Page 1: Biography
Bootmaker, Church of Christ minister
This biography, written by Gavin D. Munro, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1993.
Edward Lewis was born on 21 July 1831, at Pillgwenlly, near Newport, Monmouthshire, England, the son of Evan Lewis, a gardener, and his wife, Ann Thomas. When Edward was about 10 years old the family emigrated to New Zealand, arriving in Wellington on the Birman on 4 March 1842. Evan Lewis became superintendent of the first Pakeha Wesleyan Methodist Sunday school in New Zealand.
The following year the family settled in Sydney, Australia. Here Edward learned his trade as a bootmaker. He married Mary Andrews at Sydney on 31 July 1852; they were to have eight children. By 1853 Edward Lewis was a member of the Church of Christ congregation at Enmore, Sydney. He had no formal ministerial training, but his gift for speaking and preaching, demonstrated on Sunday afternoons in Hyde Park, was recognised when, about 1864, he was set apart as an evangelist by the laying on of hands.
Edward and Mary Lewis moved to New Zealand in 1866 and made their home near Wakefield, in the Nelson region. They joined fellow members of the Church of Christ who were meeting with the Baptist church at Spring Grove in the Waimea valley. The majority of the congregation soon decided to abandon the name 'Baptist' and style themselves a Church of Christ. As such, they professed their belief in the unity of the church and in the virtues of primitive Christianity. They opposed infant baptism, practised congregational government and gave a prominent role to the laity. The new Spring Grove Church of Christ began with Lewis as minister.
Edward Lewis initially worked as a bootmaker, as well as carrying out his pastoral duties, in order to provide for his wife and family. His talent for evangelising, however, saw his field of operations extend far beyond Nelson. Many Church of Christ congregations in New Zealand had their beginning in house churches. They were able to celebrate communion but avidly sought help from those suitably qualified, especially in public preaching. Lewis became instrumental in strengthening existing congregations and establishing new ones.
The North Island churches co-operated in 1875 to employ Lewis for 12 months. He worked in Wellington, Wanganui, Auckland, and Albertland in North Auckland, and then spent four years in Sydney. In Nelson the first New Zealand Church of Christ, which was formed in 1844, had gone into recess within a few years. It was re-established in 1879, and in 1882 the Spring Grove Church of Christ engaged Edward Lewis to devote the bulk of his time to the town. He preached in Nelson every Sunday evening, while continuing to be active in other centres. He exchanged ministries for three months with A. B. Maston of Wellington in 1883 and W. T. Clapham of Sydney in 1893.
Lewis served as a minister in Melbourne from 1885 to 1887 and in Wellington from 1888 to 1890. In the early 1890s he was on the Thames goldfields, and in 1892 was instrumental in forming the Church of Christ congregation at Takaka. The following year he spent some weeks in Dunedin, preaching at the city congregation on Sundays and using weeknights to preach regularly at Mornington, South Dunedin and Burnside. In his later years he devoted most of his ministry to the Wai-iti Church of Christ, near Spring Grove. He was prominent in Churches of Christ conferences, conducting devotions, and giving addresses. He died at Belgrove on 23 May 1913. His wife, Mary, died three years later in May 1916.