Miss Groves - M. E. Barber's friend

A certain “Miss Groves” is mentioned twice in In Against the Tide, Angus Kinnear’s biography of Watchman Nee. First, a young Watchman Nee was helped by Miss Groves to pray for his friends. She asked him how many people had been saved by him since his conversion. After Nee replied that no one had she encouraged him in several ways concluding, “Speak first to God, and then to men. Ask God for whom he wants you to pray. Write their names in a notebook and then pray for them daily. Then when opportunities arise, preach the gospel to them.”1

In another anecdote between Watchman Nee and a lady missionary, Kinnear writes in his footnotes, “This sounds like Margaret Barber’s friend, Miss Groves, who very early helped him pray for his schoolmates.”2

Who is this Miss Groves and how is it that she is friends with Margaret Barber? When searching the Directories of Protestant Missions in China, Japan and Korea, it is striking to notice that out of the hundreds of missionaries listed in each year of the directory, there is only one Miss Groves listed. Miss E. R. Groves served in Ningbo, Zhejiang with the Christians’ Mission. She is present in the 1903 directory up through the 1920 directory.

Could this be Miss Groves? While Miss E. R. Groves was not serving in the same city as Miss Barber, Ningbo is not very far from Fuzhou. They could have crossed paths.Additionally, The Christians’ Mission was an independent faith-mission similar to Miss Barber and her co-workers’ mission at Pagoda Anchorage. Consider this description the Christians’ Mission in R. Tiedemann’s Reference Guide to Christian Missionary Societies in China:

CHRISTIANS’ MISSION (CM) Chinese Name: Jidu tugong hui. Nationality: British. Denomination: Undenominational. China Start: 1893. Field in China: Ningbo (Zhejiang).
Background Note: The work was started by 2 English sisters, Misses E. A. and L. M. Hopwood. Subsequently, a small company of single women joined the Christians’ Mission (CM) at Ningbo, working on undenominational and “faith” lines. Educational work was carried on for both boys and girls, but the main emphasis was on evangelistic effort. In the late 1930s the Ningbo mission consisted of 2 women, Misses G. E. Metcalfe and M. J. Shewring, who were at that time based in Shanghai. No further information has come to light concerning this small missionary venture.3

The Christians’ Mission described its affiliation as “undenominational”. This is exactly the same identification as the church pledging Miss Barber spiritual support, Surrey Chapel. And as Surrey Chapel did not guarantee Miss Barber any financial support, Miss Groves who “worked on ‘faith’ lines” likely trusted in the Lord alone for her support. These were bold declarations in the mission and Christian world at that time. “Faith lines” indicated a person cutting off the shore lines of traditional Christian work in order to follow Christ into the uncharted waters of serving according to the Word of God alone. If Miss E. R. Groves and Miss Barber met, one could imagine the sort of kindred spirit they might find in each other. There were few in the field like these women. Yet their life of faith produced many blessings. Though not much can be said yet about Miss E. R. Groves, this is very likely Miss Barber’s friend and the one who helped a young Watchman Nee.


1 - Kinnear, Angus. Against the Tide: The Unforgettable Story of Watchman Nee (p. 46). CLC Publications. Kindle Edition.

2 - Kinnear, Angus. Against the Tide: The Unforgettable Story of Watchman Nee (p. 277). CLC Publications. Kindle Edition.

3 - Tiedemann R. G. Reference Guide to Christian Missionary Societies in China : From the 16th to the 20th Century. Routledge 2015. pg. 143

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