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A powerful preacher

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: April 20, 2013

Preacher Christmas Evans.

IN Prince of Wales Road, the neo-classical building with the finely decorated porch that used to be Bethesda Baptist chapel, is now Swansea's NSPCC centre.

In the railed burial ground an obelisk marks the grave of the famous Welsh preacher Christmas Evans. Born on Christmas Day 1766 near Llandysul in Ceredigion, from the age of nine Evans was left in a destitute state when his father died. He grew up as an illiterate farm labourer, until when aged 17 he became the servant of a Presbyterian minister, David Davis. Motivated by the impact of a local religious revival, he learned to read and write in English and Welsh. The itinerant Calvinistic Methodist preachers and the members of Llandysul Baptist Church influenced him, and he joined the Baptists.

In 1789 Evans went to North Wales as a preacher, settling for two years on the remote Llyn peninsula, where he married, before moving to Llangefni in Anglesey, where he became famous through the power and earnestness of his preaching.

He supplemented his stipend selling tracts, and built up a strong community over thirty-five years, organised on the lines of the Calvinistic Methodists.

After the death of his first wife, Christmas Evans moved south in 1826 to pastor a congregation at Caerphilly, where he re-married, before in 1828 moving to Cardiff. Four years later, in response to urgent calls from North Wales, he settled in Caernarfon to undertake again the work of chapel building and fundraising. On a preaching tour in South Wales in 1838 he was taken ill, and died at Swansea in the manse of the minister of Bethesda Baptist church.

In spite of early illiteracy and having lost an eye in a youthful brawl, Christmas Evans was a remarkably powerful preacher with a fervent evangelical faith. His sermons were published in Welsh, he wrote several hymns, and he assisted in translating an exposition of the New Testament into Welsh. This man buried at Bethesda chapel has been called 'The Bunyan of Wales'.

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