The Revival in Wales
From the mid-1730s onward, William Williams, Daniel Rowland,
and Howell Harris were involved in an exhausting campaign to
bring about this new awareness of the gospel message through
preaching. All three were successful in attracting large gatherings
of people, who found that the sense of involvement generated
at these meetings was more exciting than the formal parish services,
or less exclusive than nonconformity. The heady emotional atmosphere
of the meetings and their theatricality made them very different
to most nonconformist practices.
Although Welsh methodism had close links with Wesley and the
English movement it was essentially Calvinist, and had established
its own structure through a network of seiadau or regular
meetings with their own superintendents. Even so this was a movement
aimed at reviving the established church, and members were instructed
to take communion at their parish church.
The senior hierarchy of the Church of England saw the revival
as a threat to the natural authority of the gentry. Howell
Harris (right) appears to have been refused
ordination unless he was willing to give up itinerant preaching
and settle in a parish, and he and other prominent Welsh methodist
leaders were attacked by angry mobs. The most serious incident
at this time was the killing of William Seward at Hay.
Although this early period was important to Welsh religious history,
methodism did not become a large scale popular movement until
later in the eighteenth century. Some methodist groups left the
Church of England, and thus enjoyed the legal protection afforded
to licensed nonconformist groups.
Howell Harris himself split the movement in Wales by following
a doctrine which claimed that God himself had died on the cross.
This led to his disowning by the movement and his concentration
on setting up his own religious community at Trefecca.
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