Celtic Christian and Methodist Connection, Wales
(Trevecca College from an engraving of 1824: Photograph Wikipedia)
The Celtic Christian and Methodist connection
Brychan and Howell Harris
Harris lived in a village near Brecon called Trefecca in the 18th century. He had a striking conversion in his village church at Talgarth when the minister was preaching on the importance of Holy Communion. The fear of God impacted Harris and he became acutely aware of his need for mercy. Then he started urging others to repent, gathering people at home to share his experiences. Shortly after his conversion, he was at another village church, Llangasty and suddenly the Holy Spirit overwhelmed him, radically changing him. From then on, his ministry grew.
Harris established a community of Christians, having been influenced by the Moravians, where prayer and work were part of the routine. It included a farm, blacksmith, infirmary and was self-sufficient. He also linked with other high-profile Christian nonconformists of the time, including John Wesley, George Whitfield and the Countess of Huntingdon, a wealthy benefactor. Although wanting to stay within the Church of England, he was persecuted, like John Wesley. He was continually turned down for ordination but continued to preach wherever he could. Basically, he is attributed with being the founder of Calvinist Methodism in Wales. From this stream came the Welsh Revival of the 20th century with Evan Roberts.
However, what does this have to do with anything? Let’s talk about reopening ancient wells.
I did some further research on Talgarth and the area (which includes Trefecca and most probably Llangasty). Imagine my surprise to discover that the King of Brecon in Celtic times, known as Brychan, had his court at Talgarth. He was a Godly Christian man, albeit a warrior King and he was trained from the age of 5 in spiritual matters. Born of Irish parents, he lived his life in Wales. He had 3 marriages and copious children, nobody is quite sure how many but all of them were trained in the Christian Celtic church by a spiritual mentor, Saint Gastyn. Brychan himself was recognised as a Celtic saint and at the end of his life retired to live as a hermit.
Now this is where it gets interesting. Firstly Saint Gastyn, who mentored all Brychan’s children in the ways of God, had his hermitage on the edge of the beautiful lake Llangorse, at a place now called Llangasty. The present-day church is built on the site of his prayer cell. This is the place where Howell Harris was massively impacted by an encounter with the Holy Spirit, although the church was rebuilt in Victorian times.
Talgarth, the place where Brychan himself resided, is not only where Howell Harris was converted but where he led William Williams, another influential leader of this revival, to the Lord. The spiritual community which Harris founded, right next to Talgarth, at Trefecca was visited by hugely influential Christians of the time including John Wesley and George Whitefield, plus Griffith Jones, William Williams, Daniel Rowland, and Selina, Countess of Huntingdon – all influential in the 18th century revival. When Harris died, it is reputed that 20,000 people came to his funeral. This was in 1773 in a tiny village in Wales!
I do not think that the siting of these experiences is a coincidence. Yes, the timescale may be centuries apart, but the impact was similar and huge in terms of salvations and changing society.
There was a massive move of God when Howell Harris was filled with the Holy Spirit; likewise, with Brychan’s children. Most of them became missionaries, many leaving Wales and spreading the gospel into the North Devon and Cornwall, with others moving even further and over into France. In Cornwall, even today there are at least 16 churches named after Brychan’s children and with evidence of Celtic Christian roots.
(Photo: Howell Harris, Wikipedia)
So, what conclusions can be drawn from this little exploration? I think there is evidence here of an ancient well which was reopened. The Celtic Christian wells of both St Brychan and St Gastyn, for some reason were both once more active when Howell Harris came along. Sadly, it is impossible to know the ‘back’ story behind these events. These are lost in the mists of time and so rather than this being historical it’s known as hagiography – a mix of history and myth. Was there something which sparked the Spirit of God to come once more? Were there people praying fervently for a revival or was it merely that the prayers of those ancient saints had not been answered and this was the appointed time in God’s agenda for His word not to return void? Perhaps it was even the hunger in the people throughout the whole country, not just Wales, where a move of God was happening through the preaching of John Wesley and George Whitefield. Perhaps we’ll never know this side of heaven.
However, I am convinced that sometimes geographical places are significant in God’s eyes and that a deposit of God remains. Just like I’ve seen the healing angel in Brecon cathedral, perhaps God is waiting on His people to cry out for Him to move once more in miracles and healings. The Celtic church was a miracle working movement, a community of believers, hospitable, journeying, and evangelistic. I’ll share more a bit later.
I can’t help believing that there are more of these ancient wells to be reopened, that there are walls to be rebuilt and stones to be removed but that God’s life-giving water will flow once more.
Here in Cornwall, where I have been sent to live and minister, there is a groundswell of prayer and worship right across the county. I believe the blood of the martyred Celtic saints is still crying out before the throne of God for vengeance. I believe these Godly men and women will have prayed for the generations following them and that these prayers are being added to those that have been prayed by every generation in between and to our current day.
May the fire of God once more break out – not just in Wales, but in Cornwall again and on into France once more.
In one of the visions I've had, I was looking down on the land of Cornwall and it was like there was mud covering the land and every so often, some of the mud was bubbling. I asked the Lord what I was seeing, and He replied that this was the land crying out where His saints had been martyred. As I watched, an angel rose out of each bubble and walked majestically across the land. They all were dressed in white and lined up on the north coast of Cornwall. They were looking out expectantly to both Wales and Ireland and even the Isle of Man. They were waiting. Then, suddenly, with no warning, I saw white horses with angels riding them; sweep in from Ireland and Wales and the Isle of Man. They swept right across Cornwall and on to France. I believe this will be when the ancient routes between these nations are once more opened in prayer and God will be on the move in revival power.
So, just as historically we have seen evidence of a well reopening, let’s be praying that all of the Godly heritage which the enemy has tried to stop up and block up, will once more be cleared and beautiful life flow again to a lost and dying generation. Maranatha Lord, Come Lord Jesus, Come. Amen.
Postscript on Talgarth:
On one visit to Brecon, I was sitting in the main square praying for opportunities to speak with people and pray for healing: an outworking of the figurative language of giving cups of water I’d seen in the vision. After several fruitful encounters, I felt the Lord wanted me to go to Talgarth and find Howell Harris’ community.
I drove off, found the village but was aware of a traffic queue behind me because I was trying to find the right place. Turning off the road to let the traffic pass, I realised I was in the drive of a Christian college. The Lord whispered for me to stop and go in, to find out what they did. Yes, it was Howell Harris’ very place! Many of the buildings of his community were still present and there was a wonderful little chapel where I could go and pray. There’s also a small museum recording the work of Howell Harris and his community. But the adventure didn’t end there. I heard Him asking me to go to the church where Howell Harris had been converted in Talgarth. I looked at the map and headed off, only to find it was locked on my arrival. I was so disappointed but sat in the graveyard worshipping and chatting to the Lord, as near as I could get to the place of his conversion. Before long, two ladies came to open the church to do the flowers. I asked if I could come in to pray and they let me. However, one of the ladies sat down on a back pew and patted the seat beside her wanting me to sit with her.
Before I could say a word, she started sharing her life story, her sadness, her losses, her griefs. I was a widow and understood the pain of loss. I sat and listened and then she wanted me to see where her son was buried in the churchyard. We went out and I shared in her sadness. She still hadn’t finished, and I wondered what God was up to. She wanted me to follow her to a secluded bench in the churchyard where we couldn’t be overheard. Here she told me some very painful events which others had done to her. She was clearly so hurting.
All the way through I’d been aware she was crippled up with arthritis and in great pain. Gently as she’d shared her story, I led her in repentance and forgiveness of those who had hurt her. However, she really struggled to forgive the people who had deeply hurt her and was stuck. She couldn’t forgive and yet I sensed this was somehow linked to the pain and arthritis in her body. Gradually she let go and came to the point of forgiving these grievous harms against her. Then I prayed. Oh, how I prayed for her healing and relief from pain.
When we’d finished and she got up to go, she turned to me and said, ‘Are you a faith healer because I was praying for a faith healer.’ I explained I was just a Christian who believes in a loving, living God who heals. She nodded and walked away.
I don’t know if she was totally healed that day but what I do know is that God set up that appointment. Not just that, He set it up at Talgarth – the place of St Brychan, of Brychan’s children, of Howell Harris and others. Was this God beginning to reopen another ancient well of miracles. Did I just walk into an open portal? Whichever, I know there are deposits of God we are to search out and reclaim, petitioning heaven to once more visit earth in great power and healing love.