Welsh Methodist revival
The Welsh Methodist revival of the 18th century was one of the most significant religious and social movements in the history of Wales.
The revival's immediate beginnings are usually traced back to the religious conversion of Howell Harris at Talgarth church in 1735. While listening to the Rev. Pryce Davies preaching on the neccesity of partaking of Holy Communion Harris came to the conviction that he had received mercy through the blood of Christ. He began to tell others about this and to hold meetings at his home at Trefeca for these followers.
Many consider Griffith Jones (1684–1761), the rector of Llanddowror, Carmarthenshire to have been a forerunner of the Methodist movement in Wales. Through his circulating schools he taught thousands in Wales to read the Bible and created a generation of people which would be receptive to Methodist ideas. He himself also preached in the open air as later Methodist leaders would do. In fact, the newly-converted Harris visited him for spiritual guidance and direction, and it was through his preaching that Daniel Rowland was converted and began to preach Methodist ideas.
The other major leader of the early revival was William Williams. He was converted in 1737 as he listened to Harris preaching in Talgarth churchyard.
Rowland and Harris had been at work for some eighteen months before they met at Defynnog church in 1737. This led to a friendship that lasted, with a ten year break in fellowship, until Harris's death in 1773. This meeting also can be seen as the beginning of a Methodist movement in Wales. Methodist leaders met regularly to organise their work and to agree on matters of common interest.
Harris and Williams undertook major preaching journeys, starting in south Wales but later venturing north. As they preached they made converts which they then gathered together into organised groups of fellowships (known as seiadau (=societies) in Welsh). As more and more converts were made, more and more evangelists were also created, and by 1750 there were over 400 such fellowship groups in Wales. These groups were closely supervised by the leaders and were built up into a significant and powerful network within the Church of England.
Rowland concentrated his efforts on Llangeitho which became a centre for the movement. On Communion Sundays thousands of the members of the seiadau would travel there to receive the sacrament.
A Calvinist movement
The Welsh Methodist revival differed from the Methodist revival in England in that its theology was Calvinist rather than Arminian. At the beginning the leaders worked with John Wesley, but gradually they parted company from Wesley and became associated with George Whitfield and his patron, Selina, Countess of Huntingdon.
Welsh Methodists and the Church of England
The Methodist revival began within the Church of England in Wales and at the beginning remained as a group within it. But its success meant that Methodists gradually built up their own networks, structures, and even meeting houses (or chapels), which led eventually to the secession of 1811 and the formal establishment of the Calvinistic Methodist Presbyterian church of Wales in 1823.
Welsh Methodists and the dissenters
The Welsh Methodist revival also had an influence on the older nonconformist churches, or dissenters — the Baptists and the Congregationalists — who in turn also experienced growth and renewal. As a result, by the middle of the nineteenth century, Wales was a predominantly a nonconformist country.