From whence we came

indiansprings

Indian Springs Holiness Camp Meeting. Photo/Jim Springs

Forgive me, if you will, if I speak again of stones of remembrance.

It’s funny sometimes how things come together. Then again, perhaps not. I don’t believe in coincidence.

Yesterday morning I posted this comment on Facebook.

Could two roles in two months with the first name Wesley be a sign I need to return to my Methodist heritage?

The post devolved a bit into criticisms of the United Methodist Church, of which I have a few of my own. But that was not the point.

The specific reference came from the fact that I just concluded Footloose where I played Wes Warnicker, the uncle of young Ren. And the fact that this Friday, I have a role as an extra in an A&E TV show, where I was scheduled to play a nameless juror. Early this morning, I got a notice that they want me to play the police chief. First name Wesley. Still no lines and likely still no credit. But I have a character name.

So I saw it as either a connection to my Methodist heritage, or perhaps that I should be a young ensign on the Starship Enterprise.

I was not raised in the Methodist Church, but the denomination I did grow up in has some of the same background and heritage.

Beyond that, my great-grandfather was a Wesley Methodist Circuit Rider who would travel as an itinerant preacher to churches in Southwest Virginia.

Later, I attended and graduated from Asbury University (then College), a Christian liberal arts university born in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition. I also have a Certificate in Christian Education from Asbury Theological Seminary, a sister institution “across the street.”

While I was there, the College President was Dr. Dennis F. Kinlaw, himself a graduate from 1943. No student of the Kinlaw eras (1968-1981 and 1986-1991) can forget the impact of hearing Dr. Kinlaw speak in Hughes Auditorium.

The stories are too many to tell about Dr. Kinlaw. But I remember that he was the speaker for the Fall Revival series in 1976. My freshman year.

I could not begin to tell you the subject matter of his sermons that week. But I remember the text. Almost forty years later, I cannot read or hear the words, “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.” (Isaiah 6:1) and not hear them in the voice of Dennis F. Kinlaw.

This morning, I came across this wonderful video of Dr. Kinlaw sharing about his camp meeting experience at Indian Springs Camp Meeting.



Dr. Dennis Kinlaw – Unedited
from Embark Visuals on Vimeo.
 

At 91 years old, his body is frail, but his mind is clear. And, for me, his voice still has an impact.

I also grew up with a tradition of camp meetings. Camp meetings began in the early 1800s and grew to be an important part of the Christian Holiness tradition. Dr. Kinlaw speaks of Indian Springs Camp Meeting in Georgia. I’ve only been there once, back in 1980 when I worked as a youth counselor. But the experience is still significant.

Perhaps the tug I feel toward camp meetings and my Methodist heritage are just nostalgia. While the church I attend today also has roots in that era, I don’t necessarily still consider myself as part of the Christian-holiness movement.

For one thing, as I’ve learned over the years, there’s been a lot of hurt caused in that movement. Not intentionally. But many times the focus was on the outward sins (like smoking, drinking and dancing) and not on the fact that we all need grace.

As I’ve said before, “Some Christians judge certain sins to be worse than others. That’s just not Biblical.”

I’m no Wesley scholar, and certainly no expert on the Christian-Holiness movement. I’m sure I’ve got classmates and former professors who could poke holes in this entire post.

But I do know that, in my experience, it was sometimes a movement that did a better job of singing about Amazing Grace than experiencing and exhibiting amazing grace.

I did not set out to write this post as a critique of Methodism or of the holiness movement. Because even with flaws, there is a wonderful tradition, a wonderful heritage. A heritage that is reminiscent of a time when Methodism swept across the country. A time when we were a country of faith when public prayer or the phrase “In God We Trust” would not have been challenged.

Oh yes, I know that there were some ugly times in our country as well. But many times it was the church, and often the Methodists, leading the way for social change and reform. Much of what is good, what is right, what is strong in this country came the faith and endurance of the early Methodists.

That’s my heritage. And it’s a good thing to remember.

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