Scrapbook of Rev. Sidney Malcolm and Helen Alice Berry née Logan

Rev. Dr Sidney M. Berry, National leader of English Congregationalism from 1923 to 1948. Moderator of the National Free Church Council (1934–7). Chairman of the Congregational Union (1947),  Minister and Secretary of the International Congregational Council.

Sidney Malcolm Berry Bio

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Rev. Dr. Sidney Malcolm Berry MA DD

(1881 - 1961)

Congregational minister

by Cecil Northcott, Rev.

Berry was ordained at the Oxted Congregational Church in Surrey in 1906, and in 1909 was called to Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester, and then in 1912 to Carr's Lane Chapel, in the heart of Birmingham, a pastorate made famous by R. W. Dale. He married in 1907 Helen, daughter of John Logan JP of Cambridge, and they had two daughters.

Sidney Berry was now launched on a civic and national career in addition to the pastoral cares of his large congregation. In Birmingham, he had his initiation into public life, while in the country his personal charm and wit as a preacher made him much sought after for the notable occasions of church life. To take him away from a great pastorate, as the Congregational Union of England and Wales successfully did in 1923, was thought by some to be a disservice to Congregationalism as a whole. But Berry was persuaded — perhaps in loyalty to his father's memory, who had declined a similar invitation in 1893 — that he had a duty to serve as the union's secretary, and so he went to the Memorial Hall in London where he stayed until 1948. For Congregationalism, it was a revolutionary period. The independency of the Congregational churches was gradually reshaping itself into a more centralized fellowship, which carried responsibility for one another's churches and for their ministers. The moderational system, started in 1919, had proved its worth, and the £500,000 given through the Forward Movement (1925) helped to raise the standards of stipends, as did the later creation of the Home Churches Fund (1948), which made the regular income for ministerial maintenance responsibility of the local county unions. Berry also took his share in raising the post-war Reconstruction Fund of £500,000.

Macfadyn Church Chorlton-Cum-Hardy
Carr-s Lane Church

Sidney Berry saw his task mainly as a pastor pastorum, welcoming his fellow churchmen for consultation to the Memorial Hall as members of a family. In return he was welcomed in local churches with enthusiasm. He tended to gird under the routine of committee work and administration, but he had the gift of discerning the leadership of other people and was adroit in using it.

Berry gave considerable study to the art and style of preaching, and his Warrack lectures, entitled Vital Preaching (1936), delivered to theological students in the universities of Aberdeen and Glasgow, are a fine exposition of his methods and one of the best examples of homiletical skill at work. He also wrote religious meditations for the London Sunday Times.

Glasgow made him an honorary DD in 1936. In public as well as church affairs Sidney Berry was the national leader of English Congregationalism from 1923 to 1948. He was moderator of the National Free Church Council (1934 – 7) and chairman of the Congregational Union (1947), supported the moves for a British Council of Churches (1942), and was present at the Lausanne faith and order meeting (1927) and at the World Assemblies at Amsterdam (1948) and Evanston (1954).

But Berry was no over-zealous ecumenist. He believed that his and witness of the Congregational churches and, if possible, to foster their union with the Presbyterian Church of England. It was this union he worked for through all its setbacks over fifteen years from 1932 to 1947, and he would have rejoiced in the eventual union of the two churches as the United Reformed church in 1972.

Berry's secretaryship of the Congregational Union coincided with the economic and political crises which preceded the war of 1939 – 45. The grave unemployment in the industrial areas of the north and south Wales, where the strength of Congregationalism lay, threatened church stability, and from the Memorial Hall Berry organized much private relief in money and goods.

Berry was a supporter of the League of Nations (1922)

As a League of Nations man and a convinced supporter of collective security Berry had to face strong pacifist opposition from the younger generation of both ministers and laymen, who accused him of supporting the establishment rather than the Christian pacifist view. At the union assembly in Norwich in 1929 the whole three days' agenda was devoted almost entirely to disarmament and the problems raised by pacifism in the church. The dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945 produced a further period of frustration and helplessness for the churches, whose only activity could be resolutions of protest.

A fresh career opened before him on his retirement in 1948 when Berry was elected minister-secretary of the reorganized International Congregational Council (1949) which, under him, became a well-organized body for consultation and fellowship.

Until 1956 he roamed the world as an ambassador of goodwill to the Congregational churches, and their immense affection for him was shown at a banquet in his honour at the Hartford (Connecticut) assembly in 1958. Berry died in University College Hospital, London, on 2 August 1961.

(This was copied from on-line many years ago and is probably from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography before it went behind a paywall.)

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