Ordination of Native Methodist Ministers
At Foochow, China

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. -- 2 Timothy 3:16

This article was extracted from the Ladies’ Repository of 1870. All footnotes were added by me.


The week ending with Monday, the 22nd of November, was one of great and unusual interest to the friends of missions generally, and to the Methodist Episcopal mission particularly. The special occasion was the General Annual Meeting of the native helpers of that mission at Foochow, their examination, and the ordination of seven of their number to the office or order of deacons, and of four of the seven to the office or order of elders in the Methodist Church by Bishop Kingsley.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were devoted to the examination of the native helpers on certain portions of the sacred Scriptures, and on the Discipline and regulations of the Methodist Church, and on sermons prepared by some of the helpers. The portions of the Bible and of the Discipline on which they were examined had been given out at the General Meeting held last year in October, as subjects of special study during the present year. Four sessions were held each of these three days. The helpers passed the ordeal very creditably. The missionaries and the most intelligent of the native preachers acted as examiners.

Friday and the forenoon of Saturday were occupied in the examination of the old helpers in regard to their personal character, and the examination of the new candidates for the position of student, or assistant helpers, and in the prosecution of such other business as was intimately connected with the work of the past, or the work of the following year. These sessions were presided over by Bishop Kingsley, assisted by the members of the mission, who translated for him. It was concluded to retain all of the old helpers and student helpers except four or five, some of whom offered their resignation, and a large class of new student helpers were received.

As has been the practice for several years, the evenings of Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, from 7 until after 9 o’clock, were devoted to the consideration of the important subjects, Spreading of the Gospel, the Bible Cause, and the Opium Question, respectively. These meetings were presided over by native Christians, who conducted themselves in a very creditable manner, introducing the subjects by appropriate remarks, after having engaged in singing, reading the Scriptures, and in prayer. They called upon the speakers in the order which had been fixed upon, the programme having been printed, with names of speakers and subjects to be discussed. Only three brief speeches were made by the missionaries during these three evening. While all the addresses made by the Chinese preachers were good, most of them were remarkably excellent and practical, and would have done credit to young men of American or English birth and education, as regards arrangement, thought, and manner. A synopsis of these addresses would make this article too lengthy.

The closing speech on the opium topic, delivered late Saturday evening by Hu Sing Mi – one of the seven subsequently ordained, who spent two or three years in New York city, and was a member of the Methodist Church on Twenty-Seventh-street – was remarkable for its humor and feeling, and for its arguments, facts, and illustrations. In the judgment of some, if not all of the foreigners who listened to it, it was the most elaborate and the most eloquent address they had ever heard from a Chinaman on that or any secular subject.

During the evening devoted to the subject of “Spreading the Gospel,” a list of the contributions made for that object by the native Christians connected with the Methodist missions during the past year was read, whereby it appeared that 311,742 cash – a little short of $300 – had been thus contributed. This fact is of a very encouraging nature. It is believed, however, that during the coming year the contributions for the spreading of the Gospel made by the native Churches will be very much larger. The native preachers, and assistant or student helpers, who are to labor in the district of Hing-Hua[1], between this and Amoy, it is understood have pledged themselves to raise $200 during the coming year; and those laboring in the district of Foo-Ching[2], this side of Hing-Hua, are pledged to collect $100 from their field.

After much thought, consultation, and prayer, it was decided by the Bishop and the mission to ordain as deacons certain seven of the “licensed” native preachers, and as elders certain four of that number. These men have been employed in preaching the Gospel from four or five years to over ten years each. In the love-feast, held on Sabbath morning, November 21st, these brethren had an opportunity of briefly expressing their feelings in view of their proposed ordination. They all seemed deeply impressed with the importance, solemnity, and responsibility of position in the Church they are to hold – the first ordained deacons of the Methodist Episcopal Church in China.

The First Chinese Ministers of the Methodist Episcopal Church

At the close of an impressive sermon on the character and conduct which it was binding on them to sustain and exhibit, delivered soon after the termination of the love-feast by one of the missionaries, Bishop Kingsley proceeded to ordain the seven to be “deacons in the Church of God.” The scene was solemn and impressive. It will not soon be forgotten by the crowded house which witnessed it.

In the evening of the Sabbath, four of the seven deacons were solemnly consecrated and ordained to the eldership by the Bishop – the Methodist missionaries and two American Presbyterian ministers who were present, joining with the Bishop in the imposition of hands on the heads of those who were thus set apart to the service of God in the holy ministry. The ordaining was followed by the administration of the Lord’s Supper, at which the foreign Christians, American and English, partook, as did a large number of Chinese Christians – estimated to over one hundred. The newly ordained deacons and elders assisted in the administration of the Supper on this interesting and memorable occasion.

The body of native preachers and student helpers met on Monday morning and received their appointments for the coming year.

The men who were ordained deacons or elders range from thirty to forty-six years of age. Three of them are brothers – on of them being the person who spent two or three years in study in New York. One is a graduate of the Mission Boarding-School, of which he was a member when Rev. Otis Gibson, now missionary to the Chinese in California, had charge of it. Another was a hard-working blacksmith when converted. He subsequently labored at the anvil, and at the same time, with unwearied application, studied the sacred Scriptures, which he placed near by, talking incessantly with his customers about the glorious Gospel. He soon developed such singular zeal and rare ability in public speaking that he was employed as native helper. The remaining two, one a literary man by profession, and the other, formerly a merchant and opium-seller, as well as opium-smoker, have already given good proof of their call to the ministry by their devoted labors and their abundant success in interesting their countrymen in the Gospel, and in leading them into the Church. The latter one, the oldest of the seven, is often referred to among foreign missionaries as brother Binkley’s man, from the circumstance that Rev. Mr. Binkley, who was obliged to return to the United States six or seven years since, was instrumental in his conversion.

These seven are in charge of Churches at very important centers. Mr. Binkley’s man is stationed at the principal city in Hing Hua prefecture – the literary man at the principal city in the district of Foo ’Ching, forty and seventy miles to the south-east of Foo Chow. The youngest and the second of the three brothers, in the corresponding cities of ’Ku-’tien[3] and Ming-’Ching[4] districts, one hundred miles and forty miles to the north-west and west of Foo Chow respectively. The eldest brother is in charge of the Church near which the Methodist missionaries live, and in which the annual meetings are held. The graduate of the Mission Boarding-School is in charge of the Church on East-street in the city of Foo Chow, and the zealous and eloquent blacksmith – learned in the Scriptures – is in charge of the Church located a mile from the south gate of the city in the great southern suburb.

The missionary work at this place and the surrounding country, under the auspices of the Methodist mission, is constantly increasing in interest and importance. It is making, month by month, greater and greater demands on the strength of its members, who number three ministers, all told. And yet one of them is under the grave necessity of leaving with his family for the United States next Spring. There will then remain two men. The three are already overburdened with their cares, responsibilities, and labors. “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest.” Who will come without delay and enter upon this great harvest-field and aid in gathering the sheaves into the garner of the Lord?

This sketch would be incomplete if a reference should not be made to the presents given Bishop Kingsley, on the Wednesday evening after the ordination services, at the usual time of holding the missionary weekly prayer-meeting. Five of the ordained men, the other two being away, without notice or warning walked into the room where the meeting was to be held, each conveying a valuable present, consisting of Japan or Foo Chow made lacquered boxes, of superior workmanship, and a beautiful fan, which some one subsequently suggested was intended for Mrs. Kingsley. On this their names had been neatly inscribed. Without a word they placed these things on the center-table, while they remained standing near it. The senior missionary addressed the Bishop, who arose, while the esteem in which he was held by them and the fraternal salutations and farewells of the ordained were presented to him. He replied in a brief speech, which was duly translated to them, in which he thanked them for the beautiful tokens given him, which he said he should value highly, and show his friends in America. He expressed his great pleasure in having met them, and his satisfaction in their character as Christian ministers.

Soon after this a member of the mission approached him with a heavy volume containing fifty or sixty large and superior photographic views of Foo Chow and the adjacent scenery, which he presented the Bishop in the name of the Methodist missionaries. He read a short and well-worded address to the Bishop, which expressed their gratitude for his services in his official capacity, and their sense of the profit they and their families had derived from his counsel and example during his brief sojourn with them, and their best wishes for his happiness and usefulness during the remaining portion of his trip around the world, as well as during his life, assuring him they would be glad to welcome him again at Foo Chow. The Bishop, who evidently was taken by surprise, remarked that he could not be expected to make a lengthy and appropriate reply to this address, and that he must be allowed to imitate the example of President Grant on similar occasions, and say simply with all his heart, “I thank you.” He subsequently examined with pleasure the valuable present of photographic scenes, as will his many friends in the United States, who many have the opportunity of looking it over.

Singing the hymn in Chinese and English, “Forever with the Lord,” a prayer in English by the Bishop, and a prayer in Chinese by one of the native ministers, constituted the prayer-meeting for that evening.

Footnotes

[1]: 兴化 (Hĭng-huá), the modern-day 莆田 (Può-dièng)
[2]: 福清 (Hók-chiăng)
[3]: 古田 (Kŭ-chèng)
[4]: 闽清 (Mìng-chiăng)

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Last updated: 2009/09/05