'And did those feet in ancient time'
If you like the Last Night of the Proms then you might sing along with the crowd as they join in Parry’s setting of William Blake’s poem ‘And did those feet in ancient time’. For at least 300 years there have been those who believed, with Blake, that, somehow, the British race descended from one of the Lost Tribes of Israel.
There was, moreover, the delightful myth associated with this notion. It holds that Jesus himself came to England with his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a merchant and traded in tin with the early Britons! British Israelism was going strong in New Zealand until a generation or so ago. Bill Massey, our prime minister during WWI, was an ardent supporter.
These ideas probably reached a peak after World War I, particularly through the influence of AH Dallimore, an ex-Methodist, who led the Revival Fire Mission in Auckland until the 1950s. Indeed, some who read this may remember him.
In the 1930’s advertising for British Israel meetings was included in the church notices in the newspapers. It was certainly present within some Methodist congregations and among some of ministers as well. This was likely the reason Rev Bill Blight wrote a critique of the movement in 1943. Though it is also likely that many ministers who favoured the theory kept their ideas to themselves.
One who didn’t hide his interest was John Spink Hudson, the son of John Hudson, a master mariner of Whitby, and his wife Anne (née Spink). John was born at Teignmouth, Northumberland, but was educated at a London grammar school.
In his late teens he was ‘converted’ and became a member of the Southwark Wesleyan Circuit. He married Margaret Holmes in London in 1832, and having done that he then offered for the Wesleyan ministry in 1834.
He was accepted and had two probationary appointments in the north of Scotland. There he contacted a throat complaint and was forced to retire from the ministry in 1838.
One might imagine he was, as a son of a master mariner, ‘well-circumstanced’ as used to be said. In the 1851 Census John was recorded as a farmer in Kent. He nevertheless maintained his involvement in Methodism as a local preacher and class leader in the Faversham Circuit.
He came to New Zealand with his wife and family at the end of 1859 and settled, again as a farmer, in Dome Valley, near Warkworth. Almost immediately he took up ministry again, as a Home Missionary, and served within the Mahurangi (Warkworth) Home Mission Station from 1860-1882.
Almost certainly he served in an honorary capacity, i.e., without stipend. He took the initiative to build churches at both Warkworth and Dome Valley
John Hudson was also an inventive farmer, with patents under his name for more than one piece of farm machinery. His regular work as a minister, however, came to an end at the time of his wife’s death. Throughout this time, and after his retirement, he continued to lecture on British Israelism, and he doubtless had a hand in the establishment in Auckland in the late 1870s of a Society to promote the cause.
He may have influenced a younger Wesleyan minister colleague and neighbour, John Wesley Griffin, of Helensville, to espouse it.
In his last decade he found time to publish two books, both on the then vexed question of the wrath of God, one of which attempted to deal with the Calvinist teaching on predestination. His name frequently appeared in the newspapers as speaking on a wide range of topics to do with the farming economy.
He lived on in Dome Valley, where he died on October 29th 1893.
Rev J S Hudson
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