Foreign Mission of the Presbyterian Church of Wales
Name of creator(s):
The Foreign Missions enterprise of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Church (later known as the Presbyterian Church of Wales) began at Liverpool in 1840. Earlier, the Church had supported the work of the London Missionary Society both in terms of home support and also in overseas agency – four Welsh Calvinistic Methodists were sent out by the LMS in the years up to 1840. However there arose a feeling among Welsh Calvinistic Methodists, especially in North Wales, that their Church was not being sufficiently represented in the LMS and that, moreover, the Methodist Churches had “not done what they ought to have done in the great work of evangelising the heathen world”.¹
The founding members were desirous to send missionaries to India where two possible mission fields – Gujarat and Assam - had been brought to their attention. A former LMS missionary, Jacob Tomlin, had toured the Khasia Hills and now recommended that the Welsh Calvinists adopt this area for its first mission. The area had recently been brought under British dominion with a military station at Cherrapunji. In 1874 the Khasia and Jaintia Hills and the plains of Assam were designated the Province of Assam.
The first missionary, Rev Thomas Jones, left with his wife for Cherrapunji, reputedly the rainiest inhabited place on earth, in November 1840, arriving at their destination after a difficult and protracted journey in June 1841. Here Jones commenced his study of the Khasi language and in the next year opened a number of schools for which he prepared a First Khasi Reader. He was aided in his work in the next few years by a handful of other Welsh missionaries, and the first two Khasi converts were baptised in March 1846. In the same year a station was opened at Jowai in the Jaintia Hills. The Christian Church grew slowly, since Khasi converts were often ostracised by their communities, but rapid progress was made in education work which was partially subsidised by an annual Government grant. By 1866 there were 65 schools with some 2,000 pupils and ten churches with 307 members. Standards of church membership were set high. In addition to renouncing heathen practices candidates had to be able to read. As standards in literacy grew, so too did Church membership. By 1891 there were 2,147 communicants with four ordained Khasis. This year also saw the completion of the work of translating the Bible into Khasi. In 1895 the growing Church was organised into five presbyteries.
Medical work in the region commenced in 1878 with the arrival at Mawphlang of the Rev Dr Griffith Griffiths and his wife. Here a medical dispensary was set up, to be followed by a hospital in 1883. After the great earthquake of 1897, when every building in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills was destroyed and many lives lost, medical work was transferred to the neighbourhood of Shillong. Here in 1922 the “large and well-equipped Presbyterian Hospital” was opened.²
Home direction of mission works was at first in the hands of a Foreign Mission Board, representative of the churches of both South and North Wales. In 1864 a General Assembly and an Executive Committee were set up to which the direction of mission affairs was transferred. The Rev John Roberts was the first Secretary of the Mission, succeeded in 1866 by the Rev Josiah Thomas. The principal source of funding was voluntary collections in the churches of the connexion with special collections and donations from time to time. Regular publications included the periodicals Y Drysorfa and Newyddion Da, Annual Reports (from 1883 also published in English) and Occasional Papers both in Welsh and English.
By 1902 the Mission had greatly expanded with 16,659 church attendants, 5616 communicants and 16,161 scholars. Work was also being carried out in the region of Sylhet and soon expanded into the Lushai Hills. The years 1905-06 saw a great revival in the Khasia Hills, mirroring events in Wales itself, when an estimated 8,000 persons were converted. The revival movement was particularly spectacular among the Mizo people of the Lushai Hills, where it is estimated that there were 27,720 Christians by 1921. Medical work began in this region in 1928 with the arrival from Wales of Dr John Williams and the establishment of a hospital at Durtlang. In the same year a School of Nursing was begun.
During the inter-war years the indigenous churches of North East India began to take over responsibility for their own organisation. “Though all the Protestant missions talked about gradually turning over their responsibilities to the Indian church structures that were being developed, the Welsh mission seems to have taken it more seriously than the other major missions”³. In 1941 the mission transferred the direction of all its work to the Presbyterian Church in North East India. The last missionary left in 1969.
¹John Hughes Morris, The History of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists’ Foreign Mission, to the end of the year 1904 (Carnarvon: Calvinistic Methodist Book Room, 1910), p. 26.
For further information on the history of the mission see:
Immediate source of acquisition: Deposited by the Presbyterian Church of Wales
CONTENT AND STRUCTURE
Scope and content/abstract: Minute Books of the Annual Meetings 1840-51, 1854-, with Agreements signed by missionaries 1840-1919. -Agreements signed by missionaries 1919-1960. -Minute Books of the Executive Committee 1842-66, 1875-80, 1883-87, 1887- 1895, 1902- etc unbroken to 1938. -Other collections of Minute Books. -Minute Books of the Liverpool Women's Branch of the FM Society 1881-1938. -Volume of accounts. -Details of property in India and Brittany 1916-20, 1928-9. -Deeds of Mission lands in India. -Volume of statistics. -Correspondence 1877-1917 (small gaps in the dates). -Abstracts of letters 1906-1928. -Letter-books eg of Josiah Thomas 1868-70, 1871-75. -Letter-books of General Secretaries 1840-1920 (listed in a supplementary group). -Correspondence from the Mission Field 1943-6, etc to 1969. -Many miscellaneous records including reports, statistics, education, the earthquake, tours, correspondence from Patagonia (the India mission received funding from Patagonia), Letters from Native Evangelists 1946-1960 etc. - Personal files of more than 170 missionaries. - Printed ephemera and books, exam papers, miscellaneous volumes and reports.
System of arrangement: Arranged in the following mss sequences: 27,066 - 27,472. Mss 27,220-27,459a comprise the personal files of missionaries.
ACCESS AND USE
Language: Welsh with some English.
Conditions governing access: Prior permission is required before these manuscripts can be consulted.
Conditions governing reproduction:
Finding aids: NRA List
Date(s) of descriptions: September 2002