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.

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