The Archbishop of Sydney, William Saumarez Smith, encouraged the Sunday School teachers of the diocese of Sydney to form an association, and the first meeting of the Sunday School Teachers’ Association was held in 1909. During the 1930s and 1940s, the Secretary of the association was Raymund Thomas Pearson. He organised their major activities, including conferences, social evenings, training days for kindergarten teachers and ‘Quiet Days’ – held on or near Anzac Day.
The association was allied with the Diocesan Board of Education and acted as an educational and support network for Sunday School teachers, primarily in the Rural Deanery of Parramatta. Little is known about R.T. Pearson apart from his involvement with the SSTA, and he does not seem to have been a clergyman.
A major annual event for the SSTA was the annual United Witness of Christian Youth march and church service. This was an interdenominational assembly, involving Anglican and other Protestant Sunday School groups as well as the Scouts, Girl Guides and Boys Brigade. They gathered at St John’s Parramatta and marched to Parramatta Park, accompanied by the Salvation Army band.
In 1938, the municipality of Parramatta celebrated its 150th anniversary, in conjunction with nation-wide festivities for the sesquicentenary of European settlement. Events included a parade with floats, a circus, fireworks, and a “Day of Witness” on Sunday 30th October – an ecumenical church service in Parramatta Park, preceded by a procession of the combined Sunday Schools of the district. R.T. Pearson was invited to assist with organising this event. The British and Foreign Bible Society provided a float to join the procession.
The SSTA collection also includes related papers collected personally by Raymund Pearson which reveal a little more about his other activities and interests. There are newspaper clippings from the 1930s to the 1950s on a range of topics such as the Korean War, Palestine and the Royal Tour.
A unique sub-collection is a file of records relating to the Christian Social Order Movement. Established in 1943 and operating until around 1951, the movement was chaired by the Bishop of Armidale J.S. Moyes, and was intended to supplement the Social Questions Committee of the General Synod. A monthly magazine The New Day was produced, featuring articles on various social issues. Arising from the era of post-war reconstruction, the movement did not survive the anti-communist attitudes of the 1950s. Bishop Moyes and his contemporary Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn Ernest Burgmann, who was also involved in the CSOM, both openly opposed Sir Robert Menzies attempt to ban the Communist Party of Australia in 1951.
The SSTA seems to have been absorbed by the Board of Education and there are no records later than the 1950s. Flourishing in an era when Sunday School attendance was much higher than it is today, the association provided training, support and a sort of professional development network for Sunday School teachers. Raymund Pearson dedicated many years of his life to the promotion of Sunday School programs and larger ecumenical events which brought the children of the Parramatta area together in public witness.
Find out more about the SSTA collection on the archives catalogue.