JENNINGS, JOHN, Presbyterian clergyman; b. near Glasgow, Scotland, 8 Oct. 1814, son of John Jennings, merchant of Glasgow; d. Toronto, Ont., 25 Feb. 1876.
John Jennings was raised by his maternal grandfather, the Reverend John Tindal (sometimes spelled Tindall), secession Presbyterian minister at Cupar, Fife, Scotland. He attended St Andrews University from 1828 to 1831 (receiving no degree), and the Theological Hall of the United Associate Synod. He was ordained by the secession presbytery of Cupar on 11 July 1838 to be a missionary to Canada. The next day he married Margaret Cumming of Cupar.
Jennings arrived in Canada in the fall of 1838, and during the winter of 1838 and 1839 he served as a missionary for the Missionary Presbytery of the Canadas, making extended tours into the area of lakes Simcoe and Huron, and organizing congregations in Vaughan and King townships. On 9 July 1839 he was inducted as minister of the United Associate Church in Toronto (later Bay St Church), where he remained until March 1874. Under his pastorate the congregation grew from seven members to 273, erecting in 1848 a large white-brick Gothic church costing £3,000.
Jennings took an active part in promoting the cause of education in Upper Canada. He was prominent in the agitation for the secularization of the clergy reserves, contributing many articles to the press on the subject, and drafting a petition sent to the British House of Commons 13 Feb. 1840 from the Canadian Synod of the United Associate Presbyterian Church calling for the secularization of the reserves for educational purposes. Again, in 1848, while moderator of the Synod of the United Presbyterian Church in Canada, he led in petitioning the government of Canada to devote the proceeds of the clergy reserves to educational purposes. A strong supporter of Robert Baldwin*’s university bill and of free public schools, and a firm believer in the complete separation of church and state, he opposed any division of the university endowment to provide state support for denominational schools or the establishment of a theological chair in the University of Toronto. He also took a prominent part in organizing the Toronto Society for the Instruction of the Deaf, and Dumb, and the Blind.
Jennings was a member of the Council of Public Instruction for Upper Canada (Ontario) from 1850 to 1875, serving on the standing committee on regulations and textbooks for many years, and working for the establishment of the Toronto Normal School and the Education Office in Toronto. He was also a member of the senate of the University of Toronto from 1851 to 1872, of the committee of the senate for Upper Canada College at various times during these years, and a trustee of the Toronto Grammar School. In the United Presbyterian Church, he took an interest in theological education, home and foreign missions, the union of the various Presbyterian bodies in Canada, and pensions for the widows and children of deceased ministers. He was editor in Toronto of the Canadian Presbyterian Magazine from 1851 to 1854. In the Canada Presbyterian Church formed in 1861, he served as a member of various standing committees, including those for the Kankakee Mission and the Home and Foreign Record of the Canada Presbyterian Church (Toronto), for both of which he was convener. He was a member of the senate of Knox College, and a lecturer there in 1867. He received an honorary Doctor of Divinity from New York University in 1857 and was the author of two books.
Jennings was described as a kindly, genial man, of strong physique, liberal in his views, and honest and wise in his judgement. He died in 1876 survived by his wife and five children.
John Jennings was the author of Reason or revelation; or the religion, philosophy, and civilisation of the ancient heathen, contrasted with Christianity and legitimate consequences (Toronto, 1852) and Say no (Toronto, 1865). His papers are in the possession of Douglas Jennings, Toronto.
General Record Office (Edinburgh), Minutes of the Synod of the United Associate Synod of Scotland, 1837–44. UCA, Minutes of the Missionary Synod of Canada, 1843–47; Minutes of the Synod of the United Presbyterian Church in Canada, 1848–61; Minutes of the Synod of the Canada Presbyterian Church, 1861–69; Minutes of the general assembly of the Canada Presbyterian Church, 1870–75; Minutes of the general assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, 1875–80; Minutes of the Presbytery of Toronto, Presbyterian Church in Canada, 1875–80. Banner (Toronto), 1843–48. Canadian Presbyterian Magazine (Toronto), 1851–54. Globe (Toronto), 1876. Presbyterian Record for the Dominion of Canada (Montreal, Toronto), 1876. United Presbyterian Magazine (Edinburgh), 1847–77. United Secession Magazine (Edinburgh), 1833–45. Cyclopæpdia of Can. biog. (Rose, 1888), 462–63. Morgan, Bibliotheca Canadensis, 204–5. Documentary history of education in Upper Canada (Hodgins), V, 18; VI, 111; X, 277; XI, 206; XVII, 171.