Days 7 – 9: Research in the Dundee Archive, and Visiting the grave of John Glas.

IMG_7002Hello Everyone:

I’ve spent the last three days working 8 hours days in the archive at the University of Dundee.  In the three days that I have been there, I have photographed well over 2,000 pages of documents relating to the Glasite/Sandemanian Churches.  It has been in many ways exhausting work, standing up, then sitting down,  bending over documents, strategically placing leather and cloth weights on pages to keep them down while trying to obstruct as little of the text as possible.

Almost all of the documents in the Dundee archives are handwritten, and many are hard to decipher.  Additionally, almost all of the documents are unpublished, which means that under U.K. copyright laws, I can make a copy for research, but I cannot provide these copies to others.  That means that the documents that I am obtaining at Dundee will not be available via the Glasite Digital Archive.  This is a shame, but a legal necessity. However, since I am able to make copies of the documents and bring them with me, it means that I can do research in the more comfortable confines of my own home or the library using digital copies of the text.  I already see the potential for several articles from the data that I have collected.  I am also spending tomorrow in the archive, continuing to take photos and document texts and artifacts.

There are so many different items related to the Glasites in the archive that it is utterly impossible for me to capture them all in the short time I have here in Dundee. I am categorically skipping items from the mid to late 20th Century, and focusing on the 1700 – 1800’s.  I had to make the decision early as well to skip many of the sermon and exhortation books, in favor of actual records, letter collections, and written manuscript collections.  There remains a large treasure trove of sermon and exhortation texts that were meticulously recorded by members of the congregations using shorthand, and then written out in long hand.  The theological content of these documents is rich, but I just don’t have the time.  They will have to wait until I can return, or until another researcher comes to comb them for content.

One insight that I have gained from this is that the Glasites were sticklers for record keeping.  The archive has, I believe, about 100 service books, recording the bible verses read, members missing from services, and visitors from other congregations for every week of a given year.  I’ve photographed a couple of books that consistently note visitors from other congregations, because, as a case of disfellowship against the famous Glasite scientist Michael Faraday shows, the Glasites did not tolerate members missing worship.

John Glas002Also, today, I visited the grave of John Glas.  Glas is buried in the Howff Cemetery, which is the middle of downtown Dundee.  I have read about Glas since I was 15 years old, which makes twenty years of reading about, wondering about, and being curious John Glas this year.  It was surreal to finally be able to visit his grave and walk in the areas that he trod.

Stay tuned for some discoveries from the archive that I’ll post later.



An Interesting First Find

EliasSmithHello Everyone:

While doing some searches for primary sources related to the Glasites, I came across a letter written by Elias Smith of the Christian Connexion, to Daniel Humphreys, a Sandemanian elder.  Smith’s letter is highly polemic in nature, and he attacks Humphreys’ teachings on subjects such as baptism and  soteriology.

This letter is significant to me because it shows a connection between the Christian Connexion, one early precursor to the Stone-Campbell Movement, to the Glasite/Sandemanian movement, another early precursor.  While the letter is polemical in nature, it provides us with direct evidence about Smith’s beliefs, and his views on how Glasite beliefs fit or did not fit within his religious framework.

I had not previously heard of Humphreys’, but found that the Library of Congress had established a subject heading under his name.  A search of Worldcat found nothing, but I did find that Vanderbilt holds several sermons and letters that he published on microcard.  One of the letters in this collection is a letter to Elias Smith, which possibly is the letter that Smith was replying to in his published letter.  In it, Humphrey’s asks Smith why the Sandemanians, who called themselves “Churches of Christ,”  and the “Christian Church” of Elias Smith could not worship together, an interesting question posed by the typically exclusivistic Sandemanians. This is one question, I am sad to say, that has been asked over and over again by those in the Stone-Campbell Movement.

You can find the full text of the letter at the Glasite Digital Archive.

Erratum: The post above states that Humphrey’s letter to Elias Smith asked why the Christian Connexion could not worship with the Sandemaninans.  This was incorrect. The letter from Humphrey’s is a public response to a series of letters between a Congregationalist minister and Elias Smith, where the Congregationalist was asking Smith why the Chrisitan Connexion could not commune with the Congregationalists.  I regret the error.