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Preacher's and Pastor's Club

The past few weeks we have used our space here to highlight some of the collections that have become available for researcher access here at the library. These collections have, for the most part, spanned multiple boxes and represent a fairly detailed documentation of an institution or person. Not all of our archival materials, however, fit this description. In fact, we have quite a few collections which consist of single items, such as a ledger book. I was handed one such item to catalog a few weeks ago.

The book contains the records of a group dubbed the Preacher's and Pastor's Club, formed in 1849. It was kept by member and permanent scribe Henry Martyn Dexter and details the operations, rules, history, and membership of the club.


According to Dexter's notes, Reverend Stedman Wright Hanks of Lowell, Massachusetts, and Rev. Lyman Whiting of Lawrence, Mass., swapped pulpits for a week in December, 1847. During the course of the day, Mrs. Hanks had occasion to mention to Rev. Whiting the "trials of mind" her husband encountered when writing sermons. After inspecting Rev. Hanks' sermon manuscripts and noting that they showed "a wearying laboriousness in the amount and manner of preparation," Whiting decided to stay on in Lowell until his colleague's return. The resulting discussion lead to the desire "for the mutual help by criticism and other modes" in the preparation of sermons.

Reverends Henry Martyn Dexter of Manchester, New Hampshire, and Leonard Swain of Nashua, New Hampshire, were asked to join them and together the four neighboring pastors formed the Preacher's and Pastor's Club. The group met every other month on the last Monday at various member's homes and parishes and took turns preaching for the group's criticism, reviewing books, discussing homiletic and hermeneutic essays, and offering sermons for the group's discussion. In 1851 the group was joined by Rev. Roswell D. Hitchcock, and the last meeting recorded in the book was held on March 31, 1852.

[]Shown here is a page from the record book detailing the tasks for the group's twentieth meeting. The next page in the book details actual events of said meeting, and is transcribed below:

P.P.C met at the study of Bro: Swain at the hour appointed. Present Hawks, Swain and Dexter. Dexter having been Providentially hindered from finishing a Review upon which he was engaged read in place thereof, a sermon upon the "Testimony of observation in reference to the moral quality of human nature".

Hawks read a Hermeneutic Essay upon Genesis 27:22. "The voice is Jacob's voice but the hands are the hands of Esau."

After dinner a pleasant hour was spent in religious communion, and as Bro: Hawks was obliged to leave – and all our members were not present, it was voted to adjourn two months.


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