Perhaps one of the most surprising and inspiring tales I have heard since becoming Pastor of Pisgah is the little bit of history we made back in 1922.
Progressive and pioneering are not necessarily the traits that many would associate with a rural area - or rural Churches, and I am told that Pisgah back in the early 20th century was as conservative in it’s outlook as most of its contemporaries. It came as some surprise then to learn that Pisgah made history in 1922 when it became the first Baptist Church in Great Britain to call a lady minister!
Welsh Baptist Minister, Michael J Collis produced an article for the Baptist Quarterly in 2014 on the history of Baptist female preachers and ministers in Wales. He contacted me during the course of his researches for information from our records and expressed his surprise that the first Church to take this pioneering step in Britain was not in London, Cardiff or some other large centre but a rural Church in a little known community at the edge of the map!
Miss Annie Lodwick had trained at the Baptist College in Wales but hadn’t secured a pastorate. She first came to the attention of the Deacons in Pisgah when she began preaching outdoors on the local crossroads. Her powerful evangelistic crusades were bearing fruit - candidates for Baptism came forward and backsliders were restored! The minister of Pisgah at the time, the Rev Ben Davies was asked for his opinion and - delighted by the way God was working through Annie, he gave her his full backing.
When Ben passed away unexpectedly, shortly afterwards, his seal of approval helped convince the Deacons and Members to extend a call.
It seems that the evidence of her Holy Spirit inspired preaching overcame any theological objections they may have had to appointing a lady minister.
These were strongly paternalistic times so it’s interesting to note that the Church records from that time describe many local minister’s taking turns to stand at her combined induction/ordination service to speak strongly in favour of women in ministry.
Rev.Annie Lodwick pictured in 1963 on her 40th anniversary arrival at Pisgah
Annie Lodwick officiating at a wedding in her early days at Pisgah
Annie made a positive impact on both the Church and local area but she also ruffled the odd feather or two! Very much her own woman, she would fearlessly preach on the evils of drink from the steps of the old stores. This did not go down so well with the landlord of the Cresselly Arms - especially as the Manse was next door to the pub! However, despite this, the pair were said to be on good terms in between times!
Many Welsh Baptist Churches were ‘dry’ at this point in the 20th century but Pisgah was perhaps not quite so dry as some. While many members followed their pastor down the straight road of abstinence It is said that some others were not quite as committed. They were however keen to keep proper Sabbath observances and as such adopted the practice of not paying for their Sunday evening pint (or two) until Monday, thereby ensuring that money had not exchanged hands on the Sabbath!
While we rightly honour our forbears in this brief history we have to acknowledge that they were still human and as prone to hypocrisy as those of us who follow after them!
Annie was deeply loved and left 8 years later due ill health - the records show that her resignation was accepted with great reluctance, attempts to convince her to stay failed as she insisted that she didn’t want to be a burden on the Church.
One of Annie's youngest members, Miss Amy Arthur (later Griffiths) lived well into her 90’s and had tears in her eyes as she described to me the impact Annie had on her all those years ago - she described how Annie had taught her to recite as a little girl and how she had kindled the fire of her faith and made it burn bright. It would burn brightly all the days of her long life.