Jun 13, 2024

Roland Williams


Roland Williams (1817-1870) made two lasting contributions to Welsh society. First, he introduced rugby to Wales, now considered by many to be its national sport. When Williams became Vice-Principal of St. David’s College (now the University of Wales) in 1850, he was concerned about its students’ lack of physical activity. Inspired by the “muscular Christianity” movement, Wiliams instituted rules to govern student life, including the policy that students spend their relaxation time on healthy exercise, not in “clownish lounging around” in marketplace shops. Since he had played rugby in his student days at the University of Cambridge, England, he introduced the sport to eager students. His second contribution as a Hebrew professor at the college was his ground-breaking book, Christianity and Hinduism. Early missionaries from the United Kingdom were confrontational and hostile toward indigenous religions encountered in the mission field. This would explain their cool reception and the allegation that these Western European missionaries were importing a foreign religion. Williams’ approach marked a new era in foreign missions. His book, arranged as a dialogue between Christian and Hindu scholars, was respectful in the analysis of comparative theology. While Wiliams held fast to the conviction that Christianity was a superior religion, his approach opened the way for Christianity to be expressed in sync with local customs. Characterized as a man deeply devoted to prayer, he leads us to pray:

Though we know not what is best, give to us, Lord, what Thou seest fit; only fit us for what Thou givest, and let it bring to our souls’ health and peace, with some good to our neighbor and the world, for Thy goodness’ sake, O Lord. Make me to Thyself a temple of holy things, and abiding with me, O Lord, at the last, be ever gracious unto Thy servant. Let me do some work which may be accepted in Thy mercy, though unworthy in Thy pure sight. Bless my work to good, to the fullness of which it is capable, and let me thank Thee for it with joy in the end. Into Thy hands, we commend our spirit, soul, and body, of which Thou art Creator, Savior, Redeemer, a God of truth. Lord, to Thee, I commit my going out and my coming in this day. Amen.
Mary Tileston, Prayers, Ancient and Modern.
Paul Hedges, “Roland Williams: Christianity and Hinduism.”

Rev. Dr. Peter James served 42 years as the senior of Vienna Presbyterian Church in Vienna, VA — 21 years in the 20th century and 21 years in the 21st century. He retired in 2021 and now serves as Pastor-in-Residence at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Even as a pastor, prayer came slowly to Pete. Read Pete’s story.