a famine vs cutting the grass

DSCN9993I’m reading through a  little book that tells the story of Methodists and Presbyterians here in Galway. There is a little portion of the book that disturbs me.

‘1846 was the year in which the Great Irish Famine reached its height. The potato crop partially failed in 1845, but in 1846 its failure was total, and the country did not begin to recover until 1849. Surprisingly the Minutes of the General Assembly make no reference whatever to this major disaster in either 1846 or 1847, and in 1848 it was the Munster Presbytery which brought it to the Assembly’s agenda, and then only in conjunction with political events on the European continent….there is no mention of the Famine in the Minute Book of the Galway Committee, whose business seems to have been limited to the maintenance of worship and the pastoral care of the people. Whatever Presbyterian  individuals or families were doing for the stricken people of the area passed by unremarked in official records’

Methodists and Presbyterians in Galway, Dudley Levistone Cooney

I know that is a long time ago (maybe not as long as we think?)but that shocked me. I’ve never thought about how PCI responded to the potato famine before. I know that many Presbyterians suffered during The Famine but did the PCI generally treat it as an evangelical opportunity?

The book does make mention of special meeting being held in 1840:-

‘to enquire as to who had cut the grass in the church grounds on a Sunday. Dr. Gray explained to the Committee that he had told his servant that the grass needed cutting, but had never thought that the man would do it on a Sunday. The Committee allowed the matter to pass with the understanding that it would never happen on a Sunday again’

So there you go. It seems that someone cutting grass on the Sabbath was a more pressing concern and worthy of calling a meeting than a major famine a few years later. In a way that doesn’t shock me because we still do things like that.


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