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Journal 2007 - Wesley Historical Society

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Editorial - Terry Wall

'Saddlebags and navvies' - Douglas H Burt

Irene Eva Cornwell - Obituary by Stan Goudge

Charles Wesley - Protagonist or 'push over'? - Norman Brookes

Spiritual Journey - Graham Whaley

The Marsden Cross Heritage Centre and Chapel - Rev. Patricia Bawden

Directory 2007


The completion of the North Island Main Trunk Line in 1908 was a significant moment in the development of the New Zealand economy.

Doug Burt's article commemorates this event. He tells the story of the chaplains who worked in the camps along the line and the commitment of the church to provide worship and ministries of evangelism and pastoral care. It was a pioneering form of what we know today as industrial chaplaincy or workplace support.

Doug draws attention in his article to the novels of Herman Foston.

Published in 1921 in London, At The Front is an imaginative interpretation of the ministry of the church in the railway camps. It tells the life of Ralph Messenger, the hero of the novel, who travels from England to start a new life. An earnest young man seeking to vindicate himself, he is an example of piety, who through hard work and study, manages to better himself in the Dominion.

The novel is an intriguing social history of the times and of the way in which
the church sought to be in touch with those who endured hard lives in remote regions. There are discussions of socialism, deemed to be inadequate, and of temperance, endorsed enthusiastically. There is a sermon on Christ's Sympathy (p. 109). The theme of the novel is the mysterious work of God's providence in the lives of those who are faithful to the gospel. The author provides numerous accolades for Ralph's heroism.

It is interesting to discern the motivation to engage in mission to the
construction camps. It seems that "Sunday passed like the weekdays" and those who worked on the line were deprived of the opportunity to develop a spiritual life. We hear an impassioned speech to Conference imploring the "Fathers and Brethren" to take an initiative in embarking upon this mission. The speaker concludes his address by making a few suggestions as to the qualities which the one to be appointed to such work might possess:
1. He should be able to sing.
2. He should have an intense love for his
3. He should be able to make himself at home in the camps and settlers'homes.
4. If possible, he should have a slight knowledge of doctoring and ambulance work.
5. He should be intensely spiritual, and full of sound common-sense.
6. He should be a good organiser, (p. 96)

The story of the mission reveals a church alive to opportunities for mission
and conscious of the needs of those involved in heavy and at times dangerous work. There was a willingness to take risks, to invest in places where full-time ministry could not be funded by those for whom it was offered. We are reminded of John Wesley's dictum, "Go not to those who need you, but to those who need you most." Doug Burt's article recalls the church's impulse in those Edwardian days to reach out and establish communities of faith.

Stan Goudge's fitting tribute to Irene Comwell invites us to reflect on her distinctive contribution to our mission work in the Solomon Islands, notably employing her linguistic gifts in translating scripture into indigenous dialects.

In this year when we have celebrated the tercentenary of the birth of Charles Wesley, Norman Brookes probes the relationship between the two Wesley brothers and comments on their personalities. The poetic work of Charles has not always been given its rightful place in studies of the evangelical awakening. Certainly Norman sees Charles in the wider context of debates about the relationship of the Methodist societies to the Church of England and his understanding of the grace of God.

Jack Penman, who died in September of this year, was a long time supporter of the Wesley Historical Society. In recent years he was proof-reader for the Journal. Plans are being put in place to recognize his ministry in a future issue of the Journal. It was Jack who prompted the editor to encourage Graham Whaley to make his spiritual journey available for publication.

The article by Patricia Bawden introduces readers to the exciting developments in relation to the Marsden Cross. Pat has been faithful to a vision she received forty years ago of a centre on the site of the first preaching of the gospel in this land. She outlines the history with particular reference to early Wesleyan contact. There have been strong, healthy ecumenical relationships from the very beginning.

We are glad to offer for readers the Wesley Historical Society Annual Lecture, given at the Wellington Conference 2007. Jim Stuart explores the social and economic environment in which the Wesley brothers ministered and provides a case for seeing John Wesley's thought as containing an alternative economics - an evangelical economics, which critiqued and called in question the reigning political economies of the time.

Finally, I should like to draw attention to Fred Baker and Tatiana Blagova's well-received article in the 2006 Journal "Harold Whitmore Williams - The Forgotten Genius". The New Zealand Listener for January 5 2008 carries a review of a new book on Williams: Russia s Great Enemy: Harold Williams and the Russian Revolution by Charlotte Alston. It is heartening to see Williams being given the recognition he merits, even if he served the Methodist Church for a few brief years in his appointment at Waitara.

Terry Wall