Faith Works 5-22-10
A Long and Winding Road Through History
We clergy can find ourselves bemoaning, on occasion, our lot in life with the travel we have to do through the week.
Pastoral care today can take a fairly modestly-sized congregational leader, in any random week, to four or five different hospitals across multiple counties, and in and out of nursing care facilities on main streets and hidden off country roads.
HIPAA has taken away our ability to use the phone as a tool to save steps and trips (if you don't know what a HIPAA is, think the "hippopotamus" of legislative unintended consequences), and health care consolidation means parking garages are often the size of urban shopping center complexes, while the office to get your clergy parking permit stamped is often better hidden than the patient complaint and refund department.
The schedule can get weird, too, but that's more and more something people deal with in a variety of vocations as more and more of us do three people's jobs and are thankful for the work at all. What isn't as common, even for those situations, is to have to take your car in a route that would do justice to a delivery service driver, planning out how save miles and time without going through any particularly infamous speed traps.
We do have that car, though, and not a mule. It's always eased my irritation at the amount of time I've spent sitting in traffic to reflect on my forebearers in ministry, and what they had to do just to preach on Sundays, let alone call on families when they could.
In my own tradition through the Restoration Movement, Alexander Campbell rode out of Bethany, (now West) Virginia above Wheeling, and with the occasional help of riverboats traveled from New England to New Orleans and back again. Horses when he could get them, mules when he had to, which was often, and not occasionally on foot.
Francis Asbury, the pioneering Methodist bishop, left journals which detail the thousands of miles he covered over decades of ministry. It is truly awe inspiring to read, if a bit mind-numbing (which is not all that probably went numb for Bishop Asbury). Philander Chase, an early bishop of The Episcopal Church in Ohio & Illinois, traveled to do fundraising for what became Kenyon College and a few other higher ed institutions, not only all across this continent, but frequently crossing the Atlantic to England in the early 1800s.
"The Amazing Race," indeed.
So I'm looking forward to hearing tonight, Saturday evening at 6:00 pm, from Rev. James Quinn. He died in 1847, which means this is a quite a trip for him, but as an old circuit riding preacher he's up to the challenge.
Tonight at Centenary UMC in Granville, in Shepherd Hall, Rev. Quinn will get a little help from Rev. David Maze, a former pastor at Heath UMC, who will talk about the circuit rider days in Licking County, and as part of Centenary's bicentennial, will preach tomorrow at 8:00, 9:20, and 11:00 as Rev. Quinn.
"Mr. Quinn was continued upon this circuit, being re-appointed in 1805, but he was sent to the Scioto circuit when about one-half of his second year had expired, making his whole service on the circuit, a period of eighteen months, running into the early part of 1806. Before he left the village Newark was attached to it, and his congregation usually numbered "from fifteen to thirty persons," says Mr. Smucker. Here then is the first evidence of the establishment of the first Methodist class in Newark. A small class existed here which Mr. Quinn left in 1806, composed of five or six persons, who met at the cabin of Abraham Wright, esq., an emigrant of 1802, from Washington County, Pennsylvania, who was at this period, and had been for some time, an acting justice of the peace."
All I can add to that is: "there were giants in the earth in those days."
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio, but he's no circuit rider; tell him about your travels in faith at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow Knapsack @Twitter.com.