgoed, Cefnllys where they rented the property from Rev. James Donne, an Anglican Vicar. James Donne later became a Baptist and worshiped at Rock.
Mary Jones sadly died suddenly before James undertook his ministry in 1814. They had 4 children. In 1818 James married Charlotte Meredith, of Rhyleen Farm in Penybont. They were happily married for 42 years and had 3 children. James served Rock faithfully for 32 years and preached at Franksbridge, Cwmgwillim, Newchurch, Gladesbury, at Himms Farm in New Radnor, Bleddfa, Llanfiangel-Rhydithon, and Llanddewy Ystradenny. One of their children, John Jones, was encouraged in his preaching by Rev. James Donne, at Trelowgoed Farm, and became Minister at Rock. The family moved to Rock in 1843 after a cottage was built for them. The old thatched house had become dilapidated and, having had a few legacies left to the Chapel totalling £80, the new cottage was completed in 1842. It has been described as a small, and not very serviceable manse. The annual interest on the £80, of £4 was paid to the Minister. James Jones died in 1860. His son John who had studied for the ministry at Pontypool Baptist College, and was Minister at Towcester, struggled to get back to Rock for his father’s funeral, and was rewarded by being offered the Minister’s job at Rock. He turned down this opportunity as the decision to offer him the post was not unanimous.
In 1861the Rev. W. Evans, who had just recently left the College at Pontypool, became the next Minister. When the new Minister started at Rock his wife found the house to be too isolated and hated being there alone when her husband was away. They only stayed at Rock for 4 months. John Jones was again invited to become Minister and this time accepted the Call. He lived in Kington for some of the time as he found the cottage too small for their family of 5 children. His wife, who was somewhat frail, ran a school for girls to supplement the Minister’s meagre salary. Sadly she died when she was just 39 years in 1864. John persevered in his ministry, travelling around on horseback from Kington and over the Radnor Forest. In 1866 it was agreed to take down the old Chapel and rebuild it. When a Thomas Pugh of Glanithan, and a member of Rock, died he left £50 towards the building of the new Chapel. The foundation stone was laid in 1866 by Mr. Chapman, who was secretary to the company building the Central Wales Railway. He was extremely helpful in getting the materials to Penybont by rail. A special service was held on 13th and 14th June 1867 to celebrate the opening of the new Chapel. It was then decided to enlarge the Minister’s house and in 1867 John Jones and his family moved to Rock. The cost of the extension was £600. John Jones had raised most of this money himself on his travels through seven counties in Wales and 12 counties in England. James Griffiths, of Cefn-y-Coed Farm, a faithful member of Rock, had had the original deeds for Rock, but the house burnt down and all the paper work was lost. A new trust deed was drawn up by John Jenkins, a solicitor from Llanidloes, in 1872. A dispute emerged between John Jones and the Trustees over the grazing of his horse in Chapel field and renting Chapel House. In the end the dispute was settled when John agreed to pay £10 a year to cover his rent and grazing for the horse.
James Griffiths, as above, held services and started a Sunday school at Cefn-y-Coed Farm, and with help from John Jones the Sunday school flourished. Eventually the school was moved to Rock and in 1892 there were 124 scholars attending the Sunday school. In 1873, with help from A. Walsh MP, J.P. Severn of Penybont, S.C.A. Williams of Rhayader, and some money from the Bible Class, John Jones established a Library at Rock, the first such facility in the area. There were 1159 books in the library and each family that used the facility paid 6d per year. John Jones ended his ministry in June 1891, and he died in 1907 having established the Tabernacle Baptist Chapel in Llandrindod Wells. He was greatly loved by people throughout the area.
In 1892 Rev. John Roberts served Rock and Howey until 1894.
In 1895 Rev. David Thomas from Haverford West served Rock until 1899.
In 1904 Rev. William D. Young became Minister and he served until his death in 1922. One of the people that he baptised at Rock, Richard Jones, became a Baptist Minister.
In 1923 the schoolroom was built to accommodate the increasing number of children attending Rock.
From 1925 until his death, in 1927, Rev. David Morgan Davies was Minister at Rock.
In 1930 Rev. Fredrick Legge, a former student of the South Wales Training Institute, became Minister at Rock. The work thrived under his ministry, but he was called to serve in Nottingham in 1933.
Between 1933 and 1939 Rev. P.L. Philipps was Minister at Rock.
In 1940 Rev. Evan Richard Jones came to Rock from Bwlch-y-Sarnau. Unfortunately his ministry was very short and he died in 1941. His son Islwyn, who is now 95 years, is a resident at Spa Residential Home in Llandrindod Wells. He is still a Deacon at Rock.
In December 1942 he Rev. Hugh Price Jones was ordained and inducted to ministry at Rock. He had attended Ilston Preparatory College in Swansea. On 1944 he accepted a call to Water Street in Port Talbot. During his time at Rock his wife passed away and he married one of the daughters of Mr. C.D. Venables.
In 1946 Rev. Trevor Dacey became Minister and worked faithfully until 1952 when he resigned the pastorate.
In 1954 Rev. Hector Jones became Minister at Rock until 1972. He was Welsh speaking, coming from Kidwelly area of Carmarthenshire, and had worked in the coal mining industry for 20 years before entering the ministry. He was President of the Radnorshire and Montgomeryshire Baptist Association 1969 – 1970. He was a greatly loved Minister in the area. He passed away in 1977 having gone to live with his daughter and her family in Manchester. His daughter is still a member at Rock albeit she is still living in Manchester. John was able to say that he knew Geraint Hughes had a great respect for Hector because they served together in Crossgates, and the two churches , Llanbadarnfawr and Rock, have worked very closely together ever since, if not before.
In 1972 a call was given to Rev. Michael Shepherd to come to Rock from Resolven. He accepted the invitation and served Rock and Bwlch-y-Sarnau until 1976. While in pastorate he also worked for ‘Help the Aged’ and in 1976 he resigned the pastorate to take up a post with the Probation Service.
Between 1976 and 1992 there was no Minister at Rock although the Chapel was served once a month by Rev Maurice Heath of Tabernacle Llandrindod Wells, who conducted communion services at the Chapel. Other Ministers, including John himself, would take services on Sunday afternoons.
John has been going to Rock since 1976 before taking up the Pastorate at Rock and Dolau.
In 1992 Rev. Michael Jones, who was the son of Rev. Hugh Price Jones, became Minister at Rock. He came to Rock from the South Wales Baptist College in Cardiff where he trained for the ministry. Hugh came back to Rock in 1992 to celebrate 50 years in the ministry. Michael resigned in 1999 to take up a pastorate in Wiltshire. He has since retired and moved to Bury St. Edmunds.
Rock has had a strong Sunday school over the years with Sunday School Anniversaries being one of the highlights of the year. It also has had a vibrant Sisterhood for many years with ladies raising a lot of money to help the Chapel. When John started they used to have a Sale of Work in the old school in Crossgates, but after a few years it was discontinued. They held Sankey evenings until about 2 years ago at Rock with some wonderful soloists and instrumentalists taking part, sadly as the Church has weakened these have also ceased. During John’s time at Rock, he has been very involved in CYTUN (Christian Unity Efforts in Wales) and they have held services at Rock from time to time in conjunction with CYTUN. One of the highlights of the year for John and for the congregations of Rock and Dolau were the ‘pilgrimages’ to places of religious and historic interest. The group have been to St Mary’s Church at Pilleth and on to the Judges Lodgings for tea, Capel-y-Fin, Mary Jones’s Church at Abergynolwyn, and many others. Rock has experienced the best and worst of times, but earlier this year it was thought that it might have to close, with an aging congregation and no officers in post. At present John is holding the Secretary and Treasurer positions as there is no one able or willing to take up these responsibilities. However, it is hoped that with local support it will be possible to carry on after the end of this year, albeit John will be stepping down after 19 years of service. Rock has one of the best kept cemeteries in the area, thanks to the hard work of the caretaker. John finished by reminding us that the views from Rock are still wonderful.
Questions and Comments
Elizabeth asked about the American connection as she knows of people in North Carolina who trace their roots back to Radnorshire. John knew of the link but had not explored this dimension. John did get a number of people coming to Rock in search of their ancestors.
Marion said that the Quakers had gone out first and Baptists often followed. Many Baptists settled in Pennsylvania alongside the early Quakers.
There was a question about when the Welsh language might have died out at Rock. John said that it stopped being the language to preach in around 1850.
There was some discussion about Hector Jones as many of the members had distinctive memories of him. Geraint remembered him fondly and saw him as a pioneer bringing the Churches together. One member saw him as ‘fearsome’ but Judy remembered how he had calmed a distraught child.
There was some discussion about the decline of the church/chapel, the loss of Christian values.
It was felt that TV was a culprit; members could remember when they would go to Chapel 3 times on a Sunday.
One member felt that it was the Forsyth Saga that had the biggest impact.
Derek showed to the members a Poster for a Rock Chapel Anniversary event and one member told the group how much, as a child, she had looked forward to these events. It really was the highlight of the year. Members remembered getting a new dress to go, they were very special times.
Geraint thanked John for a most excellent talk.
Next Meeting will be on 1st October at 10.30 a.m. at the Thomas Shop.
Maureen Lloyd will be talking on the topic of: ‘From Waste to Farm: – Encroachment and Enclosure in this locality’