LUSHER, ROBERT LANGHAM, Methodist minister, author, and newspaper editor; b. c. 1787 in London; m. Esther —, and they had at least one son and two daughters; d. 10 July 1849 in Montreal.
Robert Langham Lusher was attracted to the Methodist movement as a young man. In 1817, having been accepted as a probationer for the ministry, he was appointed by the British Wesleyan Conference to overseas missionary work. Lusher’s first assignment was Montreal, where he arrived with his young family late in 1817. Except for a year in Quebec, from 1817 until the summer of 1822 he served the Montreal circuit; while there he was received into full connection by the British conference in 1821.
At Lusher’s arrival in Montreal, the town’s Methodists numbered probably fewer than 100 and were largely loyalists of the mercantile and artisan classes. They were divided in their allegiance to American or British church authorities, but by 1820 had united under the British Wesleyan Conference. Lusher’s style of preaching soon began to make Methodism respectable in Montreal, overcoming the prevailing prejudice against Methodist preachers as what a letter in the Montreal Gazette termed “strolling enthusiasts.” He was able to obtain civil registers for baptisms, marriages, and burials and the Montreal Methodist society increased in numbers and affluence so that a larger chapel was soon required. The Methodist Chapel, as it was called, was completed in 1821. Under Lusher’s leadership Methodists cooperated with other denominations in establishing several religious and benevolent institutions such as the Montreal General Hospital and the Emigrant Society of Montreal. He was, however, disappointed by one development within his own denomination: the agreement of 1820 between British and American Methodist authorities [see Henry Ryan*] which left Upper Canada under the influence of the American preachers, many of whom, he believed, held the “[British] constitution and Government in the utmost contempt.”
In 1822 Lusher was appointed to Halifax and in 1825 to Liverpool, N.S. On both circuits he travelled to isolated settlements along the southern shore. He returned to England in 1827 and served in Oldham, Halifax, Manchester, and Bath. At the request of the Montreal Methodist society, in 1838 he was once again assigned to the Montreal circuit by the Wesleyan Missionary Committee of the British conference and at the same time was appointed to preside over the Lower Canada District, a post he held for a year.
Relations between the British Wesleyan Conference, responsible for Lower Canada, and the Canada Conference, presiding in Upper Canada, were greatly strained. One of the chief points at issue was the policy of the Christian Guardian, edited by Egerton Ryerson*, who did not hesitate to criticize government policy on the disposition of the clergy reserves. In a letter to fellow minister Robert Alder*, Lusher perhaps reflected a typically British attitude in his horror of the Christian Guardian’s “inflammatory character . . . calculated to promote dissatisfaction and disaffection to the Government” as well as its “anti-Wesleyan position in reference to the Church of England and its union with the state.” In August 1840, immediately after the British Wesleyan Conference had officially broken its link with the Canada Conference (Lower Canada remaining as it had been, a district in direct connection with the British conference), a new church paper, the Wesleyan, appeared. It was published twice monthly in Montreal with Lusher as its first editor. The aim of the Wesleyan was to disseminate British Methodist news and opinion throughout the Canadas, no doubt as an antidote to the influence of the Christian Guardian. After a year Lusher gave up the editorship and in 1842 moved to Trois-Rivières. The paper resumed publication in Toronto.
Lusher’s later years were clouded by ill health. After serving the Trois-Rivières circuit for less than two years, he retired in 1843 to live in Montreal among the members of his former congregation, who greatly revered him. Robert Langham Lusher’s contribution to the social and religious life of British North America was conservative rather than creative or original. In upholding a British attitude of uncritical deference to authority he perhaps failed to appreciate the need of the colonial church to shape its witness within its own social context.
Robert Langham Lusher is the author of The last journey: a funeral address, delivered . . . July 8, 1838, occasioned by the death of the late Rev. John Barry . . . (Montreal, 1838); The laws of Wesleyan Methodism epitomized and arranged . . . (Manchester, Eng., 1834); Recollections of the outlines of a sermon, delivered . . . April 3, 1825, on occasion of the death of Mrs. Eunice Waterman . . . (Halifax, 1827); and A sermon, preached at the Wesleyan Chapel, Quebec, Sunday, March 26th, 1820, occasioned by the death of his late majesty George the Third (Montreal, 1820). He was the editor for the first volume of the Wesleyan, which was published at Montreal from 6 Aug. 1840 to 8 July 1841.
St James United Church (Montreal), Memorial letterbook, 17 Jan. 1842. SOAS, Methodist Missionary Soc. Arch., Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Soc., corr., North America (mfm. at UCC, Maritime Conference Arch., Halifax). UCC, Montreal-Ottawa Conference Arch. (Montreal), 7/StJ/1/1; Montreal Presbytery, St James Street Methodist Chapel (Montreal), reg. Wesleyan (Toronto), 2 (1841–42)–3 (1842–43). Wesleyan Methodist Church, Minutes of the conferences (London), 11 (1848–51). Wesleyan Methodist Church in Canada, The minutes of the annual conferences . . . from 1824 to 1845 . . . (Toronto, 1846). Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine, 41 (1818)–43 (1820); 48 (1825)–49 (1826); 54 (1831). Canada Temperance Advocate (Montreal), February–March 1840. Canadian Courant and Montreal Advertiser, 23, 30 Jan., 6 Feb., 18 Dec. 1819; 5 June 1821. Christian Guardian, 25 July 1849. Montreal Gazette, 28 Nov. 1808. Montreal Herald, 11 Oct. 1817–20 March 1819; 18 Dec. 1819; 17, 24 Feb. 1821; 26 Jan. 1822. Montreal Transcript, 21 Oct. 1837; 2 Jan., 31 May, 14 June 1838; 8 Aug. 1840; 10 July 1849. Borthwick, Hist. and biog. gazetteer. G. H. Cornish, Cyclopædia of Methodism in Canada, containing historical, educational, and statistical information . . . (2v., Toronto and Halifax, 1881–1903). E. A. Betts, Bishop Black and his preachers (2nd ed., Sackville, N.B., 1976). J. [S.] Carroll, Case and his cotemporaries . . . (5v., Toronto, 1867–77). G. E. Jacques, Chronicles of the St-James St. Methodist Church, Montreal, from the first rise of Methodism in Montreal to the laying of the corner-stone of the new church on St. Catherine Street (Toronto, 1888). N. H. Mair, The people of St James, Montreal, 1803–1984 ([Montreal, 1984]). J. H. Turner, Halifax books and authors . . . (Brighouse, Eng., 1906).