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Daniel Hughes: The Sledgehammer Pastor

Well-researched account of an unconventional and - until now - little documented Non-conformist minister 

Daniel HughesDaniel Hughes: The Sledgehammer Pastor
By Ivor Thomas Rees
Publisher: Ylolfa
ISBN No: 978-1-78461-0777
Reviewed By: Jo Regan

Rees offers us an insight into the life of Welsh preacher Daniel Hughes (1875-1972) and the political and religious landscape of the time. Hughes is a contemporary of the Welsh Revivalist Evan Roberts, but in contrast to Roberts little has been written about him.
 
Hughes proves to be a colourful character. At 17 he turned his back on his parents Calvinistic Methodism, was baptised by immersion, and became a member of Tabernacle Welsh Baptist Church, Wrexham. Around that time he was given the opportunity to become a professional actor: he refused, choosing to concentrate on preaching.
 
Hughes became a Baptist minister, his notoriety as a great orator increased, as did his numerous invites to preach. However his ministry was not without problems. Having been called as minister to Grosvenor Park Baptist Church, Chester, they became increasingly unhappy with his absence from the pulpit and his level of involvement with the Liberal Party. He had no option but to resign.
 
Hughes liked to make his opinions known. He publically attacked Roberts’ revival meetings held in Liverpool, where Hughes was in pastorate, all of which was documented in The Liverpool News and religious press. Hughes also spent time in prison for not paying the education rates, making known his objections to it being used towards supporting Catholic schools. Hughes’ political leanings, now socialist, caused disenchantment and cut short his next pastorate in Califaria, Llanelli, Wales.  
 
Hughes became minister of Crane Street Baptist Church in Pontypool but his disregard of pastoral duties left many unhappy. The deaconate gave Hughes three months salary in lieu of notice. They pinned a note on the door of the church saying there would not be a Sunday service. Hughes refused to step down. He turned up to preach on the Sunday along with a congregation of over a hundred. Finding the door locked he declared to the awaiting press that the action of the deaconate were ‘most unwarranted and illegal’. Wielding a sledgehammer he forced his way through the door, to the applause of the crowd!
 
A similar incident happened again at his final pastorate in Siloam when the deaconate tried to lock him out of the church one Sunday. Hughes gained entry with a skeleton key and carried on with the service. Hughes managed to win this battle, which he put down to political antagonism. He remained minister here for 51 years.
 
I would recommend this book to those who are particularly interested in 19th century church and political history. Whilst it is not a particular academic study, it is well researched and an interesting read. 
 
Rees is a retired United Reformed Minister. The son of a miner he grew up in the Rhondda Valley and now lives in Swansea. Rees has written two other books Saintly Enigma, on the life of Welsh clergyman Pennar Davies, and Clapham Dissenters, the history of the Clapham Congregational Church and the relationship between one of its ministers and Prime Minister Gladstone.
 
 

The Revd Jo Regan is a Baptist Minister and keen blogger



 

  
 

Baptist Times, 29/07/2016
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