Non-subscriber history site up

The Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland is an interesting church of 4,000 or more souls in Ireland (the island), mostly in Northern Ireland (that part of the United Kingdom) but one that’s hard to get a lot of current information about. I’m sure its status contributes to this: “kindred” to Unitarians (as the formula went a century ago) but distinct from the Unitarians found across the Irish Sea. But some good news today.

Davis Steers, a NSPCI minister and writer, has put together a site about the church’s history and I look forward to reading it.

  • The History of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland
  • Universalist work in Korea, 1937 report

    The story of the Universalist Korean mission is little discussed, surely because the Japan mission, on which it was institutionally dependent, is also little discussed and because there is no evidence that has come to light that it survived the Second World War. I’m hoping to add to the record, and follow up on the article I posted two years ago.

    I was at the Library of Congress yesterday and scanned minutes and reports from the 1937 General Convention. This is from the section called International Church Extension. I’ve added links to outside resources for context.

    Universalist General Convention. Universalist biennial reports and directory. Boston, Mass. : Universalist General Convention. (1938), p. 83-86.

    Korea

    Under the leadership of Mr. [Ryonki] Jio [or, Cho in the financial reports], graduate of Doshisha Theological Seminary, work was begun in Korea in 1929. Mr. Jio with another student from the seminary had done summer evangelistic work the two previous years. As he traveled all over the country he investigated possible centers for his future work. His final decision was in favor of Taikyu (Daigu—Korean pronunciation), a city the size of Rochester, New York.

    In April, 1929, after his graduation from Doshisha, Mr. Jio rented a house and began his work. It was thought at first that no Sunday school could be conducted in such narrow quarters but on April 7th some 57 children came and three men and four women volunteered to help in teaching. What has come to be a very significant work was thus humbly begun.

    Taikyu

    There is a church building, and a pastor’s house on a small plot of land down a narrow alley building leading from one of the many wide streets in Taikyu. The buildings and land are being bought on the installment plan, with payments each month for something over two more years. The “church building” is an adapted ex-wrestling hall, now in quite bad condition, with uprights weakening and sinking to such an extent that the windows, which open horizontally, are immovable now, with the exception of one half of one window. A new building—one could almost say, a building—is needed badly, but the group is attempting this year a complete renovation with the limited resources these poverty-stricken people can manage to scrape together.

    Here are all the usual meetings and some unusual ones —not only Church and Sunday School—but many other meetings throughout the week.

    Mr. Jio has lived through some hard experiences since the start of 1929—experiences that would have embittered most men—but he has had his dream and has worked towards its realization steadily. To tabulate such activities as frequent preaching, Sunday School direction, prayer meetings, boys’ club work, Bible classes, does not begin to give one an idea of the work done. Mr. Jiu is fast becoming one of the best-known citizens of Taikyu.

    In August of 1936, several months after his graduation from the Taikyu Government Medical School, Dr. Pak, who had for several years served as Sunday School superintendent, in cooperation with Mr. Jio and in the name of the church opened a medical-services-at-cost enterprise in a makeshift “attic” section of the “church building,” divided into a small laboratory, a small waiting room, and a somewhat larger consultation and treatment room, the whole comprising a space of about ten by fifteen feet. (Their original plan to build up the enterprise on a cooperative “shares” basis was prohibited by the police authorities.) For over a year Dr. Pak worked without salary patiently building the work. In August of ‘37, however, he resigned to take up a private practice in Manchukuo among Koreans there. Another young doctor was procured on a salary basis, and the work is going forward with steadily increasing numbers of patients daily and an ever-widening scope of influence in the city. In some months the average number of patients served has been as high as 40 to 50 daily. Last autumn, in answer to the need of an in-patient department for slight operation cases such as for trachoma, which is very wide-spread in Korea. Mr. Jio turned his house over to this work and took up a rented dwelling some twenty minutes’ walk from the “church.”

    Handicapped by extremely limited equipment this “church and hospital” enterprise goes forward steadily.

    Mrs. Onjun Pak, the first Korean to be trained at the Blackmer Home, has started a Sewing School for Women and Girls in connection with Mr. Jio’s work. Very little equipment was available, but it is hoped that interested groups in America may be able to contribute towards the purchase of a few machines and some necessary supplies. Until that time Mrs. Pak is carrying on with what is at hand and is making a real contribution to the people she serves. A portion of the International Friendship Offering received in Universalist Church Schools in November, 1937, has been a sign for this work of Mrs. Pak.

    Wulchon

    A church was soon started at Wulchon, some six miles from Taikyu, but owing to the persecution by another sect, it had to be suspended. But this misfortune has not followed another enterprise in Wulchon.

    Some years ago people in the immediate vicinity of this small town faced a desperate unemployment situation. Mr. Jio resolved to do something about it. With his church group as a nucleus and on borrowed money, he purchased materials and begin a fibre-slipper manufacture, his own special service being the finding of markets for the goods manufactured goods during the long cold season when the ground cannot be worked. Today the Guild thus started has spread beyond this first group, gives employment to over eighteen hundred and manufactures over two hundred thousand pairs of slippers a year, selling some as far afield as Chicago and points farther east. This industry has become second in importance—after silk—in the district which Taikyu is the center.

    Kumpo

    A dozen miles beyond Wulchon is Kumpo, a small rural village of two hundred or more. Here, after some evangelistic meetings, a church of thirty odd members was formed. But it as was the case in Wulchon, was forced to suspend activities due to persecution from another sect.

    Sendung

    After Dr. Cary’s address of the Buffalo convention in 1931, Rev. G. H. Leining and Rev. Ellsworth C. Reamon conducted a swift impromptu campaign for funds which resulted in enough to purchase a farm of some one hundred and sixteen thousand tsubo (a tsubo is 36 square feet) or over 98 acres—a very large farm for the Orient. Upwards of fifty families rent and work this farm, which has extensive rice cultivation possibilities as well as being in a good position for fruit. In the summer of ‘34 a great flood swept down and buried large portions of the farm under six feet of water, but it was reconditioned—at considerable expense (with money borrowed of the government on very easy terms). What was necessary was done and the slow process of making the land valuable by annually putting all returns back from it back into it was taken up again. More fruit trees are planted, more poplars about the edges to hold off sand and future floods. In August of 1936 an even worst flood came, wrecking property throughout the southern part of Korea. Once again the work of reconditioning was taken up but it was too expensive to do it as completely as was desirable. Nevertheless, more planting of fruit trees and protective poplars, which are pruned short, was done. A goodly number of the thousands of trees planted before the ‘36 flood, lived through it.

    In the nearby town, Mr. Jio holds occasional meetings whenever an opportunity presents itself.

    Other interests

    Mr. Jio maintains a constant communication with liberal groups of Koreans in Japan proper, especially among theological students to keep him exceedingly busy every time he visits Tokyo and Kyoto, where his alma mater, Doshisha, is.

    He sees great opportunity for influence through a liberal magazine, but is compelled for lack of funds to postpone any independent action of this nature, submitting articles for publication in other magazines whenever opportunity permits.

    Mr. Jio and the work he and his people undertake is financially aided by the General Convention and in constant affiliation with the General Convention representatives and the Japan Council.

    Interceding for Fulgence Ndagijimana

    10410969_658368174261373_3555270019891380793_nI imagine that many readers were horrified to see the news of Burundian Unitarian minister Fulgence Ndagijimana being arrested and held by police. (UUA International blog) The #ReleaseRevFulgence hashtag is laudable, but I have a bit more faith in interceding with God and the Burundian ambassador.

    Here’s the letter I’m sending; you’re welcome to crib from it. And quickly.

    His Excellency Ernest Ndabashinvze
    Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Burundi
    2233 Wisconsin Avenue N.W., Suite 408
    Washington, D.C. 20007

    Your Excellency:

    I learned today that a brother minister, the Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana, of the Unitarian Church of Burundi (Eglise unitarienne du Burundi) in Bujumbura was taken into police custody around November 17, and also that members of his church are being harassed by police.

    I was horrified to hear this news, and generally about the unrest in your country. Ours is a peace-loving religion, resting on a deep foundation of mutual respect. So, I respectfully ask that you do whatever you can to have the Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana released from prison, and to have the police stop intimidating or harassing the Unitarians of Burundi.

    I join hundreds of thousands of fellow believers around the word in petitioning you to help.

    Sincerely yours,
    (The Rev.) Scott Wells

    2015 British Unitarian and Free Christian AGM begins

    About now, the 2015 British Unitarian and Free Christian annual general meetings will be breaking for dinner, having already had its opener and first plenary session. There’s no streaming content, so far as I can tell, nor a set Twitter feed or hashtag. (If you know one, please note it. Later. It seems to be #gauk.) And gauging by last year, I’m not going to expect real-time photos, either.

    But you can see the print materials, including the handbook at the same link.

    British Unitarian numbers update

    British Unitarian minister and blogger Stephen Lingwood gives us his annual update of membership numbers in the Unitarian and Free Christian Churches in England, Wales and Scotland. (Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have a different history and related, but distinct, denomination.)

    The news is not good; a sharp decrease. Reminds me of the opening sequence of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series, which gives the census of surviving human beings. The British Unitarians and Free Christians now number 3,179.  When I was a youngster, it was about 15,000.

    He refers to an annual report. We don’t get them on this side of the Atlantic, but you can download one. (PDF)

     

     

    So, you knew about the Universalist mission to Korea, right?

    The Universalist mission to Korea didn’t last long, and tantalizingly little has been written about it. It was surely a subset of the Japanese mission work, and during this period — some time in the 1920s — Korea was occupied by Japan.

    This photo, from the 1927 Universalist Year Book, is the first I’ve ever seen related to the work, but as you can see by the caption, there’s not much detail here either. It’s printed between two pages about the Japanese Universalist Convention, but there’s no reference within that convention’s entry.

    Sunday School and Church Groups Our First Work in Korea -- Summer of 1926
    Sunday School and Church Groups
    Our First Work in Korea — Summer of 1926

    Can’t wait to get the 1928 Year Book.

    The sermon fit for reading

    There is a practical take-away from this historical episode; keep reading.

    Abigail and John  Adams, the departing ambassador to Great Britain, and John Murray, the Universalist minister, sailed together back to America on the same vessel, the Lucretia, in the spring of 1788. Unitarian Universalists today recall Abigail Adams’s recollection of Murray’s preaching, as recorded in her journal.

    This is Sunday 27 April. Mr. Murry preachd us a Sermon. The Sailors made them-selves clean and were admitted into the Cabbin, attended with great decency to His discourse from these words, “Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him Guiltless that taketh His Name in vain.” He preachd without Notes and in the same Stile which all the Clergymen I ever heard make use of who practise this method, a sort of familiar talking without any kind of dignity yet perhaps better calculated to do good to such an audience, than a more polishd or elegant Stile, but in general I cannot approve of this method. I like to hear a discourse that would read well. If I live to return to America, how much shall I regreet the loss of good Dr. Prices Sermons. They were always a delightfull entertainment to me. I revered the Character and Loved the Man. Tho far from being an orator, his words came from the Heart and reached the Heart. So Humble, so diffident, so liberal and Benevolent a Character does honour to that Religion which he both professes and practises.

    We usually think little of the Dr. Price in this passage, the Unitarian minister, Richard Price. At that time, he preached to the now-defunct Gravel Pit Chapel, but had previously preached to extant Newington Green congregation. He was followed at the Gravel Pit Chapel by Joseph Priestley, and was celebrated in his own right.

    So we have two preaching forbears in this passage, but they have very different preaching styles, each with their own appeals. I suppose I’m more like Murray, feeling that the physicality of preaching can be harmed by the close preaching from a manuscript.

    I do use a manuscript, but I use it as a preparation of what I plan to say, including any quotations I need and to keep me from failing if I freeze. I also include notes on how to preach the sections of the sermon. In short, if you read what I wrote, it would not be what you hear, and certainly not be “a discourse that would read well.”

    And I doubt I’m alone.

    The takeaway? I hate converting my eccentric preaching notes into a printed article. While often requested, it’s really a different art and a different work. At best, I might create an impression of the sermon that reads well. But it takes time; it’s not a matter of reformatting a word processor document.

    Please consider that before making such a request of your minister. That time is probably better spent in other ways, or, at least allow funds in the church budget for a transcriptionist and a proper editor.

     

    Hungarian Unitarian supreme council meets

    The Unitarian Universalist Association’s General Assembly wasn’t the only meeting last week. Note that the Supreme Council of the Hungarian Unitarian Church — that’s an ethno-linguistic denominator, as it includes the larger part of the church in Transylvanian Romania — met June 27 and 28 in Koloszvar (Cluj).

    Unlike General Assembly today, it seems to be a more purely deliberative body and less a convocation. But what little I know comes thanks to Google Translate and the large set of photos.

    Fellowship of Non-Subscribing Christians launches

    Last night, in the Cheshire town of Stalybridge, a new fellowship launched publicly: the Fellowship of Non-Subscribing Christians.

    “Non-Subscribing” in the sense of not subscribing the Westminster Confession of Faith, and thus shorthand for a particularly Irish form of liberal Christianity, distinct from (but co-operative with) British Unitarianism. Nevertheless, this new fellowship isn’t formally linked to the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland, and the fellowship extends its work over Ireland and Great Britain. Alas, nothing said about the United States or Canada!

     July 2. They have photos of their event up on Flickr.