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The Autobiography of the Rev John Jenkinson
- Edited by R L Greenall, Baptist Minister of Kettering and Oakham
NRS Victor Hatley Memorial Series - Volume 3 - 2010 - ISBN 978 0 901275 68 4
We are indebted, again, to the Northamptonshire Record Society (NRS) for this fascinating study of the
life of John Jenkinson, Baptist Minister who from 1849 to 1864 was Minister at Oakham.
Here his influence reached across the county, even beyond and to judge from his preaching
engagements continued after his return to Kettering. From his wide knowledge of Kettering’s past, the
author Ron Greenall has edited Jenkinson’s manuscript My Life bringing form and conciseness to what in
other hands might have been a tedious diary of a worthy life. Instead, by using Jenkinson’s own words
his charisma and leadership is revealed, his energy, conviction and a dogmatic knowledge of what was
right in a true Christian; uncomfortably so for those who dared disagree with him.
Descended from Baptist Ministers, his impoverished childhood and lack of formal education spurred
instead of prevented his becoming a Minister. Here, Jenkinson’s career is uncannily similar to many such
later found in the Third World. In the 1940s Bishop Sundkler pointed to the numerous African Churches
(also not unknown in the southern USA) founded by ambitious but poorly educated members of the
Christian mostly Protestant Missions, as the only way to achieve leadership. Cross-study between the
two movements could be illuminating for both 19th century English non-conformism and 20th century
For us, it is Jenkinson’s ministry at Oakham that most interests. His pastoral duties took him to every village and non-conformist chapel
in Rutland, often on foot, preaching and lecturing sometimes two r three times in a day. We see in My Life the influential part he played
in public affairs – the new (now old) Oakham cemetery and its Board membership, the Literary Institute and other reform issues. Placing
education outside control of the established church was his constant battle, as also supporting temperance. There is opportunity here
for a closer look at his contributions to local issues in Rutland as also to what extent his views shaped the direction of non-conformity in
the County. What, for instance, do Barrowden’s Baptist Minute Books (in the archives at the local Record Office) have to say about him. In
1851 the Religious Census reveals the General Baptists as the largest dissenting congregation at Uppingham, yet a decade later they are
gone; so utterly that we do not even know where they met. Jenkinson was a Particular Baptist, frequently preaching at Uppingham in the
Congregational Ebenezer Chapel and (it is assumed) the Bethesda Chapel. Could it have been his Calvinist beliefs and charisma that
eroded support for the Arminianists ?
Jenkinson’s life challenges that we should pay more attention to the contribution of non-conformism to Rutland’s development in the
19th century. Research by Ron Greenall and Alan Flowerday (shortly to be published) on Baptists and Margaret Stacey’s work on
Methodism are just a start. The contributions of other divines such as Rev John Green at Uppingham’s Congregational Church are equally
deserving of attention.