The priest from Salmon Cove


In the March 13, 1943 is­sue of The Bay Roberts Guardian, there ap­peared a brief note from a cor­re­spon­dent, iden­ti­fied only as “R.W.S.”

“ Re­cently,” the per­son wrote, “ I have re­ceived a let­ter from a New­found­lan­der who has been left this coun­try for over 40 years and who has only paid it two fly­ing vis­its dur­ing that time.”

He was re­fer­ring to Robert Wells An­drews.

At this late re­move, lit­tle is known about An­drews. How­ever, it is pos­si­ble to use the ex­tant doc­u­men­ta­tion to recre­ate as­pects of his life.

Mean­while, it would be a boon if any read­ers of The Com­pass could pro­vide ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion, to flesh out the por­trait of An­drews and his event­ful ca­reer.

It is known that An­drews was born in the Con­cep­tion Bay com­mu­nity of Salmon Cove in 1871.

He had a brother, Nathan, and two sis­ters.

An­drews moved to the United States and trained as a min­is­ter with the Epis­co­pal Church. It is also known he earned a doc­tor­ate, though the de­gree-grant­ing in­sti­tu­tion is un­known.

At some point, he of­fered him­self as a mis­sion­ary priest. He served in Ja­pan for over 35 years, fo­cus­ing his at­ten­tion on Tokyo, Ky­oto and other posts.

In 1908, he wrote a book. The Ja­pan Mis­sion of the Amer­i­can Church: Church Work in the Dio­ce­ses of Tokyo and Ky­oto was pub­lished by the Church Mis­sions Pub­lish­ing Com­pany.

The Hart­ford, Con­necti­cut com­pany was known through­out the Epis­co­pal Church for pub­lish­ing pam­phlets and text­books for use in Chris­tian ed­u­ca­tion and church schools.

John McKim, bishop of Tokyo, wrote in com­men­da­tion of An­drews’ book, “For many years, there has been a widely-expressed de­sire for some re­li­able his­tory of the work of the Ja­pan Mis­sion of the Amer­i­can Church.”

Ma­te­rial cur­rently avail­able was, McKim sug­gested, “of more or less value, but frag­men­tary in char­ac­ter and, at their best, give but an im­per­fect out­line of what has been done.”

An­drews, at the request of friends, un­der­took “the task of sup­ply­ing a felt want,” col­lect­ing “data and facts from all re­li­able sources. He has vis­ited nearly ev­ery sta­tion in the mis­sion­ary dis­tricts of Tokyo and Ky­oto and has sought in­for­ma­tion from all the mis­sion­ar­ies, as well as from the Ja­panese clergy and cat­e­chists. The bish­ops have been pumped dry of all their knowl­edge of the his­tory of both dis­tricts.”

The re­sult was, McKim added, a “ full and ac­cu­rate state­ment of the work the Ja­pan mis­sion is do­ing for the ex­ten­sion of the king­dom of God among the peo­ple of Dai Nip­pon (the em­pire of Ja­pan).”

Sid­ney C. Par­tridge, bishop of Ky­oto, con­grat­u­lated An­drews “on the very hearty and sat­is­fac­tory way in which a some­what dif­fi­cult task has been ac­com­plished.”

An­drews’ own ap­praisal of his boo k w a s rat h e r m u t e d a n d re­strained.

“ This lit­tle book is of­fered,” he wrote, “with no idea that it presents a com­plete state­ment of what is be­ing done by the church in Ja­pan.”

Ac­tu­ally, he felt him­self un­fit “ for such a task, or to pass judg­ment upon any sin­gle in­di­vid­ual fea­ture of mis­sion­ary labour.”

If his book dis­ap­pointed read­ers, An­drews pleaded “ lack of time for proper in­ves­ti­ga­tion. I have put my hol­i­day into it, and what­ever time a mis­sion­ary can have for play.”

Fol­low­ing an in­tro­duc­tory chap­ter, An­drews gives glimpses of Ja­pan and the coun­try’s re­li­gions, in­clud­ing Chris­tian­ity. The bur­den of his book is then a his­tory of the church in the dis­tricts of Tokyo and Ky­oto. He con­cluded with an out­look for the fu­ture.

A use­ful ap­pen­dix, writ­ten by Rev. A.W. Cooke of the Tokyo dio­cese, dis­cusses the pro­nun­ci­a­tion of Ja­panese names.

By the time The Bay Roberts Guardian re­ported on Robert Wells An­drews’ where­abouts, he was re­tired, over 70 years old, “in per­fect health” and liv­ing in La­guna, Cal­i­for­nia.

An­drews re­layed “ kind re­mem­brances to all those who are left of (my) boy­hood friends.”

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