Looking Back

A brief history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Wales and the border counties of England

Looking Back

Dr. Brian Phillips

It was  A.A. John an American of Welsh descent who came to Wales in 1885 and began preaching in a tent at Llanbadarn Fawr near Aberystwyth. He established a depository for books in North Parade, Aberystwyth, and distributed a number of pamphlets in the Welsh language. His early endeavours were cut short when he was recalled to the Grimsby area of North Lincolnshire. It is not until large numbers of periodicals were sold in South Wales by the early converts who came from Bath, in the early 1890s, that the Seventh-day Adventist Church began to grow in Wales.

A former miner, William H Meredith, after reading Adventist literature, joined  Judson Washburn in Cardiff and following an intensive campaign, 47 people were baptised. In 1898 they moved from Cardiff to Swansea and after holding services on the sand in Swansea Bay a group of converts met in the home of a new convert by the name of  M.Hussey. Soon after Washburn, Meredith and their helpers moved to Balham in South London. Meredith was asked where he would like to work and said he would like to return to its own people.

Between 1900 and 1911 the Seventh Day Adventists became established in Wales. Meredith became the leader of the churches in South Wales by 1905. During the Evan Roberts revival in 1904, hundreds of thousands of copies of literature were sold by Adventist Colporteurs. The general population was looking for solid biblical teaching which they did not get in the revival. Adventist churches grew in number in South Wales and after the work of W.E.Read near Wrexham in 1909 churches appeared along the English border.

After Meredith had become president of the South England conference in 1907, Wales became a conference in 1908. Harry Armstrong became president of the conference and in 1911 the border counties of Hereford and Shropshire were added to the conference. The churches began to grow and through the First World War began in 1914 it was the conscription act in 1916 which was to have an effect on a number of church members.

Several were spared the indignity of joining the forces because they worked in the mines but others were called to appear before tribunals and were sentenced to spend the rest of the war in prison. During this period there were several changes in the areas of Britain covered by the conferences. Wales began to lose members to Stanborough Park, the College, Printing Press, Food Factory and the Sanatorium. There was a call from overseas for Missionaries and a good number of those that answered the call did not return to Wales. However, When W.H.Meredith became president of the British Union Conference in 1926 there was a return to the structure of governance we have today. North and South England Conferences and the three Missions, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

The 1926 general strike was to affect a number of members in the industrial areas of Wales. They were suffering from starvation and church members in Watford and the Granose food factory sent food parcels to Wales. Evangelism continued and Alfred Bird who suffered for his faith during the First World War consolidated the Newport Church before moving to North Wales and establishing the Rhyl church. Later he was to consolidate the church at Shrewsbury. During the 1930s several young people left Wales to attend the newly established college at Newbold Revel near Rugby. In 1939 five left North Wales, including Victor Cooper, but as with many before they did not return to the Welsh Mission. 

Towards the end of the Second World War, several keen evangelists came to Wales and over the next two decades held evangelistic services in hired halls all over Wales and the membership rose by 1963 to over 600 for the first time. In 1966 members in Cardiff, Newport and Swansea supplied food and drink to the rescuers at the Aberfan disaster. Throughout this period there was massive distribution of Voice of Prophecy cards. For the first time, we could listen to broadcasts of the VOP from radio Luxembourg.

Throughout the history of the Welsh Mission, several links were made between churches, and for a number of years, the Dorcas societies were active in supplying the needs of their local community. Both clothes and furniture were given to people who were in need. The needs of the youth in the church was supplied by both North and South England conferences who held camps at such places as Dinas Dinlle, near Caernarfon, Aberdaron, Clarach Cove near Aberystwyth and Oxwich Bay on the Gower. In 1966 the Welsh Mission began their annual family camp near Brecon and through the years people have come from many parts of England.

In the early 1970s, a programme called Dial-A-Prayer was introduced in Cardiff and for the first time, the denominations Stop Smoking clinics were introduced in several towns. With the advent of 3ABN  a number of members tuned into the satellite broadcasts. Later the Hope Channel broadcasts were also received by satellite. In recent years churches have responded to Health weekends and also Women's Ministry weekends held in several locations throughout Wales and the Borders. 

Contact with the general public developed with displays at the Royal National Eisteddfod and the church became an Observing Member of the Churches Together in Wales, (CYTUN).
These last developments have seen a breakdown in prejudice from other Christian denominations and allowed us to explain to others our foundational beliefs.