Shaw, Barnabas
1788-1857; e.m. 1810

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WM missionary, born on 12 April 1788. He spent most of his ministry in South Africa, where his was effectively the first missionary appointment. Within months of arrival in 1816 he had seized an opportunity to begin work in Namaqualand and established a base at Leliefontein, 300 miles north of Cape Town. From there or the Cape he oversaw the steady expansion of Methodist witness and his advice guided WMMS policy. He was strict about discipline, critical of the London Missionary Society for its laxity, and himself sometimes criticized as dictatorial. He died at Cape Town on 21 June 1857.


'Plain, artless, kind, plodding, persevering, enduring… A man who has reared for himself an imperishable monument, in his "Memorials".'

Wesleyan Takings (1840), p.305

'It was no small gain to a probationer in his first year to enjoy a month's close intercourse with our first missionary to South Africa: the man who, first by his letters and then by his speeches, enkindled and sustained the missionary enthusiasm of Methodism. The true heart of a missionary beat within the breast and shook the fragile frame of that heroic saint. When he reached Africa, "by faith he refused to be" merely or mainly the chaplain to the colonists, maintaining that he was sent out as a missionary to the heathen, and that whatever ministrations he might be able to render to those who knew the Gospel already were only collateral and secondary to his efforts to convert the savages to Christ…

'… I had long talks with that hero-hearted, humble-minded pioneer missionary. I found him one of God's choice spirits, and gathered from him much invaluable information as to the actual state of the heathen mind before one ray of revealed truth has reached it. .. I also heard the famous speech with which he had thrilled the Methodism of the United Kingdom, of which the plaintive refrain was, "Pity poor Africa!" '

Benjamin Gregory, Autobiographical Recollections (1903) pp.255-6

  • Barnabas Shaw, Memorials of South Africa (1840)

See also

Entry written by: JRP
Category: Person
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