Academic journal article Journal of New Zealand Literature

The 'Joy and Heroism of Doing Good': The New Zealand Missionary Record and Late-Nineteenth-Century Protestant Children's Missionary Support

Academic journal article Journal of New Zealand Literature

The 'Joy and Heroism of Doing Good': The New Zealand Missionary Record and Late-Nineteenth-Century Protestant Children's Missionary Support

Article excerpt

Throughout 1884 Presbyterian children in Otago and Southland followed the serialised story of a rural Queensland boy.1 Nine year old Herbert Kingsley's recover}' from a long illness was aided by his mother's prayers and his father's gift of a pony. One afternoon he was thrown from his pony miles from home and spent the night in an Aboriginal encampment, where he was eventually found by a bush missionary. This man later organised a Sunday service in the family homestead that attracted a wide group of people. He preached from a biblical text in which Jesus exhorted his followers to 'Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation',2 and he told missionary stories. Herbert's interest was piqued. A missionary collection box was made for him by a station hand. This crusty old Scot was moved to tears as he remembered his own mother's influence and his family's practice of supporting Scottish missionaries. The box became a symbolic focus for arousing further missionary interest. Herbert and others regularly added coins to it and he devoured the missionary literature subscribed to by his mother. At the story's end Herbert and his father travelled five days to Brisbane where he proudly presented the local London Missionar)' Society (LMS) office with the princely sum of £5-18s-6d.

This very simple story reflected the wider body of missionary literature popular amongst children and young people in the final decades of the nineteenth century. Characteristically gendered, it also included a heroic figure and contained an obligatory conversion story that sought an emotional response. It reconfigured global geography by combining both British métropole and colonies into one centre for the global spread of regenerative religion. Ultimately the child was held up as an exemplar of missionary support, and childhood identified as the key developmental phase in which to foster a life -long interest in both Christianity and missions.

This representative story appeared in the short-lived monthly Presbyterian magazine the New Zealand Missionary Record [NZMR], launched in November 1882 as a magazine for Otago and Southland Presbyterian children and their Sunday school teachers. Between 1866 and 1901 there were two branches of the Presbyterian Church: the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand and the Presbyterian Synod of Southland and Otago. Both had parallel structures for governance and administration, including education and missions. The NZMR was possibly distributed to both branches but the evidence points mainly to its dissemination and readership amongst southern Presbyterians.3 Running for 31 issues until its disappearance after May 1885, it was probably the first such dedicated missionary magazine for Protestant children in the colony. In appearance it was not particularly pretentious: issues ran to 14 pages of A5-sized paper, conveying information via large chunks of text with engravings, and cost individual readers one penny (Figure V). It was published by the Otago Bible, Tract, and Book Society and produced by Fraser Brothers Printers in Dunedin. The editor was the Rev. Charles Stuart Ross; a transnational figure whose life trajectory was typically at once global, imperial and religious in its dimensions.4 Born in Jamaica and educated in both Scotland and Melbourne, Ross moved from Victoria to southern New Zealand in 1867 and was inducted into Presbyterian ministry in the Central Otago goldfields a year later. Subsequent ministry occurred in Riverton and then Dunedin, before his return to further Presbyterian work in Victoria around 1884-5.5

In this magazine colonial (mainly Päkehä) Presbyterian children and young people were exhorted to 4IoOk abroad with a heart full of love and pity to the wide heathen wastes of the world which, through sanctified human agency and help, are yet to be converted into beauteous gardens of the Lord'.6 By the late nineteenth century children and young people were a wellestablished target authence for missionary promoters. …

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