Did you know that Connecticut Baptists once had their own weekly newspaper?
Before the Connecticut Baptist convention was formed in 1823, a forerunner organization called The Connecticut Society Auxiliary to the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions was organized at the First Baptist Church of Hartford in the year 1814 to promote both home and foreign missions. At its 7th annual meeting held in Hartford on November 7, 1821, this society agreed to issue a weekly newspaper. The paper was named the Christian Secretary. On October 29, 1823, delegates from thirty churches met to form the Connecticut Baptist Convention.
During this organizational meeting the delegates agreed to take over the newspaper from the earlier society, which felt the new state convention would serve the mission needs more effectively. Gurdon Robins,Jesse Savage, and Jeremiah Brown were appointed to a committee to manage the paper, including authority to hire an editor and an agent to expand circulation. Rev. Elisha Cushman served as editor for two Christian Secretary Newspaper years.
In 1824 the committee resigned, but the Board of Managers of the Convention appointed Gurdon Robins as editor and Philemon Canfield as printer. In 1829, the paper’s control was given over to the “Christian Secretary Association”. During this period it was edited by Rev. Augustus Bolles. In 1837, it joined forces with a paper published in New York named “The Gospel Witness”. This unhappy union did not last. Rev. Elisha Cushman, the original editor, revived the Hartford based paper by serving as proprietor and as its new editor. After Rev. Cushman’s death in 1838, his son Rev. Elisha Cushman, Jr., succeeded him as editor until 1840.
The next 21 years saw Mr. Normand Burr as editor and publisher until he died in 1861. During that time, from 1840 to 1850, he had the assistance of Walter S. Williams and Almond A. Smith. Rev. Elisha Cushman, Jr., who had become associate editor just before Burr’s death, again became editor until he died in January 1876.
Rev. Sylvanus Dryden Phelps, D.D., who had served as pastor of the First Baptist Church of New Haven, assumed the position of editor and proprietor until his death in 1895. Leadership of the paper followed with Rev. C.A. Piddock as editor until April of 1896, when the Christian Secretary ended its run and was consolidated with The Examiner, a conglomeration of Christian newpapers published in Utica, New York.
The Christian Secretary had served Connecticut well, being a proponent of the Connecticut Baptist Convention, (now ABCCONN), sharing denominational, local church, and local mission news, scripture studies, poetry and hymns, opinions, letters and minutes of the Convention’s meetings. The paper served an invaluable service by providing a great encouragement for areas of mission outside of Connecticut as the country expanded westward. Through this newspaper, reports from the foreign mission field and those
missionaries serving there greatly helped Connecticut Baptists understand the value and importance of “mission”!
Editor’s note: Fast forward 200 years to the 21st Century, we now communicate weekly via the ABCCONN E-news, internet and other sources such as Facebook and Twitter. So, like us on Facebook and e-mail us if you wish to receive the weekly E-news: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submitted by Kerry Holloway