More Ministers Needed!

In 1867 Presbyterians were discussing many things, chief among them the need for more ministers. In Canada the Presbyterian Church in its various branches was facing a shortage of ministers and a shortage of funds with which to pay them. Though Knox College in Toronto had been open since 1844, the number of small congregations, which could not support a minister by themselves, was growing faster than the limited supply of graduates. In 1867 the Presbyterian College in Montreal opened its doors and took in its first class of pupils. In 2015 the PCC Archives summer project archivist, Christopher Benitez, created an online exhibit on Presbyterian College, which can be found under Exhibits on this website or by clicking here.

The Home and Foreign Record of the Canada Presbyterian Church published calls for more young men to join the ministry and asked congregations to give more generously to the Church for the upkeep of smaller congregations and ministers’ salaries. The front page of the May 1867 issue is a plea to church members to consider the ministry as a life’s work, and lays out how this profession produces happiness, character, and usefulness. The number of candidates at the Church colleges in 1867 was too small to fill vacant places as well as extend the church westward.

Presbyterian College, Montreal c. 1880s. Image G-118-SC-129.

A Plea for the Ministry, as a Life Work – The Home and Foreign Record of the Canada Presbyterian Church, May 1867.

The Home and Foreign Record of the Presbyterian Church of the Lower Provinces also published on this topic. In February 1867 the paper wrote about the church’s “leanness”, stating that at Pine Hill Divinity Hall in Halifax, “we have only eight theological students in our Divinity Hall! Only eight students, while the foreign field is white for the harvest – while the cry for help comes from every continent and island… Young men, consider this fact; parents, think of it; let the whole church think of it, and mourn and pray over it.”

The small number of young men coming to the ministry was blamed partially on the secularization of society, but mostly on the lack of funds to make the profession appealing in comparison to more lucrative business opportunities. In September The Home and Foreign Record of the Canada Presbyterian Church wrote: “the inadequate support generally provided for the ministers of our church has no doubt a very close connexion [sic] with a fact which has for some time been forcing itself upon the serious notice of all the friends of truth – we mean the diminished number of Theological Students – of young men looking forward to the ministry as their life-work.” The Home and Foreign Record of the Presbyterian Church of the Lower Provinces felt similarly, and wrote on the front page of the February issue: “many of our ministers are but ill paid – so ill paid that they stand as beacon-lights to warn young men from a calling where such poverty has to be encountered.” In the following issue the topic was again on the front page: “MINISTERIAL SUPPORT: This subject has become one of vital moment… Is it possible to be silent when we see our young men driven away from the ministry of the church by the prospect of abject penury – when we see congregations making promises which they are not ashamed to break – when we know that more than half the ministers of our church are inadequately supported?” The Presbyterian spoke out as well in January: “how comes it that [ministers], of all men, should be expected to undertake such onerous duties and responsibilities, as are those of the sacred office, with, for earthly reward, such a pittance as prevents him laying up anything for sickness or old age, or for the support of his surviving family or dearest dependent relatives or friends!”

It was noted by the Presbyterian Church of the Lower Provinces “that whatever be the cause or causes, [these problems] are not particular to the Lower Provinces; but seem to be affecting the Evangelical world.” This matter was very concerning to Presbyterians in 1867, and the year closed with hope that more young men would soon come to serve.

The first two pages of the March 1867 issue of The Home and Foreign Record of the Presbyterian Church of the Lower Provinces.


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