Story: Blamires, Edgar Percy

Page 1: Biography

Blamires, Edgar Percy

1878–1967

Methodist minister, community leader

This biography, written by Donald Phillipps, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1998.

Edgar Percy Blamires was born on 7 January 1878 in Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia. He was one of nine children of Lavinia Henley and her husband, William Lizard Blamires, a Wesleyan Methodist minister. He was educated at Wesley College, Melbourne, and then worked for a Melbourne merchant firm for six years. Edgar, along with three of his brothers, entered the Methodist ministry, serving as a home missionary in Victoria. He joined his brother Henry in New Zealand in 1899; Ernest arrived in 1903. All three were to become well known, Edgar and Ernest being referred to as EP and EO respectively. Ernest and Henry were noted cricketers: Ernest represented New Zealand and captained four different provinces, while Henry played for four provincial sides and captained Hawke's Bay in 1914. Both had distinguished careers as Methodist ministers.

Edgar Blamires served initially as a home missionary in the Bay of Islands. In 1900 he was received as a candidate for the ordained ministry. He worked briefly in a number of parishes in the North and South Islands, and in 1906 spent a year travelling overseas. On his return he was appointed to the Wellington suburban circuit, a new outreach and one that led to considerable growth in Methodist presence throughout the city's eastern and southern suburbs. On 2 October 1908 in Christchurch he married Martha Olivia McKinney. He remained in parish ministry until 1922, serving with distinction at Tuamarina, Franklin, Mount Eden, Christchurch East and Devonport.

Blamires had had a long interest in youth affairs and in 1922 the New Zealand Methodist Conference appointed him as its Sunday school and young persons' organising secretary. When he retired in 1939, reference was made in the conference record to his outstanding achievement within not only the Methodist church but all the churches in New Zealand and Australia. It was estimated that in these years he travelled 30,000 miles: visiting every parish, conducting worship, leading summer schools and teachers' conferences. In the ecumenical field he was equally committed to his work as secretary of the New Zealand Council of Religious Education, an interdenominational body.

In 1936 Blamires was elected president of the New Zealand Methodist Conference. His presidential address gives an insight into his basic convictions. He argued for pacifism, and especially for effective church leadership of youth in this matter; and spoke of the need for creative education rather than mere preaching within the church. All he said was set against a background of what he called 'modern paganism'.

In 1939 Blamires retired from active ministry in New Zealand. He went to England and served with the British Methodist Conference throughout the Second World War. A son, a pilot in the Royal Air Force, was killed in action; as a result of this tragedy Martha Blamires moved permanently to Los Angeles, where she became involved in the cult of Father Divine, a charismatic preacher. During this time Blamires made contact with the newly emerging National Marriage Guidance Council and its Home and Family Weeks. In Birmingham he met David Mace, an English Methodist minister instrumental in founding the council. Blamires heard Mace talk, read the council's pamphlets and booklets, and experienced what he described as his 'second conversion'. He wrote to the National Council of Churches of New Zealand offering to run Home and Family Weeks in New Zealand, and returned in November 1947.

Blamires found that there was interest in Christchurch in setting up a marriage guidance council. A meeting on 19 February 1948 inaugurated the first council in Australasia, and Blamires spoke of what he had seen in Britain. Councils were formed in other cities later in the year and, largely as a result of Blamires's efforts, the National Marriage Guidance Council of New Zealand was formed in 1949. Blamires's message was simple: 'A home is not only a place where children are born, but where men and women are made. The Christian Family is the corner stone of a Christian civilisation.' He was described by the National Marriage Guidance Council in Britain as a 'lamplighter, going around the world', for the number of people he interested in the movement. From 1947 to 1965 he promoted it in New Zealand, Australia and Fiji.

Edgar Blamires had a versatile mind and was widely read. He also had a ready pen, and published extensively within his fields of interest: strategies for evangelism, issues of peace and war, education for family living, and answers to the questions asked by young people. Some of these publications had a substantial international circulation.

Until the end of his life Edgar Blamires was an irrepressible man with a searching mind and 'an everlasting concern for the clear cut presentation of the Gospel.' He died after walking into the path of a car in Auckland on 16 March 1967. He was survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.

How to cite this page:

Donald Phillipps. 'Blamires, Edgar Percy', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1998. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/4b38/blamires-edgar-percy (accessed 16 October 2019)