A Welsh minister has purchased twelve abandoned chapels in a bid to restore them to their former glory.
The Rev Robert Stivey, a congregationalist minister, has invested around $240,000 of his own money in the derelict buildings, which are mostly former Baptist chapels.
The dedicated reverend, who called his venture an “act of faith,” said he felt a strong desire to bring the aging sanctuaries to life, filling them once again with the beautiful sounds of Christian worship.
“Many years ago I had visits to the Welsh valleys and noticed a lot of the chapels were being closed down or turned into flats or being demolished and so forth, and I thought that’s really, really bad,” he told the BBC.
“I felt I’ve been called to do something about this, these chapels must be saved and reopened and used again for their original purpose. We’re looking to the future for reopening, I don’t know when, maybe next year, but it [Calfaria] is a magnificent building and deserves to resound with the praises of God once again.”
In the town of Aberdare, the Calfaria chapel used to be packed to the rafters with patrons eager to hear the gospel and lift up their voices to the Lord. Over time, however, the congregation began to dwindle and, eventually, silence fell over the hallowed building.
But Wales has a rich history of spiritual awakening. In 1904-1905, a young preacher named Evan Roberts sparked a revival that not only saved 150,000 people across the nation, but also spread the gospel halfway around the globe and still influences churches even today.
After some thirteen years of getting on his knees and praying for a revival in the land with little to no effect, Roberts described the moment that God finally broke in.
“About half-past nine next morning, the fire fell,” he told Rev. Thomas Francis in December 1904, “and it is burning ever since.”
Dr. Bryan E. Galloway explained more about what occurred during those glorious, spirit-filled years:
“Just after eleven o’clock on a Wednesday evening a hundred years ago, a solo voice rang out with the beautiful Welsh hymn “Here Is Love Vast As The Ocean”. Maybe a thousand people were in the Chapel at the time, leaning over the galleries, packing every pew and squeezing into every spare corner. They’d been here for more than four hours, in a service of intense emotion.
Meetings like it were taking place across Wales night after night, with fervent prayer and passionate singing – and similar disregard for the clock. They both excited and appalled, left many puzzled and some frightened, but it was reckoned that in less than a year, over a hundred and fifty thousand people had made a new commitment to Jesus Christ.”
So, can it happen again?
“I don’t think we’re in revival time yet to fill these chapels,” Stivey admitted, “but there are people out there who are willing to listen to the gospel… I see no reason why we shouldn’t start small and build up over the years.”
“Some could be open tomorrow,” he said of the newly acquired chapels, “some would need renovation, but it’s all possible.”