History and Heritage

D J Moses, Minister of Gurnos Chapel

The Reverend D.J. Moses was minister of Gurnos Chapel, Ystalyfera, from 1923 to 1926.

This article from the Labour Voice newspaper, Saturday 7th July 1923 covers the induction service of Rev. D J Moses, previously of Pantyffynnon:-


The induction services, which had been looked forward to with such keen anticipation and interest, at which the Rev D J Moses BA of Moriah, Tycroes Pantyffynnon, was formally recognised as the Minister of Gurnos Congregational Church Ystalyfera, were held on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. A large congregation assembled on Wednesday evening at the first of the three services held in connection with the festival. This took the form of a preaching service. The introductory portion of the service was conducted by the Rev Williams English Congregational Church Ystradgynlais.

The special preacher was the Rev H Seiriol Williams Tabernacle Pontardawe, who delivered an excellent sermon based on the story of Zaccheus Luke 19.9. "This day is salvation, to this house". He began his sermon by relating the story of the Rev Robert Jones Llanllyfni, a famous Baptist minister who was called upon to deliver the first sermon at the chapel which had been bought from the Independence for the use of a Baptist Church. He took the above verse as his subject on that occasion. Mr Williams did not suggest that it was the new Minister who first brought salvation to Gurnos. The theme of a very interesting sermon was the soul's battles, in which some men yielded to the best in their nature and others to the worst. The Redeemer was the only one to trust to in this warfare. The service was presided over by the Rev John Tomas, the old pastor.

The Induction service proper was held on Thursday afternoon, when the chapel was crowded to the doors. Mr Moses' popularity amongst the ministry and the churches of the district was evident from the large numbers of ministers and leading laymen present from Tycroes, Ammanford, Brynamman, Pontardawe, Cwmllynfell and other places...........................

The Rev John Thomas, the old pastor who presided, expressed his pleasure at being able to attend. He remarked that when he came here in 1886 the old Ystalyfera Works had stopped and the church in consequence reduced from 120 to 80. Whole families moved from the place in search of a livelihood. He did not believe that they ran away from him. He wished both church and ministers every success. As for himself he had no wish to interfere - he only asked to be a member of the church. He wished when the time comes, to die at Ystalyfera; dear ones sacred to his memory having been laid to rest here. Proceedings, he said that Mr Moses was starting at Gurnos with better conditions than when he started, industry flourished now and there was practically no unemployment. He was glad of it and wished Mr Moses and the church God's blessings.

Mr William John Griffiths, secretary of the church, gave the story of the call and a short sketch of the history of the cause at Gurnos. The Rev D J Moses first preached at Gurnos on December 17th last and made a very favourable impression. On March 18th he paid another visit and such was the feeling of the whole church in his favour that a decision was come to on the following Tuesday evening at a largely attended meeting to extend him a call. A deputation waited upon him and the official call was sent on April 5th. On April 20th Mr Moses accepted. Although they had had the services of good men no one had secured the unanimous favour of the church as Mr Moses had.

The president then asked the church to show that they confirm the call and its acceptance by standing up. This was done by all present. The new Minister was asked to do likewise and this also was done.

Rev E T Evans BA Wern invokes a blessing on the union. Mr William Thomas, Gurnos Post Office, the oldest Deacon at Gurnos said he looked forward and hoped that Mr Moses had come there this day. The first Minister has stayed at Gurnos for 27 years and the second for 35 1/2 years. The explanation of this was that the church was peace loving and revered their pastors, as Mr Moses would soon find.

Mr David Davies, deacon at Moriah, Tycroes, made a neat and witty speech. In which he kindly accused the Gurnos Church of having broken a very important commandment when they took Mr Moses away without their consent. Mr Moses had been a good servant, and effective preacher, and a successful Minister. His work for the children and amongst the young people deserved special mention.

Rev J Vernon Lewis BA BD Brynamman felt he would like to make a protest against the nature of the meeting. And induction service should be more of a Sacrament and conducting in such a way as to leave an unforgettable impression on the minds of all those present. He was glad to hear that Mr Moses had consecrated his gifts to the service of the Master. Courage was the great thing needed today, courage to say the unadorned truth. He honestly believed that 90% of those within and without the churches had no clear idea of what Christianity meant.

Other speakers were Mr D M Davies Carmarthen College; Rev James Davies Mynyddbach, on behalf of the West Glamorgan Congregational District; John Llewellyn Brynamman; D Tegfan Davies DD Ammanford, on behalf of East Carmarthen Congregational District; D W Stephens and behalf of Ystalyfera and District Evangelical Churches; D Frances Hendre for Tycroes Evangelical Churches; D Williams Ffaldybrenin and Councillor D E Lewis Tycroes. The meeting was terminated with prayer offered by Rev Moses Owen Tycroes.................

The Rev D J Moses BA was born on 21st January 1883 at Caerwysg near Trecastell in Breconshire. The family having moved to Brynamman when he was a lad, he received his elementary education partly at his native place and partly at Brynamman: when 12 years old he started working underground at Blaencaegurwen Colliery. Being of a studious nature he set out on the quest for knowledge and under the private tuition of Mr Lewis Evans. A teacher at Brynamman he achieved the somewhat remarkable feat of matriculating while still working at the colliery. Having decided on the advice of friends to enter the ministry he spent 3 years at Cardiff University and passed his BA. The following 3 years were devoted at the theological course at Brecon. He took his first BD but did not proceed to the final. In September he was ordained minister of Moriah Tycroes and spent nearly 7 years there. Consequently this is his first move since he entered the ministry. In 1915 he became married to the daughter of Mr William Rees Brynpedol Brynamman. It will be seen that this is only a bare record of some of the outstanding events in Mr Moses' life. He is still a young man, forty years of age. It is said that his loss is keenly felt at Tycroes, especially amongst the young people who have lost a tried friend and a proved leader. We understand that it is his ambition to be of greater service if possible to the young people at Gurnos, to win their trust and confidence and thus to lead them in the "way of life". We wish him well.

Up to 1821 the religious people at Gurnos who were not communicants of the Established Church, in common with other parts in the immediate district, had no recognised place of worship nearer than Godre'Rhos, Cwmllynfell or Alltwen. In that year Pantteg Chapel was opened and most, if not all of the local residents became members there. Before this happened week-night services and Sunday school had been held in the district for many years, perhaps for generations. The first record, known to the writer, of preaching services being held at Gurnos, were those held at Ystalyfera Uchaf, the farmhouse on St David's Road, within a few yards of the residence of the new minister. Then in possession of Mr William Williams, some of whose descendants are still living close-by. The preacher on those occasions was the Rev Morgan Lewis, Glynneath, when he was minister at Godre'Rhos between 1800 and 1810. After the opening of Pantteg the services were held regularly there until 1828, when permission was given Gurnos residents to hold meetings in private houses in the neighbourhood, repairing to Pantteg for the monthly communion service.

That was the position until 1856, when the Rev Phillip Griffiths, on behalf of Pantteg Church bought a small chapel at Gurnos, which had been built by the Wesleyans in 1939. In the year 1857 the members at Gurnos were constituted a congregational church: and until the end of that year it was supervised by the Rev Phillip Griffiths, the pastor of the mother church at Pantteg.

Early in 1858 a "call" was extended to the Rev Benjamin Thomas, of Walker New Castle on Tyne, to become pastor and it was accepted and the induction services were held on Whit-Sunday and Whit-Monday of the same year. Mr Thomas laboured very successfully for 26 years, resigning on account of old age and failing health in 1884. Within the first 6 years of his ministry the chapel had to be twice extended in size to cope with the increase in the numbers of the congregation.

During his ministry, also, 2 young men, members of the church, were induced to enter the ministry and both became famous throughout the length and breadth of the land, the Revs E Gurnos Jones and Penry Evans.

On 6th January 1886, when the industrial outlook throughout the district was dark and gloomy on account of the stoppage a few weeks previously of the Ystalyfera Works, the Rev John Thomas started his ministry here. He has encountered many difficulties, but by quiet and faithful service and a spotless character, he managed during 35 and half years to keep the church in a fairly flourishing condition until he resigned in 1921.

The front of the chapel was rebuilt and a vestry raised some years ago at a cost of £700, while the present chapel, which is almost a new one, was built in 1915 at a cost of £1,800. Now at the commencement of the Rev D J Moses' ministry the membership is about 260 and the debt about £1000.

It may be interesting to recall the story of the first minister at Gurnos, the Rev Benjamin Thomas. Happily the Rev Benjamin Thomas is still with us and the time has not come to write his biography. Although the Rev Phillip Griffiths supervised the church at Gurnos for the year 1857, he only did so probably as the minister of the mother church at Pantteg and so it is quite correct to speak of the Rev Benjamin Thomas as the first regular minister. Mr Thomas was born at Cefnllwynhir in the parish of Llancrwyn, in 1814. In his early days he was a shoe maker by trade and left his native place when quite young, along with his parents: when about 16 years old he then became a member of the Baptist Church at Caersalem Dowlais. In 1836 or 1837 he came to live at Graig Arw, as Ystalyfera was then called and was admitted as a member of the church at Pantteg. He was 31 when he preached his first sermon at the request of his minister, the Rev Phillip Griffiths. He was so successful in his first and later efforts that the church persuaded him to enter the ministry. He was for a time at the National School Swansea, under the tuition of Dr Evan Davies.

After acting as a schoolmaster near Beulah Chapel Cwmtwrch, for a while and also as a local preacher, he was ordained a minister of the Welsh Church at Walker Newcastle on Tyne in 1855. His health giving way he was obliged to resign his pastorate, although quite popular with his flock. After this he kept a "British School" at Pantteg and there are a few even now living who were his pupils there.

In January 1858 he accepted a "call" to become the pastor of Gurnos Church and his induction services took place on Whit Sunday and Whit-Monday of the same year. As related elsewhere in this issue, he resigned his pastorate here owing to ill health on 6th July 1884, 39 years ago almost to the very day. He died 3rd November 1890 and was buried at Ystradgynlais.

The late Watcyn Wyn, in his biography of the Rev Penry Evans, one of the ministers raised at Gurnos, referred to the Rev Benjamin Thomas as a man of "outstanding Genius". He was a good preacher and a poet of considerable merit. With his disadvantages in early life and especially his lack of regular college training, it is a wonder that he attained such a high level. Amongst his manuscripts there were three bundles which he evidently meant to publish, but was not able to do so. One was a volume of poems and the other two contained a selection of his sermons. A large number of his poems and a few of his sermons are to be found in old numbers of the "Diwygiwr" and the "Dysgedydd". One of his poems perhaps the best of his work was composed while he was a minister at Newcastle on Tyne and is an expression of his longing for "Cwmtawe".

1st Poem Cwmtawe 2nd Poem D J Moses PRINTED OUT IN WELSH

The History and Heritage of Ystalyfera is put online by Swansea Valley researcher Val Trevallion and Wolfian Design. All copyright remains with the original copyright holder, and all original research is copyright Val Trevallion, YEARGroup.

You can contact Ystalyfera History by emailing: contact@ystradgynlais-history.co.uk or Val Trevallion by emailing yeargroup@hotmail.co.uk.




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