Christmas Evans

1766-1838. Welsh Baptist preacher. Born at Esgairwen, Llandysul, Cardiganshire, on Christmas Day, son of a cobbler, he served as a farmhand in the neighborhood, and the only education he enjoyed was informal instruction by the well-known schoolmaster David Davis, Castellhywel (1745-1827), and a short period at his school. Evans joined the Baptist church at Aberduar. He went as a missioner to Caernarvonshire and was ordained in 1789. From 1791 to 1826 he ministered in Anglesey, and after two brief periods at Caerphilly and Cardiff he returned north to Caernarvon in 1832 and spent his remaining years there. He died in Swansea while on a journey, and is buried there in Bethesda churchyard.

Together with John Elias* and William Williams* of Wern, he is enshrined in Welsh tradition as one of the three greatest figures in the history of the nation's preaching. Like Elias, his formal education did not amount to very much, and he was virtually self-educated. This is not without significance for the historian seeking to demonstrate how Nonconformity* developed into a large-scale working-class movement in Victorian Wales. These men were exceptionally able communicators with the largely uneducated public of the period.

Evans's great strength as a preacher lay in his oratorical imagination. To call it baroque would be no exaggeration. His sermons on such themes as the Prodigal Son or the Last Judgment became existential dramas of the most poignant kind at his hands. This method of preaching he had learned from Robert Roberts of Clynnog (1762-1802), and Roberts was (indirectly) indebted to George Whitefield. Evans's preaching was inspired by a profound personal godliness and a “passion for souls.” Although he was a busy writer of theological pamphlets, he tended to be somewhat wayward in his theological opinions.