John Alfred Seymour (1881-1934) was born on 16 June 1881 at Mountain near Winchester, Ontario, Canada. After graduating as Doctor of Sacred Theology from Temple University, Philadelphia, in 1912, he migrated to Melbourne where the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Australia received him as a minister, subject to a year's probation. He took charge of a new church at Murrumbeena. He moved to Chalmers (now Scots) Church, Adelaide, in February 1916.
A thoughtful preacher, Seymour quickly gained his peers' esteem in Adelaide, being elected moderator of the South Australian General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in 1918. During nine years as convener of the South Australian Home Mission Committee, Seymour mentored men who were working in country and suburban churches which were not self-supporting. These men were usually working towards qualifications necessary for ordination in ministry. He was largely responsible for an agreement with the Congregational and Baptist churches under which ministerial candidates were able to study at the Congregational Parkin Theological College; he lectured there in church history. He also lectured in biblical subjects at the Chapman-Alexander Bible Institute. He was twice president of the South Australian Council of Churches and was the first president of the local Evangelisation Society. In World War I he was an Australian Imperial Force military-camp chaplain in Adelaide.
Seymour's most distinctive contribution to South Australia was in education. His persistence persuaded the General Assembly to agree to, and enough Presbyterians to pay for, the foundation of Scotch College in 1919 (for boys) and Presbyterian Girls' College in 1922, both catering for children from grade 1 to matriculation. He was chairman of the council of Presbyterian Girls' College (now known as Seymour College). Although he was a scholarly and perhaps rather reserved man, an adventurous side to his character is revealed in anecdotes about his being treed by a bear in the Yukon and taking his young son to Scotch College on the back of his motor cycle.
Seymour resigned from Chalmers Church in 1928 and moved to St Andrews Presbyterian Church, Belleville, Ontario. An accident in which he was hit by a tram caused his death in Toronto on 14 February 1934.[i]
Before Rev Dr Seymour left Chalmers Church in 1928, he suggested that the Flinders Street and Chalmers congregations amalgamate. Amalgamation occurred in 1929.
[i] Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988
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