The Presbyterian Church of Wales or the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Church traces its origins to the Methodist Revival in the 18th Century. Our first causes were established towards the end of the 1730’s. and the intention at that time was to provide fellowship meetings to pastor those who had come under the influence of the Gospel under the preaching of the early leaders. It was not an intention to establish a new Denomination at the beginning, although the early fellowship meetings increasingly came to look like and behave as churches as the century proceeded.
Following a period of growth, the leaders decided that the Calvinistic Methodists needed to set apart their own ministers in 1811, and the Church grew to over 250,000 members by the early part of the 20th Century. We are now a Church of about 13,000 members in just under 500 congregations.
A young man of 21 years of age at the time, Howel Harris came to conviction while under the ministry of Price Davies, the Vicar of Talgarth on Palm Sunday 1735, and by Whitsun he had come to an assurance of faith, an assurance which led to his desire to see others come to faith.
Daniel Rowlands had already been ordained a deacon in Llangeitho, and, whilst attending meeting where Griffith Jones Llanddowror was preaching at Llanddewi Brefi, he also came to a personal faith. Unaware of each other’s experience, both men started to preach and gather groups, or ‘societies’ together.
The two met for the first time in 1737, and by 1740, along with other leaders like William Williams and Howel Davies, both of whom had been convicted under Howel Harris’ preaching, they were meeting together to make arrangements for preaching, for ordering the societies, and for the local leaders.
In a report from an Association at Trefeca in 1746, there were ‘140 religious Societies that belonged to the Body of Calvinistic Methodists’.
1811 Separation from the Church of England as ministers are set apart or ordained in Bala and Llandeilo.
As a result of the blessings known under the ministry of the first generation of leaders, and specifically following periods of revival during the 28th Century, a second generation of leaders was raised up. Amongst these were Thomas Charles, Thomas Jones and John Elias. Although these leaders sought to avoid being seen as people who wished to secede from the Church of England, the growth of the movement, and the lack of ordained minsters who were available and willing to minister to, and provide the sacraments to the Methodists, they decided that they should set apart some from their own number to and=minister the Sacraments.
1823 Confession of Faith drawn up and adopted.
The Calvinistic Methodists held, before the ordinations of 1811, that the 39 Articles of the Church of England, interpreted Calvinistically, were a sufficient expression of their beliefs. Having separated, the leaders considered that there was a need for a new expression, a confession of faith for the new Denomination, and a form of words was unanimously accepted at an Association in Aberystwyth in 1823.
1826 The Church – or Connexion – is incorporated through a Constitutional Deed.
Following the establishing of the Denomination with its own Confession of faith, the Church proceeded to enrol and Constitute the Church by means of a Constitutional Deed in 1826, a deed which not only set out the order and beliefs of the Church, but also addressed issues with respect to ownership of property.
1840 The Foreign Missionary Society established in Liverpool to send missionaries to the Khasi Hills and Jaintia in Assam, India.
1842 A college to educate ministers established in Trefeca, Powys.
1845 All churches are put under a minister’s care and the first edition of Y Traethodydd – a quarterly journal still in existence – is published.
1864 First meeting of the General Assembly, in Swansea.
1933 An Act of Parliament ammends the constitution, and ensures that all Connexional property is held by the Properties Board.
1947 The Association in the East, a court for English-speaking churches, is established.
1958 The Sustenance Fund is established to provide a fair wage and manse for every minister.
1968 The last missionaries return from north-east India and Coleg y Bala becomes a children and youth centre.
1975 Covenant for Unity with other Welsh churches.
1978 Pamela Turner is the first woman to be ordained a minister and The Presbyterian Church of Wales becomes a member of CWM.
1983 Revd Dafydd Owen appointed first General Secretary.
2004 The Central Office is moved to its present site in Whitchurch, Cardiff.
2007 New boundaries and structures adopted for presbyteries and General Assembly Boards.
2008 The Presbyterian Church of Wales is registered as a charity and adopts a new constitution.
In 2011 the Presbyterian Church of Wales celebrated the bicentenary of the first ordination in 1811.
2012 Revd. Meirion Morris appointed General Secretary.
The Historical Society of the Presbyterian Church of Wales was established in 1914 with the aim of stimulating research into the history of the Church. It is mainly responsible for securing the Church’s documents, sponsoring the annual Historical Lecture at the General Assembly and publishing the Historical Journal.
Revd Dr Elwyn Richards, Secretary of the Historical Society, receives subscriptions due to the Society and welcomes new members. Membership costs £8 a year and includes subscription to the Historical Journal.
The Presbyterian Church of Wales’ archive (also known as the Calvinistic Methodist Archive) is held at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth. The Curator of the Historical Society is Dr Eryn M. White. Archives should be sent to her at the Department of Welsh History, Huw Owen Building, University of Wales, Aberystwyth, SY23 3DY (01970 622662).