Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Life And Ministry Of Harold Emanuel Griffiths. Part 2

Part 1 can be read here. 

Ruth recalls that while ministering in Ireland their family would travel in a gospel caravan. They were quite poor and dependent on donations from others. Despite this, Harold was a Welshmen and he wanted his children born in Wales. They would travel back to Wales to give birth to each of their children. (1)

I am not certain of the exact year Harold returned from Ireland. The 1931 census covered England, Wales and Scotland, but not Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland had its own census in 1926. The British census was also destroyed so its details will forever be a secret. What I do know that is that during the early to mid 1930's renowned evangelist Edward Jeffrey's put on several evangelistic crusades across the Potteries and Liverpool. He requested that Harold join him as singer and pianist during these crusades. The Bethel Evangelistic Society was formed from this movement. Harold was a significant part of this. (2)

In a much earlier post I described one of the songs that Harold Griffiths wrote while part of these campaigns. As mentioned in part 1, he had a booming tenor and was a beautiful singer. The Bootle Times annual of 1935 mentions the affect of one of his songs and the Crusades in Liverpool.

“A foreman remarked that the men had never worked so well together as now; there was little blaspheming and the general topic of conversation was "the Tent." Men are heard singing at their work, "I fell in love with the Nazarene," and there is concord and a spirit of harmony where once there was cursing and swearing." (3)

As mentioned in my other blog, I am blessed to have a copy of the song sheet for "I fell in love with the Nazarene." 

Several people that attended the Liverpool "revival' and are still alive, left some feedback on the website about the impact this song had on them. 

Sally Wing says, "...during this meeting a song was sung which made such an impression on her that she remembers every word of this to this day, 71 years later: -

I fell in love with the Nazarene
The beautiful Nazarene
Whose face in glory was the light
The fairest I’ve ever seen
By his side I would abide
With never a veil between
Since I fell so deeply in love
With Jesus the Nazarene.

"The Rev. Richard Kays records “He remembers well the Bethel songs that were sung such as "Jesus is mighty to save" and "I fell in love with the Nazarene," which have lived with him for 70 years."

By 1934 they were definitely in Cheddleton, England. Their daughter Ruth recalls they lived in a Bungalow there when she was 5. Harold was both a strict and very loving father. He expected his children to do as they were told but he was also "as soft as a teddy bear." (4)

Ruth continued to recall that, "My Mum was always very placid,but a nice lady. Everyone respected them and they were very much loved in the church. People were always calling in with their troubles.We kids were sent out to play for my Dad to council them as it is called now. Mum would bake welsh cakes & we used to hope there would be some left for us."

Ruth also remembered that usually they were given a crust of bread with jam on it for their tea. (5) Times were hard and the family were very poor. One time Naomi didn't eat all of hers so they hid it under the flap of a tent that Harold had set up in the field at the back of their bungalow. They or friends would often set up tents for evangelistic church meetings. The next day Harold found it and came into the house asking who had wasted it. Naomi was often caught lying about such things and Harold ended up breaking it in half and making both Ruth and Naomi eat it because food should not be wasted. To this day Ruth insists it was "wet and vile."

Harold was often away from home because of work. Ministry still paid little so he would sell Christian books at a market stall and continue to work in the mines where he could. He used to keep cardboard in his shoes because there was a hole in the sole. None of his children went to high school because you had to pay for it in those days and the family could not afford it. They were taught to sing and play piano by Harold and Annie.

For transportation Harold had a little motorbike with a side car. One day he brought it home to take it apart and fix it. He then asked Annie to ride with him and test it out. Ruth was watching as they rounded a nearby corner and the side car came off, sending Annie one way and Harold the other. He had forgotten to screw the side car to the motorbike.  Fortunately neither were injured and were able to continue their ministry as the late 1930's approached. 

(1) Confirmed by interview with Harold's youngest daughter, Ruth Salmon.
(2) Several books and websites talk about the missions and life of Edward Jeffreys. Seminary and Masters of Divinity graduates have written many papers on him. There is not room here to talk about everything he did and I only mention him because I know that Harold worked a great deal with Edward Jeffreys. A summary of Edward Jeffrey's life and missions can be found here.  When Harold Griffiths died Edward Jeffreys wrote a letter of condolence as was noted in Redemption Tidings 1968 Volume 4, February edition. 
(3) Excerpts of this newspaper and others which talk about the Jeffrey's crusades in Liverpool can be read on a website dedicated to his remembrance.
(4) Confirmed by interview with Ruth Salmon in 2012. 
(5) To the Welsh and northern English the last meal of the day is called tea. To this day I still get confused looks from Americans when I ask what they're having for tea. The southern English call it 'dinner' and that, along with how to pronounce the word 'scones', can still be guaranteed a good 20 minutes argument if raised in conversation. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Life And Ministry Of Harold Emanuel Griffiths. Part 1

There is much about Harold's life that I don't know yet but there is much that I do. For instance, I don't have his birth certificate, but I do know a great deal about how many churches he pastored and where. As I start blogging about Harold it's good to remember that family history and genealogy is always about filling in the gaps. Some gaps will undoubtedly be filled as I continue my research, others may not.

He was born, as best as I can tell, around 1894(1). The son of Thomas and Elizabeth Griffiths. According to his marriage certificate(2) he became a miner, following in the footsteps of his father. He was given music lessons as a child. I don't know if this was through a Sunday school or neighbor, or whether it was paid for. They were not a well off family, being a family of miners so I don't expect that they paid for lessons. Due to being so musical Harold would also play(3) piano for the silent movies at the local theatre. This brought in some more income when he was younger.

On July 31st 1911 he married Annie Simpkins at St. Paul's church in Cwmtillery, in the presence of James Simpkins and Emma James.

Between 1914 and 1918 he saw service during World War 1. Whether he was conscripted or volunteered I do not know but he served in the British Navy. (5) When he returned his wife Annie had become a Christian. I believe this was through believers who were converted during the Welsh Revival of the early 20th century. I make this assumption because Harold converted some time after and became a Pentecostal minister. The Pentecostal church was birthed primarily from the Welsh Revival. I don't have any other details about his conversion but his daughter Ruth assumes he must have started going to the local chapel with Annie. You can tell about what time he converted by studying the family tree. After he became a Christian his children were named after people in the bible. His children Steven, Thomas, David, Ruth and Naiomi were all those named after people in the bible. So it was after 1916. 

After his conversion he still worked as a miner but he also became a minister. As with most pentecostal ministers from the early to mid 20th century, a second job was necessary to pay the bills.

The early Pentecostal magazine, Redemptions Tidings records some of Harold's earlier ministry in 1927.

The pertinent information from this article which records a Revival meeting in Ystrad, Rhondda is "Revival meetings were held at Mount Zion Church, Ystrad on March 12th to 21st. The speaker was Bro. W. Lewis, Cross Keys, assisted at the weekend by Bro. Harold Griffiths, Blackwood, who sang the gospel."(6)

It took me a while to make sure this was my great grandfather Harold Griffiths but all the facts fit. First I confirmed with some of my own family members who remember stories of the Griffiths doing ministry with the Davies. My great great uncle David John Davies and his with Julia were pastors at Mount Zion Church in Ystrad during this period. I then spoke with Ruth, Harold's daughter and she confirmed that Iris had told her our two families sometimes did ministry together before she was born. I also found out that Harold's parents and several of his brothers lived in Blackwood during the 30's. They probably lived there during the 20's and it makes sense that Harold did as well before he moved. I know he was a gospel singer and a minister so it all seems to fit.

Later in the year Redemption Tidings records a mission that Harold was a part of. It is found under a section on the work of the church in South Wales and Monmouthshire.

"Many strangers came to the meetings in the chapel and what a surprise they had. Instead of seeing the ridiculous things that people sad was in our meetings they found a band of young men and women praising and worshipping God, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at the might power of God. Bro. Harold Griffiths, Blackwood, rendered valuable assistance at the organ. He also sang at each service, which was an added interest to the mission. - T. J. English." (7)

There is one last recorded detail from 1927 before Redemption Tidings goes silent for a decade on the ministry of Harold. In a future post I will explain what he was doing during that decade.

It reads, "Christmas Convention in ROCKFIELD ST, ASSEMBLY, NEWPORT, MON DEC 25th - 28th (inclusive.) Speakers:- Mr Geo. Vale, Mr. Howell Harrison, Miss Philpotts, Mr. H. Griffiths, Gospel Soloist. Applications for apartments to Mr. A. J. Campbell, 65, Corelli Street, Newport." (8)

Christmas Day and Boxing Day (25th-26th) were public holidays in England so evidently it was a good time for a convention with most people being able to secure that time off work. This ones looks to be attended by people outside of the local area as there is a contact person for those seeking apartments to stay in. Often these apartments were at the house of those residents who were also church goers in the area.

These articles provide a small glimpse into some of the ministry of Harold E. Griffiths. There are many more to look at later in this life. Lastly I would like to another short paragraph about what happened next.

After 1927 he left to minister in Ireland for a few years at the request of some Pentecostal evangelists. With much of Ireland being catholic there was some conflict and there is an interesting story passed along in the family of one such incident. (9) Harold was a church planter and often a street preacher. He would preach on the streets of Ireland. Sometimes the Catholic population would become angry at his preaching and begin to threaten him. Harold was also a gospel singer, and the Irish love their song. When the crowd became angry he would start to sing. He became quite famous amongst churches for his rich tenor voice and often sang for renowned evangelists. In this instance it is said that the crowd would begin to break down crying at the sound of his voice and all violence and anger would leave them.

Whether you believe God's ability to change a hostile situation or not, Harold could be extremely charismatic and from everything I have learned there is no doubt in my mind he had the ability to win people over.
(1) According to the 1911 census. His daughter Ruth records that it was September 1895 or 1894.
(2) The marriage certificate is in my possession and has been transcribed in a previous post. The certificate lists his profession as collier. 

(3) (5) Information came courtesy of an informal interview with his daughter Ruth Salmon.
(6) Taken from Redemption Tidings Vol 3 May 1927

(7) Taken from Redemption Tidings Vol 3 Nov 1927
(8) Taken from Redemption Tidings Vol 3 Dec 1927
(9) This story is recorded in an interview with one of Harold's grand children.