Bala Churches and Chapels
Bala is blessed with several Church and Chapel buildings catering for different denominations of the Christian Faith. All are well-attended. In Llanycil, Mary Jones World is a visitor centre telling the story of Mary Jones, Thomas Charles and the bible.
Religious Services occur at the following times on Sunday, as well as some midweek and evening meetings too. No contact details are listed as the easiest and best thing to do is to go along and find out, if you are in the area, where your support would be most welcome!
Weekly details are published bi-lingually in Y Cyfnod local Welsh Newspaper, available in Bala town supermarkets from Wednesday 4pm until sold out, usually by Friday morning! Some buildings have notice boards. The list is not exhaustive as there may be more groups of different minority faiths in the area.
|Evangelical Bro Tegid
||10.30 & 18.30
0930 & 1100 alternatively
Religion in Wales
Religious freedom for dissent was accompanied by a steady rise in literacy, which prepared the way for massive changes.
The Toleration Act of 1689 finally allowed religious freedom to the hard core of Dissenters who had come into existence during the time of Oliver Cromwell. They defiantly adhered to their beliefs during the years of persecution following the restoration.
The first chapels in Wales were built during this period
Much of the development of Dissent was possible because of the steady rise in literacy. This was given a boost by the 1650 Act for the Better Propagation and Preaching of the Gospel. Before the Toleration Act there were increasing numbers of religious books available. In Welsh, notable books published during the 1680s were Canwyll y Cymry ('The Welshman's Candle') by the Vicar Prichard, and the first Welsh translation of 'The Pilgrim's Progress' by John Bunyan. The last work in particular was to be very influential on prominent figures in the Methodist revival later in the 18th century.
This increase in literacy undoubtedly helped pave the way for the momentous events of the latter part of the 18th century, when Wales experienced the Methodist Revival and the first wave of great Welsh preachers and hymnwriters.
There were three great figures associated with what has become known as the Methodist Revival in Wales: Howel Harris (1714-73), Daniel Rowland (1713-90), and William Williams Pantycelyn (1717-1791).
Harris and Rowland both experienced, separately, a religious conversion in 1735, but they weren't to actually meet until 1737, when they decided to coordinate their evangelising activities - that date marks the effective beginning of the Methodist Revival in Wales.
All three were greatly influenced by the work and preaching of Griffith Jones of Llanddowror, and undoubtedly his Sunday Schools and the increase in literacy greatly contributed to the development of Methodism.
Methodism started off as a movement within the Church of England, with revival as its intention. Much influenced by what was happening in England, it went on to develop along different lines in Wales.
Howel Harris experienced his conversion during a sermon at the church in Talgarth in Breconshire and immediately began holding religious meetings at home. Soon he was preaching the gospel in the surrounding areas and before long all over Wales. A man of prodigious energy as well as passion, he often preached five sermons a day, sometimes encountering a hostile and violent response; however, his perseverance led to thousands being converted
Howel Harris was never ordained in the Church of England, unlike his colleague Daniel Rowland. Rowland was made a minister of the Anglican Church in 1734 at Llangeitho, in Ceredigion. Yet he did not commit himself fully to Christ until he saw Griffith Jones preaching the following year.
The effect was dramatic, and the previously worldly Rowland became a committed Christian, developing connections with Nonconformists to more effectively spread the word. His preaching skills became legendary, and thousands came from all over Wales to his sermons at Llangeitho Church.
As a consequence the Anglican authorities became alarmed and expelled him from his position as curate. His followers responded by building him a chapel a short distance from the church and Rowland carried on as before, becoming one of the most influential preachers Wales ever produced.
Following the Methodist Revival, a second wave of preachers emerged as Wales underwent the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
As the original prominent figures of the Methodist Revival died off towards the end of the eighteenth century, leadership of the movement was taken up by Thomas Charles (1755-1814).
Originally from Carmarthen, Charles settled in Bala, north Wales, and with his energy and organising genius set about making the town the centre for Methodism in north Wales.
He also set about reviving the circulating reading schools of Griffith Jones, which for many Welsh people had made possible their active involvement with religion.
Sixteen-year-old Mari Jones walked from Llanfihangel y Pennant to Bala and back - a journey of 40 miles - to obtain a copy of the Bible, and this inspired Thomas Charles to help found the British and Foreign Bible society at the beginning of the nineteenth century. And it was to be Charles who finally took the Welsh Methodists out of the Church of England in 1811, a move which finally aligned them with the rest of Nonconformity in Wales. Mary Jones World is a visitor and education centre telling the story of Mary Jones, Thomas Charles and the bible.
The Methodist Revival inspired renewed activity both within the established Church and amongst the various Nonconformist denominations such as the Baptists and the Congregationalists.
A second wave of great preachers emerged during this period, with one of the most famous and charismatic being Christmas Evans (1766-1838).
Originally from Llandysul in west Wales, Evans came from a background of poverty and hardship. He lost an eye in a fight, which gave him his distinctive appearance. After conversion he became a minister with the Baptists, and following the example of another west Walian, Thomas Charles, Evans went to perform missionary work in north Wales. He remained there for a number of years before finally settling back down in the south. He has been called the 'Bunyan of Wales'.
This religious activity saw a huge increase in membership amongst the Nonconformist denominations, which in turn led to a great wave of chapel building across the country. This was to last throughout the nineteenth century.
During this period it has been estimated that on average a chapel was being built every eight days. Such was the zeal of the builders it is thought that the combined seating capacities of all these chapels may have exceeded the number of people actually living in Wales!
Whether that is true or not is up for debate, but what can not be denied is that these endeavours resulted in one of the most obvious architectural icons of the country, the Welsh Chapel. Every village had at least one, and the new communities that came out of the Industrial Revolution provided even more opportunities for new buildings. Unfortunately the present day collapse in chapel attendance has resulted in many chapels being left empty and dilapidated, a legacy of past fervour.
The Industrial Revolution was proceeding apace. The first wave of industrialism was built upon metal, such as iron and copper works. But by the middle of the nineteenth century coal mining was beginning to take off as the fuel demand for furnaces, railways and steamships began to rise.
It is no coincidence that all this activity was taking place at the same time as the British Empire was expanding and acquiring new territories and resources. These factors led to Wales becoming one of the first countries to have a majority of its people working in industry, a development of crucial importance to Welsh politics right down to the present day.
People flooded into the valleys of south Wales to find work, creating new communities in the process. As new pits were sunk, new chapels were rising in the industrial areas at a quicker rate than Anglican churches. As a consequence Nonconformity was to leave a particular stamp on the culture of Wales, particularly in these valley towns.
Chapels became the centres of cultural activity in these new towns, and much of the tradition of Welsh choral singing dates from this period. This was helped by the introduction of the Sol-fa musical system which enabled large numbers of people to take an active part in choir singing. A major motive in encouraging music making was to keep people out of the pubs.
From the middle of the 18th century to the middle of the 19th, Wales experienced some 15 major revivals, resulting in its reputation as 'the land of revivals'. The last great revival of this period had been in 1859, and although there was much local religious activity during the remainder of the 19th century, many people were wondering when, and if, the next great national one would happen.
When the revival did finally occur, it proved to be the biggest that the country had ever experienced. It seems to have its roots in southern Cardiganshire, where there were a number of meetings of religious leaders actively working on a revival. But when it did finally erupt, it became identified with one man in particular, an ex-collier from Loughor in western Glamorgan named Evan Roberts.
Roberts had begun to study for the ministry, and following a number of religious experiences during 1904, he had a revelation during a prayer meeting. This took place in Newcastle Emlyn, in the area of Cardiganshire where there had been a lot of work to prepare the way for a revival. He said, "I felt ablaze with a desire to go through the length and breadth of Wales to tell of the Saviour."
Shortly afterwards in the autumn of 1904 he first took the message with him back to his home chapel, Moriah, in Loughor, and following the ecstatic response he took it to other parts of Wales. The last great revival had begun.
Thousands of meetings occurred during the revival, from the southern valleys to Anglesey and north east Wales. Although Roberts garnered the headlines, preaching at around 200 meetings, there were also thousands of meetings led by other preachers held right across the country.
During those tumultuous months scarcely any aspect of Welsh life remained untouched. Work in various coalmines and metal works started with a prayer, and leisure activities like eisteddfodau, amateur dramatics and sport suffered a drop in support. A number of rugby clubs were disbanded by their members, who on receiving the message now felt rugby was an activity not compatible with being a true Christian. And it goes without saying that pubs and taverns saw a fall in consumption of the demon drink.
The up and coming politician, David Lloyd George, was caught up in the fervour. He said the movement was "rocking Welsh life like a Great Earthquake."
Even children began organising their own religious meetings, and communal hymn singing ('Cymanfa Ganu'), Bible reading and Temperance were now the favoured activities of many people across the country.
As a result, chapel building received a boost. Singing in particular had a prominent place, echoing the prophetic words of the famous musician Joseph Parry (composer of the love song 'Myfanwy') who said that "the next revival will be a singing revival."