New Zealand Methodist Church OnLine History
 Go to Index

Coming of Age

I Indian Summer - February 1913 to August 1914
II The Great War - 1914-1918
III The Search for Maturity
IV A Time to Change - 1919-1929
V A Time of Tension and Dismay - 1930-1939
VI War and Rehabilitation Once More - 1939-1950
VII A Time of Innocence - 1950-1965
VIII Honest to God and All That - 1965-1972
IX Where Do We Go From Here?


It was Thomas Carlyle who in his dyspeptic way described contemporary Methodism 'with its eye ever upon its own navel.' That was a long time ago, but we are at it still.

Our excuse is that as denominations go we are an adolescent body, only a little over 200 years old. We entered New Zealand in 1822, but our work among the settlers did not take precedence over the Maori Mission for a full generation. It is characteristic of adolescents to be concerned about themselves, seeking an identity. They may be moody today, confident and out-going tomorrow; impatient of tradition but capable of intense constructive effort; self-centred but generous when the imagination is touched.

During the nineteenth century our New Zealand Connexion was governed by men who looked to British Methodism for guidance. For the first half of the twentieth century as a small denomination we tended to be locally imitative, and the most convenient model seemed to be the Presbyterian. Since about 1950 we have been more concerned with finding our place within the ecumenical movement, where we seem to fit into a slot between the Anglicans and the Presbyterians and where we find a welcome for anything useful we have to offer.

The publication of this volume completes the series offered by the Wesley Historical Society (N.Z. Branch) as our contribution to the 150th Anniversary of our Church in this country. We did not intend to write the story of individual congregations. We have admirable local brochures and regional histories, which make such a venture unnecessary, while it would require a volume the size of the old Family Bible. Out of the Common Way covered the pioneering period. This book describes the process of settling down into a pastoral situation at a time when Christian faith was slowly fading in the community and the Connexion was more and more thrown in upon itself.

One takes a risk in publishing contemporary history. One's judgment is bound to be wrong about so many things. There is a risk of misrepresenting people and events before time has matured judgment. But on the other hand contemporary witness is invaluable. Emerson said that there is no such thing as history, only biography. History is about people, and the writer represents a generation that lived through the events described. I received my first ticket of membership in 1913, the year of Union, and I speak as a witness, I hope without malice. In describing some things I dropped into the first person experimentally, intending to re-write the final draft, but the late Bernard Chrystall who went through the mss. told me to leave it as it was. He said it brought the story to life. I hope he was right. The book is meant mainly for Methodists, and some liberties may be allowed within the family.

It is impossible to name individuals in a book like this. The narrative would be nothing but names, and then some would be left out. I have named ministers in some cases because they are well known throughout the Connexion and the reference helps to 'fix' dates and types and events. In this there is no clerical bias. Methodism has been built on lay effort and our faithful men and women are the salt of the earth.

Main sources of fact are the Minutes of Conference and the Methodist Times. Many correspondents have helped willingly and promptly. The mistakes and prejudices are mine alone. Mrs Hames I thank from my heart.

As this volume concludes by far the most ambitious publishing programme the Society has attempted in the forty-five years of its existence it seems appropriate to express thanks to the many organisations and individuals that have subsidised the venture, and especially to the Secretary, the Rev. L. R. M. Gilmore, who has held office for twenty-seven years. By his vigorous advocacy and untiring attention to detail he has done far more for the Society than any other person.

E. W. HAMES, Conference 1974. President,Wesley Historical Society.