Whilst the work of Precious Seed is not the work of any one man, it is appropriate that in this 70th anniversary magazine we should say a little about the service of those who have been editors of the magazine.
– Editor from 1945-53
Little is known of Humphry Lerwill. His name appears alongside J. H. Large as joint editor of the magazine from its inception in September 1945 through until the end of 1953 when he resigned from the committee. Following Mr Large’s move from Barnstaple to Teignmouth, it was stated that since ‘the distance between Teignmouth and Barnstaple will make consultation impracticable, Mr Humphry Lerwill feels that there is no point in his remaining Joint-Editor, and he therefore wishes to resign’.1
– Editor from 1945-63
Served in the work from September 1945 – July 1968
James Large was born in Cardiff in 1903. Commended to the Lord’s work from the assembly in Dinas Powis in May 1933, Mr Large spent many years evangelizing the rural areas of England.
It was in 1940 that Mr and Mrs Large and their son Peter took up residence in Barnstaple, a step that was to prove important for the work of Precious Seed. Apart from the significant work of the Lord in North Devon, Mr Large was supportive of those who had been posted to RAF Chivenor during the war years. This involved the provision of hospitality as well as the spiritual care and support of those serving in the forces. Arising from his desire to provide spiritual food for these people, Mr Large started a Bible correspondence course, and, ultimately, this led to a number of brethren from the south-west meeting to discuss the commencement of a magazine. With that background Precious Seed was born, and James Large became its first editor, alongside Humphry Lerwill, brief details above. After Mr Lerwill’s resignation, he carried the considerable work of editor alone until July 1962. As he left the committee in 1968, he wrote, ‘In asking my colleagues to accept my resignation I would like to put on record that my fellowship with them from first to last has been very pleasant to me, unmarred, so far as I can recollect, by one single disharmony even when opinions have varied’.2
Charles Gahan wrote of James Large’s contribution, ‘for seventeen years he was its first Editor; it was during those seventeen years that the success of Precious Seed was established’.3
– Editor from 1962-85
Served in the work from January 1962 – November 1987
It was Charles Gahan’s visit to Sirdar Road assembly in Southampton in early 1961 that brought him into contact with a young John Heading, then lecturing in Mathematics at the university. Aware that James Large wished to relinquish his responsibility as editor, Gahan later wrote to Heading to ask him whether he would be interested in joining the work of the magazine. As Heading later wrote, ‘What could I say? I agreed and joined the committee, taking over the editorship immediately, though this was only announced in the July 1962 issue’.4
In his time with Precious Seed, John Heading worked with Cyril Hocking and then Denis Clapham in editing manuscripts, although, as Heading wrote, it was his responsibility ‘to see all the Precious Seed Publications through the press, including five large books’.5 When he eventually relinquished his role as editor it was to enable him to maintain his significant contribution to the burgeoning work by concentrating ‘on the printing side of the magazine production, leaving the manuscript side to brother Clapham’.6
Perhaps it is significant that within eighteen months of this change Roy Hill joined the committee, bringing his considerable experience in publishing to this growing aspect of the work.
– Editor from 1963-78
Served in the work from May 1961 – December 1995
Cyril Hocking was born in Cardiff in 1925. Born again in August 1945, he was later commended to the Lord’s work in 1973. But, as Malcolm Horlock wrote, ‘for well over half of his Christian life Cyril was also extremely active in the work of the Precious Seed committee, being associated with the magazine for about 35 years, many of these in an editorial role’.7
He collaborated with John Heading in editing the first of the Precious Seed Publications, Church Doctrine and Practice, and, again together with John Heading, followed this up in 1977 with Treasury of Bible Doctrine, regarded by many as a simple but essential book on biblical doctrines. Apart from his contributions to several of the Day by Day series of books, he also edited, or part-edited, three of them in 1979, 1982, and 1994. He also wrote for the book The Minor Prophets, providing the 54-page commentary on Zechariah’s prophecy.
Working alongside others, Cyril Hocking made a significant contribution to the commencement and development of the book publications aspect of the work of Precious Seed.
– Editor from 1978-99
Served in the work from March 1969 – November 1999
Denis Clapham was born in Essex, but lived for over sixty years in the Birmingham area. Concerned to contribute to the work of the Lord in his immediate locality, he is best remembered for his faithful and encouraging work amongst the Lord’s people in the assemblies at Charlton Road, Kingstanding, and at Hope Chapel in Moseley, before, latterly, at York Street in Leicester.
As John Scarsbrook wrote, ‘For … thirty years he was closely associated with the work of Precious Seed, both as a valuable member of the committee, and, for twelve years, as joint editor. His work saw the continuation and development of the magazine over twenty-eight years. He joined in editorial work for twelve years with Cyril Hocking, John Heading, and Arthur Shearman. During this time also the well received Day by Day publications commenced, to encourage the daily reading of scripture’.8
– Editor from 2000-02, Reports Section Editor from 1977-99
Served in the work from March 1966 – May 2006
Born and educated in Gloucester, Arthur left school at fourteen, joined Nicks and Co, a firm that imported and processed timber for the building trade, and stayed with them until retiring at the age of seventy. Also at the age of fourteen, he trusted Christ as his Saviour, was baptized, and received into fellowship in the assembly meeting at Ebenezer Gospel Hall, King’s Square, in Gloucester. It was a ‘Faith for Life’ and he never looked back on his commitment to Christ.
As a result of having to move to Worcester for work, Arthur and Rae joined Charles Street assembly, where they were fully engaged, acting as Sunday school superintendent and secretary for fifty years. Although Arthur always had a very full diary, one of his first loves was the work of Precious Seed Magazine and he served on the trust for forty years. He joined in 1966, becoming Reports Editor in 1977, and also handling past issues requests. Ultimately, he served as Ministry Articles Editor from 2000 to 2002. Under his editorship, the magazine blossomed into the full colour, larger print, version it is today. Arthur was not just a participator but an initiator and encourager of such work, and a powerful influence for good amongst the saints.
– Editor from 2001-09, Reports Section Editor 1998-2001
It was a case of ‘in at the deep end’! With the retirement of Dennis Clapham as editor and Arthur Shearman taking up that role, Ken joined the Precious Seed committee at a time of significant change and immediately took over the task of editing the Reports section.
As indicated, 1998 saw a number of significant changes. Precious Seed became a charitable trust, registered in the UK, and formed an operational structure commensurate with that status. Howard Coles took on the role of secretary and two new members also joined the committee. It was also at this point that the magazine moved from five issues per year to four. Into that process Ken brought his energy and enthusiasm, eventually working alongside the aging Arthur Shearman before taking over as editor in 2001.
Apart from the move from five issues to four the turn of the century also brought about a move from A5 size to A4 and the full colour illustrated magazine that has become familiar to the present readership. Ken was not only one who embraced change in the presentation of material but he was also instrumental in introducing new aspects of content that continue to feature in the magazine.
The work in Cornwall and, in particular, the building of a new hall in St. Austell led Ken to resign from the Trust in July 2009.
– General Editor from 2009-14, Trust Chairman 1998-2014
Served in the work May 1986 – July 2014
After twenty-eight years of service to the work, with sixteen of those years as the chairman of the Trust, Roy Hill retired in 2014.
Along with others listed in this short article, the work of Precious Seed owes a significant amount to the tireless efforts of those who have played key roles. Roy was never one to avoid a challenge and he steered the work through a difficult time of transition when he took over as chairman. Brought to the work because of his considerable experience and expertise in the printing business, he transformed the magazine, whilst at the same time maintaining its adherence to scriptural truth.
It is difficult to summarize the significance of the contribution that Roy made to the work. He was its ambassador, its visionary, and its guide. He developed the presentation of the magazine without diluting its content, increased and streamlined the number of books published, led the work into providing gospel literature in the form of Faith Matters and the calendars, enabled authors to see their labours in print through Decapolis Press, and, in recent years, led two successful and popular Precious Seed trips to Israel.
Those that started the work of the magazine in 1945 could not have envisaged the way in which it would develop. The first editors stated, ‘We shall aim at presenting sane and balanced exposition of scripture in the assurance that it will commend itself to spiritual men’.9 As the work has entered the 21st Century it has sought to remain relevant and practical, yet faithful in its adherence to scriptural truth.
In that same introductory article, it was indicated that ‘as time goes on it will become perfectly clear that our policy is positive and constructive – certainly not critical or controversial’.10 We give thanks to God for maintaining this ministry and we look to Him to provide those who will rise to the enormous challenges that we continue to face. The work commenced with this statement and, as we enter the 71st year, the present committee would echo that desire ‘that He will deign to use this unpretentious effort for His glory and the strengthening of Assembly witness in difficult days’.11
Precious Seed, Issue 6 Number 2, January-February 1954, pg. 33.
Precious Seed, Volume 19 Number 4, July- August 1968, pg. 98.
Brian Currie (ed.), My Conversion and Call, Assembly Testimony Publications, Dunmurry, Belfast, 2009, pg. 154.
Precious Seed, Volume 36 Number 4, July- August 1985, pg. 86.
Precious Seed, Volume 63 Number 2, May 2008, pg. 9.
Precious Seed, Volume 62 Number 2, May 2007, pg. 24.
Precious Seed, Volume 1 Number 1, September 1945, pg. 2.