Henry Martyn Trust
In 1881, at a time of great enthusiasm in Cambridge for overseas mission, the Henry Martyn Trust was established through the energy of John Barton, Vicar of Holy Trinity and former missionary in India, and a group of Cambridge students. Barton persuaded senior members of the University, including Brooke Foss Westcott, Regius Professor of Divinity and founder of the Cambridge Delhi Mission, to launch a fund in 1881, the centenary of Martyn’s birth.
In naming their Trust, this group looked back to a Cambridge undergraduate, Henry Martyn, who had been born a hundred years earlier. In the early 19th century, Martyn had distinguished himself as a student in Cambridge, earning the distinction of ‘Senior Wrangler,’ a title given to the top mathematics graduate in the University. Under the influence of Charles Simeon, fellow of King’s College and vicar of Holy Trinity Church from 1783 to 1836, Martyn forsook an academic career and instead became a missionary and chaplain to the British East India Company. In India and Persia, he translated portions of the Bible into numerous languages before dying at the age of 31 in 1812.
In 1887, the Trust completed the Henry Martyn Hall on Market Street in Cambridge next door to Holy Trinity Church, as a meeting place to encourage others in the university to be involved in the church overseas. In 1897, a separate appeal was launched for a ‘proposed missionary library for Cambridge University’ to be housed in the Hall. The purpose of the library was to ‘give students access to the best material’and ‘help build up a true sense of the importance of Missions in those who will afterwards hold the highest offices both in Church and State.’ For several generations of Cambridge students, the Henry Martyn Hall was a place of gathering, fellowship, and study, and one in which many first heard the call to greater involvement in the life of the global church.
In January 1992, Canon Graham Kings inaugurated the new post of Henry Martyn Lecturer in Missiology in the Cambridge Theological Federation and expanded the Library as a resource for the study of mission and world Christianity. In 1995, the Library and the office of the Lecturer moved to Westminster College and was officially opened there on 22 January 1996. On the centenary of the Library, the Henry Martyn Centre was established as an associate member of the Cambridge Theological Federation and in affiliation with the Cambridge University Divinity Faculty.
When Graham Kings returned to parish ministry, the Centre was run on an interim basis by Sebastian Kim, now Professor in Theology and Public Life at York St. John University from 2000 to 2001. Brian Stanley directed the Centre from 2001 until December 2008 when he moved to the University of Edinburgh as Professor in World Christianity and Director of the Centre for the Study of World Christianity. Dr. Emma Wild-Wood became director of the Henry Martyn Centre in January 2009. From 2015 to 2017, Dr. Wild-Wood was seconded to the Divinity Faculty of Cambridge University and Dr. Jesse Zink was the interim director. Dr Muthuraj Swamy, our current director, joined us in 2018 from South India. Bishop Graham Kings, after serving as Vicar of Islington, Bishop of Sherborne and Mission Theologian in the Anglican Communion, retired to Cambridge in 2020 and is an Hon Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Ely, and Research Associate at the Centre, Dr. Jesse Zink is Principal of the Montreal Diocesan Theological College, and Dr. Emma Wild-Wood is Senior Lecturer in the School of Divinity, New College, University of Edinburgh.
Throughout this period, the library continued to develop as an important research resource. Under the skilled leadership of librarian Jane Gregory, the library continued its growth from a small collection of material chosen to inspire university students into one of the foremost collections of material related to ecumenical and evangelical mission, global Christianity, and public theology. The library now contains nearly 10,000 books and over 100 runs of journals and continues to welcome scholars, researchers, students, and visitors from the city and county of Cambridge and from around the world. In addition to its acquisition budget, the library has benefited from a number of significant donations, including in 2015 a valuable collection of material from the former St. Augustine’s College in Canterbury, the former missionary training college of the Anglican Communion.
In 2014, as part of a refurbishment of Westminster College, the Centre moved into a purpose-built location on the Westminster campus that allows the collection to be displayed in better fashion, contains climate-controlled archive storage, and has ramp access. The Centre is now also part of the growing Westminster campus, an emerging site of theological reflection and scholarly research. As part of the move, the Henry Martyn Centre changed its name to the Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide.
Since 2011, Cambridge University has made several faculty hires that have contributed to a growing scholarly nexus in the field of global Christianity. The Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide is right in the middle of that nexus. The director continues to teach students in the University and the Cambridge Theological Federation. Students, faculty, and other visitors regularly consult the library. Students are sent overseas through the Centre’s innovative Intercultural Encounter bursary programme.
The Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide (Company number 07579296) is the operating name of the Henry Martyn Trust (Charity number 1144580).
To advance the Christian faith, and to advance education in the Christian faith for the benefit of the public, and to promote the understanding of and engagement with Christian mission and World Christianity, in particular but not exclusively, in the universities of Cambridge.
Trustees of the Henry Martyn Trust
- Canon Sarah Snyder (Chair)
- Revd Roger Bowen,
- The Vicar of Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge (ex officio)
- Mr Jonathan Giles (Honorary Treasurer)
- Mr Nick Raymont
- Dr Onesimus Ngundu
- Mr Andrew Keiller
- Revd Dr Philip Knights