Ministerial Training in the 1860s and 1870s

notes from the Primitive Methodist Conference minutes. The Conference met annually, usually in June, to review what was happening and plan ahead

1861/27          Committee for examination  of candidates, for ministry: W.Garner, J.Petty, J.Garner, W.Antliff, P.Pugh, S.Antliff, C McKechnie, T.Bateman, T.Gibson.

1861/36           Q: What is to be done to improve and prepare our young men for the work of the ministry? A: that our young ministers on probation be put under the care of senior ministers who shall direct their studies. At least once a quarter. Either personally or by letter.

1862/35           Q; What course shall be pursued in the exam. of probationers prior to their admission into the list of approved preachers?

  • Examine each candidate on relevant experience and progress in spiritual things and views on A PRESENT FREE AND FULL SALVATION.
  • Reading, writing, arithmetic and English grammar proficient?
  • Views of Christian ministry and qualifications offered
  • Two sketches of sermons composed and written
  • Proficiency in English and Church history, Logic, Rhetoric and Mental Philosophy, and Metaphysics. Recommended books in each. Incl. James Garner`s Theological Dissertations and Adam Clarke`s Letter to a Young Preacher

1863/33           The establishment of a Connexional Jubilee School  for boys between 9 and 14 at £20-25 p.a. except for the sons of preachers £!5 p.a. One free scholarship for every £25 scholar for a fatherless son of a Primitive Methodist. Managing committee 2/3rds laymen, 1/3rd ministers appointed by conference. John Petty as Governor and his wife as Matron. A religious, Commercial and Classical education. With general oversight of institution and moral and religious training of pupils. Monthly meetings of local committee and annual committee before conference.

1864/31           Committee in each home district of four suitable persons of ministerial efficiency and managing ability with intellectual, cultural and literary attainments as Examining Committee for candidates to the ministry

1864/36           Jubilee School at York : purchase of Elmfield approved (no more than £1,350). Appointment of trustees and committee. John Petty Governor, Mrs. Petty, Matron and William Antliff secretary.

1864/64           Presidential address: Elmfield House now a successful operation .. measures for its extension and increased usefulness.

1865/35           20 students intended for ministry to be housed at Elmfield with john Petty as Tutor. £30 p.a. costs to be borne by Connexion and Student equally.  New committee appointed to provide the means for the Institution to meet in Sunderland. One student from each District.

1866/36           Samuel Antliff appointed General Secretary of the General Examining Co. along w. John Dickenson, Joshua Rouse, Thomas Large. To oversee probationers in all home districts.

1866/37           List of books for the four years probation.  On church polity and history (Petty on PMs and Hugh Bourne on Ecclesiastical History), Wesley`s Sermons and Notes, Watson`s Institutes, Garner`s dissertation on Christian Theology, Bishop Pearson on The Creed and other books on geography, grammar, arithmetic, logic, rhetoric and moral science. Biographies incl. Adam Clarke, Hugh Bourne, William Clowes, William Bramwell, Thomas Coke and William Arthur`s Tongue of Fire.

1867/44           Regulations for the District Examining Cos. Under secretaryship of Colin McKechnie of North Shields. All ministerial candidates who have successfully completed studies should be stationed by Conference. William Antliff the governor and tutor. Trustees and General Committee given powers to purchase property in Sunderland for those purposes.

1867/92           Ministerial students have studied on course of training in theology and other branches of education. Preached in villages, chapels and cottages and in the open air and accompanied the town missionary in York in visiting the homes of the poor. Work about to be transferred to Sunderland under W. Antliff whose job is to “make them thorough PM preachers”.

1868/43           Death of John Petty at York. Rules and Regulations for Theological Institution approved. Tutor/Principal to teach students Reading, English Grammar, Arithmetic (if necessary), Logic, Rhetoric, History (chiefly English and Ecclesiastical) Theology, Biblical Literature, Hermeneutics, Sermonizing, and PM rules and usages. Useful knowledge rather than ornamental, to equip them as PM ministers.

1868/80           Need to increase the efficiency of Local Preachers as auxiliary to ministry by more commitment to study.

1869/64           First report of the Theological Institute. Opened free from debt, thanks to Book Shop profits. Principal his family and 20 students resident. Health generally good. Working in the Sunderland circuit on family visiting, open air preaching and processioning, and much else, sometimes in other circuits and churches. Students preach also to each other and the sermons subjected to “kindly but candid criticism, comprehending remarks on their action, emphasis, language, arrangement, quotation of scripture, earnestness or otherwise, and also their reading the hymns and lessons.” But limitations of only a year`s studies means that they will not be equally acceptable and successful. Need for men with “at least an average share of intellectual power and a disposition to work”. But much achieved in the first year.

1869/83           Expectation of 30 to 40 families visited every week. Need for Local Preachers to diligently study the word of God and be careful to attend to preaching appointments. Need to maintain the classes and love feasts with the testimonies of young converts to the power of God`s grace.

Ministerial students not to be mere scholars or preachers but intelligent, earnest and useful PM ministers.

1870/64           Second report of the Theological Institution. Good discipline and results. But time so limited. Up to 24 students in college. Paramount importance of “cultivating personal holiness” so that they may be amongst those who  “turn many to righteousness”.

Grant of pamphlets donated by Joseph Barker acknowledged. As also James Dawson for his “Pulpit Power”.

1871/58           Visitation of smallpox affected 8 to 10 students (out of between 21 and 23). With other illnesses and bad weather,  a year much disrupted. But 620 preaching appointments fulfilled, 1200 families visited. 2 or three places a promising interest raised. Their training much appreciated by the connexion. Need for more funds. College closed for disinfecting and renovation at end of year.

1872/61           More cases of smallpox.  One succumbed – J B Pay from the London District.  Need for more rooms including an isolation ward. Need for more funds.

1873/62           Principal`s lectures on Homiletics and Theology as well as other books in the curriculum. To enable students to become well grounded in all the essentials of “an earnest, acceptable, and successful PM gospel ministry”. 600+ preaching appointments in Sunderland PM district and other churches , 2000 family visits and numerous open air services.

1873/65           60 questions set for November exam. on Sacred Scriptures, Theology, Ecclesiastical History, English History, Arithmetic, English Grammar, Geography, Logic, Rhetoric, Primitive Methodism, and sermonizing. Students answered on average 47 Qs. And only one failed to get the minimum 40. His case exceptional (scholastic privileges extremely limited on admission) l so allowed to continue. May exam had extra qs. On mental and moral science and 50Qs.

1874/ 63          Four auxiliary visiting lecturers employed to assist Principal but this experiment ended.

1875/67           Need to be self sufficient and independent of connexional grants.

1876/67           Suggestions for alteration of arrangements for the TI and possible establishment of another. Need to avoid serious debt, and maintain good feeling and kindly co-operation

1876/93           Conference resolved to meet demand for an increase in ministerial supply by opening up a second institution in Manchester, because of its centrality and the facilities afforded by Owens College. This will cost £8,000 but hopes of tapping the growing means of the Connexion and its liberality.

1877/73           9th annual report. Greater numbers of those in training. Assistant to Principal appointed Rev T Greenfield. 21 students in training.

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