« EelmineJätka »
LOCAL PREACHERS' MAGAZINE
Christian Family Record.
THE WESLEYAN LOCAL PREACHERS' MUTUAL-AID
ITS ORIGIN, CONSTITUTION, AND HISTORY. Tae germ of this Association was a letter by a local preacher at Matlock, in the Cromford circuit, addressed in June, 1849, to a weekly newspaper, suggesting the propriety and desirableness of some mode of fellowship more general and intimate than was at that time existent among the local preachers of the Wesleyan community. Among the itinerant ministers there was a bond of unity that secured the most intimate fellowship; but among local preachers there was no fellowship beyond the narrow sphere of each particular circuit.
The writer of that letter soon received a large number of letters from brethren scattered over the connexion ; some asking for information, some offering suggestions, and nearly all expressing approbation of its aim. This encouraged him so far that he called a meeting for consultation to be held at Birmingham on July the 24th. In the interim there were meetings held in different parts of the country, at which were appointed delegates, who assembled to the number of twenty-four on the day appointed. After much consideration, this meeting came to the conclusion that a society should be formed for the purpose of assisting “local preachers in times of sickness, distress, and old age;" and that it should comprise honorary members, as well as ordinary members, the former contributing a guinea a year towards the relief of the latter. A resolution was carried also for the holding of " an aggregate meeting in London on the 3rd and 4th of October ;” and “that each circuit be requested to send a representative in addition to those who may voluntarily attend.”
Simultaneously with this meeting at Birmingham, another meeting was held at Hart's Temperance Hotel, London, attended by about seventy persons, for conference on the same subject. Other meetings followed for preparatory work. An active correspondence was carried on. Arrangements were eventually made for the brethren to meet in Free
masons' Hall to transact business, and for the holding of religious services in City-road and Great Queen-street Chapels.
Between three and four hundred brethren assembled, from many parts of the country as well as the London circuits, on the 3rd of October. Their joy at thus meeting in so large a number from distant circuits, for the first time, was almost unbounded. They felt greatly strengthened and encouraged in their common work, and their hearts were united in Christian love and zeal.
The scheme for the formation of the Association, its constitution and principal laws, were submitted, discussed and adopted; and James Wild, Esq., of North End, Hammersmith, was elected treasurer. A General Committee was appointed, for the supervision of the institution during the year ;
and to that committee was entrusted the task of drawing up a faller code of rules, to be submitted to the next year's Aggregate Meeting.
The keeping of accounts and an extensive correspondence necessitated the employment of a paid secretary, for which service Mr. Edward Creswell was elected, at a salary of £80 a year. The committee met for a while at the house of the treasurer, and afterwards at the houses of its members in rotation. These arrangements were made for the purpose of saving the expense of an office.
The number of members enrolled during the first year was 1,260. The rules, when completed, were sent to all the members of the committee residing in the country, who, after reading and considering them, returned them, with some alterations and suggestions; and such of them as appeared desirable were adopted. When thus completed they were circulated throughout the Connexion.
Many cases of affliction and distress were made known to the brethren during the year, and some appeals for help by such as were too poor to pay the entrance fee and quarterly contributions.
One of these cases was that of a local preacher of the age of 82, who had been 61 years a member of the Wesleyan Society, 56 years a class-leader, and 52 years a local preacher. Another had been a farmer, but had become so reduced in circumstances as to be obliged to apply to the parish for relief. He was sent to the poor-house, and there died.
CONSTITUTION OF THE ASSOCIATION.
The main object for which the institution was created and for which it is sustained, is the relief of local preachers in circumstances of need, arising from physical disablement, or from sickness, and in the period of old age and decay, combined with poverty and destitution. Its membership comprises two classes, honorary and benefit. The honorary members subscribe to the funds freely, without receiving or expecting or desiring to receive money-benefits in return. Local preachers subscribing 3s. a quarter, or 12s. a year freely, are classed as honorary members.
Other persons, of either sex, subscribing a guinea a year, also bear the rank of honorary members. These honorary members have the right of attending the Annual Meetings, or Conferences ; but not the right of voting. The power to vote might be an inducement to those who dislike the Association to become honorary members for the purpose of undermining it; a contingency that ought to be guarded against and prevented.
The benefit members also may be considered as of two classes : those that are entitled to relief in sickness, and whose surviving friends may claim allowance for their decent interment when they die; and those who in old age and infirmity are so poor as to need aid from others, and to whom annuities are granted, varying according to circumstances from 2s. 6d. to 4s. or 5s., and from the present time, in specially needy cases, reaching to 6s. a week. By these beneficent allowances many a poor and afflicted local preacher, after forty or fifty years' “ labour in the word and doctrine,” has been saved from ending life in a union house, and sinking into a pauper's grave.
These annuities can be sustained only by gratuitous income ; because very poor brethren cannot pay sufficient to provide for such allowances for themselves : and it is in this channel that our honorary members' subscriptions flow, together with all the free contributions by public collections, private donations, and a considerable part of our legacies.
Two principles, therefore, are embodied in the constitution and rules of the Association : that of a Benefit Society, or “ Mutual-Aid" simple—and that of a Benevolent Society, or divine Charity, pure and simple. The two principles are inseparably intertwined, as the result of the intense love and fervid sympathy of the younger members for their older brethren and fathers.
Local preachers only are eligible for benefit membership. They have to pay an entrance fee of 10s. if not more than 35 years of age, and an additional shilling for every year beyond that age, up to the age of 55. Brethren of more than 55 years of age are admitted only by special arrangement with the General Committee, who fix the fee according to the circumstances of each case. Every benefit member has to pay also 3s. a quarter to the funds, and must be one year in membership before he can draw the allowance for sickness. After that he is entitled in sickness to an allowance of 8s. a week, and the General Committee has power for the present to continue this allowance so long as it has ascertained that the sickness and need continue. The funeral allowance is £8; but if a brother lose his wife by death, he may draw half that amount for her funeral, the other half to be paid at his own decease. Alterations in the rules can be made only every third year; and no motion for an alteration of any rule can be entertained unless a notice of such motion has been given to the General Secretary six months previously.
?” pure and
Simultaneously with the rise of this institution was the rise of great troubles in the Wesleyan community. The expulsion of three ministers by the Conference exasperated many minds, and gave rise to the great agitation, through which mang brethren who had joined the Association were severed—some of them forcibly, and others voluntarily—from the Wesleyan societies. At the Aggregate Meeting of 1851 the question arose, How must such cases be treated ? Those brethren had joined the Association in good faith, but under the altered circumstances they could hardly be classed as Wesleyan. Ought they to be disowned by their brethren, and excluded from the Association, in consequence of a great ecclesiastical quarrel ? or ought they to be retained in membership so long as they might wish, provided they maintained a character for morality, and continued to “ labour in the word and doctrine ?” The question was long debated, and various motions were made. The result was, that an almost unanimous vote carried the following resolution :
“ That the words, Wesleyan-Methodist Local Preachers, and accredited local preachers,' occurring in the rules, shall not be taken in such sense as to exclude those persons who, in the present afflicted state of Methodism, are connected with the Branch Societies.”'
This equitable resolution, uncongenial with the spirit of domination, provoked a war-cry on the part of the Watchman newspaper against the Association; and that aroused suspicion and opposition throughout the Connexion. Many of our brethren were intimidated, and induced to withdraw; and many more were dissuaded from joining, who would have become members if they had not been so influenced. Benevolent feeling was chilled and counteracted; and, as a necessary consequence, little . support was given by those who were most able to supply the needed funds. The enthusiasm of others, however, for several years kept the machinery in good working condition. For five years there was steady increase in both members and funds; but then came a serious decline. Ways and means had often to be taken into consideration by the General Committee and the Aggregate Meetings, and various methods of meeting the case were devised. Collecting boxes and cards were provided and given out, and where they were properly worked, many friends contributed their mites for the relief of poor and necessitous brethren. In 1859 the Aggregate Meeting resolved upon holding a grand bazaar in London. This was carried into effect the following year, under the patronage of Mrs. James Wild and other influential ladies ; and the amount thereby raised was £1,200.
In 1863 a scheme for the raising of £2,000 by special contributions was started by the president of that year, Brother Arundale. It was kept on for a couple of years, under the designation of “The President's Two Thousand Pounds Fund," when that sum was realised.
In the course of twenty-nine years there have been eight losing years,
the outgoings exceeding the income by nearly £1,100; but the other twenty-one years were marked by increase, the total amount being considerably over £10,000; leaving a clear balance of over £9,000, which is invested in the national funds, in the names of several trustees,-gentlemen of Christian reputation and high social position,—three of whom must make a concurrent application before so much as a single pound can be withdrawn.
A travelling agent—a zealous, plodding local preacher_was employed for a while in visiting different localities, helping to hold meetings for the formation of new branches, diffusing information and soliciting subscriptions. The most effectual aid, however, has been rendered by gifted and influential brethren who have visited important circuits, and exerted themselves on behalf of the Association, canvassing for annual subscriptions, addressing meetings, and helping to organise branches.
One of the early presidents, who was the first treasurer, James Wild, Esq., of London, so strongly sympathised with the poor old men, that he invested the sum of £1,000 in the Indian Five per Cents., in order that the interest might be applied in sums of ten shillings a year to every annuitant at that time upon the funds, to be forwarded every Christmas, as his gift, to cheer the festive season. The number of annuitants increasing, the investment has proved inadequate for fully carrying out the benevolent intentions of the benefactor. An additional sum of £300 has been raised, therefore, by the zealous efforts of a few brethren, and been invested for the purpose of meeting the additional cases, so that every annuitant may have the Christmas gratuity of ten shillings.
At the end of the first year of the Association's history, the income from all sources amounted to £1,395 9s. 4d., and the total expenditure to £196 188. 8d. The treasurer had invested £1,060 10s. in Three per Cent. Consols, and had £138 Os. 8d. in hand. Every year there has been an Aggregate Meeting or Conference of the Association held, either in London, or in some provincial town or city, as far north as York, as far east as Norwich, as far west as Bristol, and Cardiff in Wales, and in various intermediate places ; and for years past they have been welcomed with increasing enthusiasm and hospitality.
In 1850 a resolution was adopted for the publication of a monthly magazine, as the organ of the Association. This was deemed indispensable in order to diffuse information, to report progress from time to time, and to represent in all respects the interests of the Association and of local preachers. Its utility has been proved, not only in winning many friends and supporters to the institution, but also in giving scope to the talents of many writers who have rendered good service to the interests of humanity, morality, philanthropy, and religion. commenced in January, 1851, and has been continued until now. The price at first was 4d. a number, but was soon reduced to 2d. For fourteen years paid editors were employed; but for the last fourteen years it has