To work as a Home Missionary in the NZ Presbyterian Church pre 1940 was no easy task. These Mission stations were often situated in isolated areas where the population was scattered, there were several preaching places, the provided accommodation left much to be desired and transport was a horse, push bike, motorbike, and in time an early model car. In many parts of the country these communities could best be described as frontier communities with a frontier culture of survival. The Home Missionary was generally an untrained pastor, with minimal academic education. The Home Mission service was on the whole regarded as a second tier ministry within the Church with a stipend to match. It was policy that a Home Missionary remained in any one place for no more than 3 years which saw them regularly moved on to new pastures.
‘Snapshots from a Parson’s Log’ gives an insight into the experiences of Home Missionary, John Newlands, who arrived from Glasgow in 1911. As a single man he was sent to a number of short-term Home Mission situations. He arrived in Kumara, a diminishing gold mining town towards the end of 1912. John Newlands recalled his experiences as a Home Missionary c 1960.
“…I was transferred to Kumara on the West Coast of the South Island. It had once been a flourishing place boasting 32 hotels and a population of 10 000. Its balmy days had departed, but there was still a fairly strong Presbyterian community, and could support, with a grant from the Home Mission Fund, a Home Missionary. Services were conducted morning and evening at Kumara and at Stafford. I was very raw in those days, but was given every encouragement to make good. The loyalty, the encouragement and the forbearance of the good people of Kumara was a perpetual wonder to me.
My means of transport varied with the times. I used a push bike fairly often, even going as far as Otira. It was uphill all the way, but I had the benefit of a free wheel ride coming home. I had two motor bikes – a Hobart and a Bradbury. The former was practically a wreck when I got it, and I don’t think I ever had an uninterrupted ride on it. The Bradbury was a beauty, and I travelled 47 000 miles on it …
The Rev. John Davie was my Moderator … and being a Home Missionary (unordained) I could not dispense the Sacrament, and Mr. Davie had to come from Hokitika to conduct the service. His only means of transport was a push-bike. I used to go 12 miles to Hokitika and tow (by means of a rope) the Moderator to Kumara. There were three creeks near Stafford crossed by narrow bridges. While negotiating the third, I momentarily forgot I had Mr. Davie in tow and suddenly accelerated the bike, the result being a sharp jerk which precipitated the Moderator and his bike into the middle of the stream. There was not a great depth of water, but the mud was deep and dark. Only his boots
showed above the surface. We hauled him to safety and sped to Kumara to get a bath and new clothes. He arrived with the mud bleached white and a crowd of children staring at the apparition. He never forgot the experience and when we met at Assembly the old tale was told.”