A History of Precious Seed
Michael Jones, Cardiff, Wales [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
It is hard to believe that the work of Precious Seed Committee has been going for sixty years. In 1945 several meetings were held in Taunton, Devon, for prayerful consideration of the situation which then existed. For some time brethren had been concerned about the lack of teaching with regard to New Testament church principles. Out of this desire came the magazine Precious Seed which would seek to be ‘a magazine to encourage the study of the Scriptures, the practice of New Testament Church principles and to stimulate interest in Gospel work’. Those early brethren have now all been called home but the pattern has been followed by their successors.
Over the years many changes have been seen in the layout and size of the magazine. When originally published it was a quarto-sized magazine, but Volume 2 was reduced to 7.5" by 5" and this continued until the end of 1999. The January 1993 issue saw the start of colour pictures on the front cover. From 2000 onwards the magazine has been published in A4 size and in four colours.
At present the circulation is in excess of 15,000 and is distributed to 86 countries. The major readership is in the UK, Canada, USA and India. Although most of the readership is in fellowship with the assemblies we know that there are many readers in other churches including a large number of Baptists.
In recent years we have been sending an increasing percentage of the magazines abroad and now nearly 30% fall into this category. This trend can be expected to continue as the numbers in assembly fellowship in the UK decreases. Recently the decision was taken to print articles which will try to address some of the problems facing the assemblies at this time. In addition, articles dealing with some items of government legislation which affect places of worship. Since the start the policy has been that no advertisements will be accepted and that the magazine will be supplied free of charge. Over the years the Lord has vindicated this decision and we have found that He has supplied all of our needs through His people. The committee freely give of their time and meet on a quarterly basis and keep in touch regularly by telephone and email. Articles for the magazine may come either
- Unsolicited – which we are always glad to receive and to which we give an immediate decision as to whether to publish as edited, return for rewriting, or not to publish.
- Solicited – we ask various brethren to write for us and sometimes on a specific subject.
- Reports – we have the help of various brethren in different parts of the UK on whom we rely.
It is our policy to publish articles only by living authors and not to reproduce old articles from the past, excellent though these may be.
At first only the magazine was published but in due time a decision was taken to reprint some of the articles and eventually the ever popular ‘Day by Day’ series was born. Two other publications Church Doctrine and Practice and Treasury of Bible Doctrine also saw the light of day. These two books have been well received and have been reprinted a number of times.
Over the years various other books have been published, such as Rise Up My Love and Prophetic Profile. We have been encouraged by those who have given their time and talents to write articles for publication in both the magazine and books.
In 1980 when the magazine circulation was in excess of 18,000 maintaining the mailing list became a problem. The addresses were typed onto small stencil cards which were difficult to read unless held up to a bright light. For each issue labels had to be produced on the stencil machine which was a very messy job. The whole situation was reviewed and various options explored. Personal Computers were not generally available but a computerized alternative was found. For weeks every spare moment was taken up with transferring the details from the stencils onto the new format. Labels were then printed out and fixed to small cards to provide an alphabetical index. The machine was able to print labels in different groups and the print run took a little over three hours. The only drawback was that it was very noisy and it was necessary to watch the machine for the whole time in case the printing was out of alignment. When printing it was advisable to pick a time when the family was out to avoid the shout of ‘Shut the door; it’s too noisy’!
By the mid-nineties getting parts for the machine was difficult and a new system had to be considered. By now PCs were common but it proved impossible to transfer the information from the floppy discs to a PC readable format. Having taken much advice we decided to purchase a Dell computer. This new system would be able to offer many advantages over the previous system. Now it was possible to find details of a subscriber much quicker and it was able to provide more statistical information. Letters could be personalized and it was possible to keep in contact with subscribers to ensure that copies were still required. Additional information could also be stored to make administration much easier. It now became easy to produce figures for the distribution to various countries. It is a reflection of the thoroughness with which the task was undertaken in that only one or two small changes have been made in the past nine years. The print out of the labels is now reduced to less than 30 minutes and is almost silent. How things change!
From April 2000 it became possible to reclaim tax on donations from UK tax payers. This new system known as Gift Aid necessitated the keeping of various records. A new computer program was purchased which enabled all the returns for the Inland Revenue to be produced in a very short time Looking back it seems impossible to imagine how the brethren managed to cope with the work load. We must leave on record the great debt that we owe to those who gave unstintingly of their time to ensure that the magazine was circulated.
One side effect of the new system is that it is possible to avoid duplication of orders and a true figure for the circulation is possible. The first time we wrote out to confirm that copies were still required produced many replies indicating that the recipients had been dead for months or even years. Roy Hill is credited with the remark, ‘Why don’t Assembly Correspondents correspond?’ This is a remark that we would agree with as often 50% of letters sent out requesting confirmation do not receive a reply.
There are few details known of how often the early members met to discuss the magazine. Because most of them lived in the West Country the meetings were held in that area. For many years they met in the home of Mr. and Mrs. McEwen in Exeter. Other homes were made available and I first met with the committee in the home of Ivor Harris in Bristol.
By this time some were living away from the South West and it was felt that Bristol was a suitable venue and this has continued until now. Those of us who lived in South Wales have only to travel across the Severn Bridge. For many years John Heading would come down from Aberystwyth, in West Wales, but always insisted on getting back for the Sunday as the assembly there was so small. Each member had different abilities which they would use for the furtherance of the work. Who can forget the dedication of those who chased up correspondents so that the reports section could be the helpful section that it became. For many years John Heading was the liaison between the committee and the printers. He would personally type up many of the articles and set a very high standard. Before modern methods of computerized typesetting be-came common any errors would be retyped on a small slip of paper which was stuck on top of the error. I can remember him producing a printer’s rule from his pocket and showing me that the line of type was out of alignment, even though it looked perfect to me!
One by one the original members were either called home or felt the need to retire. The last of these original brethren was Charles McEwen who continued until 1991 and many give thanks to God for his unique contribution. The dedication of these early men can be discerned in the editorial comments made in the magazine over the years.
In the early 1980s the elders of Speedwell Chapel in Bristol kindly allowed a room at the Chapel to be used for the committee meetings and this arrangement continued for some years. In latter years a room has been kindly provided for us to meet in an hotel near to the intersection of the M4 and M5 motorways and this arrangement has made travel to be much easier. In addition the meetings can be held in a business-like way.
At one time the meetings would be taken up with going through the magazine proofs line by line but fortunately this system no longer applies!. Each committee member receives the proofs which are corrected and returned to the appropriate editor before the meeting. More time can now be spent on review and policy making.
For some years there was a separate sub-committee that was involved in the production of the book publications and they would have a separate meeting. However, there is no longer a separate sub-committee and discussions are included in the agenda for the normal quarterly meeting.