John Cory and the Royal Crescent Methodist Church
From Bible Christian Magazine, 1906
At Tresparrett, in the parish of St Juliott, on 2 August 1822, a child was born who was destined to play no insignificant part in the development of what may legitimately be denominated the famous Jersey Circuit.
Left fatherless when only eight years of age, having five brothers and two sisters, the lad was compelled, through family exigencies, to start work when 12 years of age. For a few months he played the part of a shepherd-boy on an adjoining farm, but at 12 years of age he was apprenticed to the tailoring and drapery business at St Gennys for a period of six years.
His apprenticeship completed, he continued to serve the same master for three years. His wage was small, and there arose in him that element of Divine discontent which inspired him to venture forth in quest of a more lucrative sphere. Influenced by a sister who was residing in Jersey, he decided to try his fortune in the Sunny Island, and at 22 years of age he crossed the Channel for the first time.
Many times since has he crossed and re-crossed this narrow strip which separates the home of his childhood from the land of his adoption, yet never has he had occasion to regret the hour when he first stepped on board the boat at Plymouth to convey him to Jersey. A Bible Christian when living in Cornwall, John Cory continued a Bible Christian when he crossed the sea, and joined the church at Great Union Road.
For some reason or another, instead of developing his gifts along the lines adopted at St Gennys, he cut out for himself a new path, and became associated with the business of a butcher. (Editor’s note: His sister in Jersey had married a master butcher, and one of their brothers was also a butcher.)
After four years service under another, he again ventured forth, and this time to create a business for himself. Gifted with insight, shrewdness, and the capacity for hard work, coupled with the laudable ambition to realise his own endowments in a sphere fitting as well as profitable, it was natural to him to mark out an original course for himself, and to pursue that course heedless of the consequences that might follow.
How far he was justified in fleeing from the needle and thread of the tailor and grasping the knife of the butcher, may be gathered from the fact that, from the commencement, the sun of prosperity shone upon him, and has continued to shine to the present day. Beginning in comparatively a small way, the business developed as the years passed on, until the name of John Cory became one of the best known names in the Island of Jersey.
A man of integrity and honour, and regulating his business life according to sound ethical principles, he has won the confidence of his customers and those having business relations with him, with the result that he has not only prospered in the world, but has gained for himself a reputation more precious than rubies, and compared with which gold is as dust.
‘Neighbour John’ Cory's interest, however, has not been limited to his own business, neither has he been a slave to the mechanism that converts energy and industry into gold. From the commencement he has allowed the other and higher portions of his nature to express themselves, and for more than half a century he has exhibited the greatest possible interest in the work of the denomination, both in Jersey and beyond it.
When he came to the Island the chapel at Great Union Road was small, having accommodation for about 200 persons. Since then the chapel has been enlarged, and a commodious schoolroom added. For 22 years ‘Neighbour John’ acted as steward, and also filled the offices of librarian and treasurer of the school.
But for the last 35 years his chief religious interest has been centred in the Royal Crescent, the largest and most commodious building in the denomination. As the story of the purchase of the site and the building of the church has been already told, it is unnecessary to repeat it here. Suffice it that the inspiring genius in the initiation and development of the scheme by which such a magnificent property was secured was ‘Neighbour John’ Cory.
From the opening service to the present day he has loved the Royal Crescent with a love that has triumphed over manifold difficulties, and with zeal which many waters could not quench. Metaphorically, the church of the Royal Crescent has been, and is, his only child, and from its infancy he has been its nurse, its guardian, and its protector.
He has seen it in various moods, and amid struggling as well as prosperous conditions. He has been an eye-witness when more than a thousand persons have been seated in its pews Sabbath after Sabbath, and he has seen it, alas, when its numbers have not exceeded three hundred.
But amid its fluctuations he has ever been faithful and true - the love that inspired him at the first has continued unabated, and now, after a period of more than 35 years, he may be seen regularly at his post as steward, notwithstanding that on 2 August 1906, he will have reached his eighty-fourth year.
From the commencement he accepted the responsibility of treasurer of the trust estate, and sustained this relation until within recent months, when he was succeeded by his great-nephew, John Cory jun. Thus for more than a third of a century ‘Neighbour John’ shared in the financial responsibility relating to this valuable estate.
Surely, he has the right to appropriate the words of the Psalmist, "I have loved the habitation of Thy house, and the place where Thine honour dwelleth."
As regards ‘Neighbour John's’ life and work and character, it is not easy to describe them in the space at one's command. He has been a practical dreamer, a man who saw visions, and converted them into living realities. Uneducated in the technical meaning of the term, contact with life in its varied phases has developed his native gifts, and given him a power of perception and understanding denied to the majority of men.
Commonsense is one of his distinguishing characteristics, and it is this quality he admires in preachers and men generally. More ethically than sentimentally religious, he is a man of sterling honour, and seeks to base his conduct on the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount. He lays greater emphasis on the ethics of the New Testament than on its metaphysical doctrines, and has greater sympathy with him who is kind, merciful, and generous than with him who is rigidly orthodox, but lacks these qualities.
To one injunction of Christ he gives a literal interpretation. His gifts to the needy are manifold and continuous, and he is a comforter and succourer of many, but his left hand is not permitted to know all that his right hand doeth.
Such is the kindly interest he manifests in the welfare of others, that many a person will be bereft of material blessing when the time comes for him to depart. To many, and especially to the Bible Christian Denomination in Jersey, he has been a benefactor for more than half-a-century, and whoever may arise to fill the gap which he must soon create, it is scarcely possible for any man to possess a greater love, to exhibit a more intelligent interest, or to contribute with a more liberal hand towards the funds of the Royal Crescent Church, than ‘Neighbour John’ Cory.
Associated with him in his beneficent ministry is his wife, who shares his sympathies and purposes, and is ever willing to minister to the needs of the sorrowful and the distressed. Their sun is setting, and in the hearts of those who know them best will arise the prayer that it may descend beneath the horizon with the same brightness and glory as have accompanied it during its circuitous course in the heavens of life.