Page 1: Biography
Methodist minister and administrator
This biography, written by W. A. Chambers, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, vol 2, 1993.
Samuel Lawry was born at St Mabyn, Cornwall, England, on 22 August 1854, the fifth child of Gertrude Robins and her husband, Walter Lawry, a farmer. The Lawrys emigrated to New Zealand on the Queen of the Mersey in 1862 with their 10 children. After their arrival at Lyttelton on 20 October Walter took up a farm in Springston, Canterbury, where he served as a Methodist local preacher for about 50 years.
Samuel Lawry began to preach at the age of 18. In 1876 he was accepted as a candidate for the ministry and was one of the first students to graduate from Three Kings Theological and Training Institution, Auckland. He subsequently spent 34 years in circuit work, serving in most districts except Wellington. This fitted him for wider ecclesiastical responsibilities; in nearly all circuit appointments he was the superintendent minister. On 7 February 1881 Samuel Lawry married Janet McHardie at Bulls.
Lawry had a strong build which enabled him to travel long distances on horseback in the first seven years of his ministry. With his forceful intellect, analytical mind and aggressive temperament, he was an able critic. His originality of thought, memory for detail and extensive knowledge of Methodist church law contributed to his skill as a keen debater. He had a commanding and persuasive personality and was an able administrator. Public questions interested him and he frequently wrote or spoke in support of 'a pure administration and just laws'. A strong prohibitionist, he was known among campaigners for his indomitable spirit.
Lawry was entrusted with administrative tasks in both the New Zealand and Australasian conferences of the church. In New Zealand between 1895 and 1913 he was at various times secretary of the conference and chairman and secretary of several districts. In 1904 he was elected president of the conference of the Methodist Church of Australasia in New Zealand. From 1911 until his retirement in 1927 he held the office of connexional secretary; in this position he was involved with the administration of most of the major committees and funds of the church as well as being its authorised representative. In the Methodist Church of Australasia general conference he was assistant secretary in 1896 and from 1907 to 1910, and general treasurer of the supernumerary fund from 1911 to 1913; he was treasurer of the separate New Zealand fund from 1913 to 1922.
Through his advocacy in both the New Zealand and Australasian conferences New Zealand Methodism secured legal administrative independence from the Australian church in 1913 and paved the way for the completion of Methodist union in New Zealand by union with the Primitive Methodists. In recognition of his leadership in this field, Lawry was elected president of the United Conference of 1913.
For many years Samuel Lawry was a member of the executive of the prohibitionist organisation, the New Zealand Alliance, and a member of the board of governors of Canterbury College and the Boys' Gordon Hall Trust. While in retirement he continued to serve on a number of connexional committees. He died at Christchurch on 26 July 1933 after serving 56 years in the ministry. His wife, Janet, had died in 1920, and he was survived by three sons and two daughters. He was buried in the Sydenham cemetery, Christchurch.