Bicentenary of Sunday Schools in Resolfen
The Oldest Sunday school in Resolfen
This year heralds a notable bicentenary in the village in that a Calvinistic Methodist Sunday school has been in existence since 1807. This pre-dates the “Annibynwyr” at Melincwrt by eight years since they did not commence until 1815. Yr Hen Dabernacl
The Calvinistic Methodist cause in Resolfen commenced in 1799 when the early worshipers met in farmhouses such as Hendreowen and Pantygelli. However, eventually the chapel of ease at Pencwar (Penydarren) was used as a meeting place. Surprisingly, the early Sunday schools received a degree of opposition from locals and even diaconates.
The idea of educating illiterate peasantry sprang from the protestant ethic of “a ministry of all believers”, which was contrary to the Roman Catholic ethic of a leading priesthood. The translation of the Bible to Welsh by the Bishop William Morgan in 1588 was a classic example of providing the Bible in the vernacular (and by the way preserving the Welsh language in the process). The circulating schools of Gruffudd Jones, Llanddowror, Thomas Charles and John Morgan Rhys of Rhymni in the eighteenth century carried on the work predominantly in the Welsh language.
The Sunday school was open to people of all ages and surprisingly there were more boys than girls attending them. It was thought that three months was sufficient to provide the basics ( Dosbarth ABC ) and the most able became teachers themselves. The classes began with a hymn and a reading and concluded in the same manner. The use of catechism was a notable feature with classes concentrating and being examined on various topics and religious themes. It is said that copious amounts of scripture were learned by heart with some able to recite the entire New Testament!
The “Treason of the Blue Books” in 1847 did not entirely condemn the Sunday schools though they equated illiteracy to that in the English language alone and were ignorant of the fact that the scholars could read in Welsh. However, the Report does give an insight into the nature of the Sunday schools in Resolfen. Sion Chapel is described as a building some thirty feet by twenty (the original building not today’s Community Centre) with six teachers and thirty scholars. Notably only thirteen could read English. Whitsun March of the Resolfen Sunday schools ( date unknown)
By 1870, over a hundred people attended the Methodist Sunday school and numbers continued in a very healthy sate until the 1920s. To its credit an adult Sunday school meets to this day at the new Tabernacl.
This article is taken from a lecture by Mr Phylip Jones on Monday, 8th January 2007.