JOHN CHRISTIE ATTENDS THE PRESBYTERIAN GENERAL ASSEMBLY IN 1881

Coming up for air from writing the Synod History and to assure you I am still in the land of the living I share with you a report of the Rev. John Christie, Minister at Waikouaiti titled ‘Visit to Wellington 1881’.

Christie was representing the Synod at the Northern Church General Assembly, mainly to participate in the Union discussions. His report gives an interesting insight into a Southerner’s ‘superior’ view of Northern happenings. As an anti Unionist the issues of instrumental music and the new law allowing the marriage to a deceased wife’s sister are noted with some cynicism. He briefly outlines his experience of worship and an opinion of the General Assembly debate on Union.

the Rev. John Cairns Christie, Minister of Waikouaiti-Palmerston Parish from 1863

the Rev. John Cairns Christie, Minister of Waikouaiti-Palmerston Parish from 1863

“We left Lyttelton in the evening, crossed the straits between the two islands and entered the fine harbor of Wellington between 11 and twelve o clock. Wellington is a very interesting and promising city. It processes a fine climate, much warmer than Otago… “

“We were very hospitably received. We could not have been more kindly entertained than we were. As we arrived on Friday we had a part of the day and Saturday to look about us. It is very far indeed from passing the size and beauty of Dunedin…”

[Christie preached at two services, one at St. Andrew’s where Rev. Ogg was minister and the other at St. John’s where the Rev. Paterson was minister. He found the order of worship quite different from that in the South.]

“I did not feel very well at home till I got to the Sermon. The collection was taken while the organ played [?] piece of music. Some of the Elders go around with a plate. They find that they raise more money in this way than if leaving a plate at the door. Thus the Hymn Book and instrumental music are in use in the Northern Church…”

“The service is opened with praise. As the Bell ceases the organ immediately begins to play. During the execution of this piece of Music the Minister takes his place in the pulpit and composes himself before commencing his portion of service. When the music ends he rises and announces the Psalm a hymn to be sung. He then pauses and waits while the organ plays over the tune. After which he announces the Psalm a hymn and reads over one or two lines, and intimates how many verses they shall sing.”

“The reading of the psalm is given up and instead there is a rehearsal of the tune. It seems to me that in this way the psalm is made subordinate to the music. Two portions of Scripture are read, between which a whole Psalm is chanted by the choir… “

[An incident he describes was all too familiar to both First and Knox Churches in particular the Salvation Army Band marching to gather its worshippers]

“The first strange thing that I meet was the Volunteers marching to church with a band of music playing. It appears they had got new uniforms and this was the place taken for showing them off. They were accompanied by, and followed by a great noisy rabble and roughs from the streets. Those who had commenced divine serve were disturbed in their worship. Mr. Paterson met Colonel Pearce and he promised not to play while passing places of worship.”

General Assembly Meeting and Union

“The only features differing from our Synod was the celebrating of the Lord’s Supper in which the members of Assembly and members of the Church joined, 100 in all. The numbers of Assembly Clerical and lay would not be more than 30. The business transaction was very similar to what takes place in our own Synod… In regard to the union question … Its is not Union that is wanted.   It is absorption…No it turns out that the whole thing is money they want all the funds their way. [Synod Trust Funds]… I trust the union movement is effectively knocked on the head, and the affair will rest till there is a greater homogeneity[sic] between north and south than now exists.”

“I don’t think there can be any proper union so long as that dirty stepping stone of the deceased wife’s sister lies in the way. It is a downgrade step and will vitiate the work and position of our church and make her a prey to all Ishmaelites around. “

[He offers some suggestions that may bring about Union]

“The Marriage Law within the Church must be repealed, the north must cultivate a sustentation fund. The Otago Church must be more willing than she is now and less needy and willing to part with her property and yield up her identity. The Northern Church needs to get its congregations more in hand. It is almost Congregational. Really I do not wish to embark on the sea of troubles the union has before it.”

Union of the Northern General Assembly and the Southern Synod of Otago and Southland took place twenty years later in 1901.

Ref: John Christie, Addresses and Lectures Assorted, c.1880-1899, DA11/6