Today we visited the various memorials along the mall in Washington, D.C. First stop was the Vietnam Memorial. Some of our pilgrims personally knew people whose names are engraved in the wall. Al Hoppe found the names of two classmates, C. Gregory Nuckles and Harry W. Wickersham, Jr.
Then we visited the Korean Conflict Memorial which recreates a group of soliders on patrol in the difficult and cold terrain that was Korea during that period.
We also visited the WWII Memorial and were privileged to be there with a group of WWII vets being honored at the Memorial.
Of course, no visit to Washington is complete without a visit to the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.
Some in the group then went on to view the White House and attend Vespers at the National Cathedral. Unfortunately, I was unable to go with them so I have no pictures.
Tomorrow we visit the U.S. Capitol. Tonight is our farewell dinner at La Tomate Restaurant. It has been a wonderful trip, full of God’s grace. We’ve learned so much, enjoyed getting to know one another better, and worshiping together. See you all soon!
Our trip from Baltimore to Washington, D.C. was to be a relatively short one, but we ran into a couple of bumps in the road. (Every pilgrimage has at least one, right?) Our first stop in Washington was to be the United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill, the only religious building located there. It is home to the UM General Board of Church and Society.
Our first bump was having trouble contacting our guide at the UM building, Rev. Clayton Childers. So we pulled over to formulate plan B. We happened to be in the vicinity of Arlington National Cemetery, so we saw the Iwo Jima Memorial. It was very moving. Having finally coordinated a meeting time and place with Clayton, we got underway again. But due to a protest for racial justice in Washington commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March, we couldn’t turn on the streets our GPS was telling us to turn on! Police had them blocked off, leaving us “strangers in a foreign land” pretty much on our own.
Eventually, we got where we were to go and met up with Clayton. The UM Building is located literally across the street from the US Supreme Court building, where the two lawyers in the group — Jim Turley and Al Hoppe — paused for a picture. When we were in Philadelphia, we saw the courtroom used as the very first Supreme Court room of our nation.
We then entered the UM Building, and into Simpson Chapel named for Bishop Matthew Simpson, who preached at Abraham Lincoln’s funeral. There, Clayton told us about a couple historic worship services that had been held in that chapel. When Martin Luther King Day was declared a national holiday by Congress, UM’s celebrated with Mrs. Coretta Scott King in this Chapel. And when Senator Paul Wellstone was tragically killed in a plane crash in 2002, the room was filled to overflowing twice for a memorial service.
Clayton describe the history of the building (erected in 1923) and the work of the General Board of Church and Society. Because UM theology includes both personal and social holiness, the Board began with the work of the WCTU — Women’s Christian Temperance Union — and its campaign for Prohibition to “reform the land.” The building also has some apartments, which have housed Supreme Court Justices, Senators, and Representatives over the years.
After Clayton told us the story of the GBCS, we then had a worship service in Simpson Chapel. We used the Sunday Service that John Wesley had sent over to the American Methodists with Thomas Coke in 1784, with one change — we sang our modern version of “Amazing Grace” because we felt this whole trip has been covered in God’s grace. Rev.’s Jim Turley, Ann Mobley, Mopsy Andrews, and I led the service.
In place of a sermon, we asked our pilgrims to share what has impacted them from all the history we’ve been experiencing. They spoke of the incredible passion and love of God evidenced by our founders, and the parallel passion found in the nation’s founders as well as those who have kept both the Methodist Church and our nation alive over the centuries. I challenged our pilgrims to “identify your 40th,” who can be the 40th pilgrim on our trip (we number 39 pilgrims) by sharing our experience with them.
Following the worship service, we once again boarded the bus which took us to our hotel. After a harrowing experience parking the bus, we finally made it to our rooms, tired, but thankful for another wonderful day of learning. We now have the rest of the day to ourselves. We will tour Washington, D.C., tomorrow.
We started the day by visiting the beautiful Lovely Lane UMC in Baltimore. The Christmas Conference of 1784, which created the Methodist Episcopal Church and at which Francis Asbury was ordained, was held at the original Lovely Lane Chapel site. The church we visited was built in 1884 to commemorate the centennial of the founding of the Methodist Church. Our guide through the beautiful sanctuary was the church’s lay leader, John Strawbridge. John is a direct descendent of Robert and Elizabeth Strawbridge, who were two of the original Methodist class leaders in the 1760s in Maryland.
John told us his great-great-great-(I don’t know how many greats to add)-grandfather used to preach under a particular tree, which was finally cut down in the early 1900s. The wood from that tree was used to make this Strawbridge pulpit.
From Lovely Lane we travelled a short distance to Old Otterbein Church. It once was a German Reformed church that called as its pastor in 1771 one Philip William Otterbein. If you’ve been paying attention, this is the same man who we met earlier associated with Martin Boehm at Boehm’s Chapel in Lancaster County, and who also assisted Thomas Coke in ordaining Francis Asbury.
Old Otterbein was for a time an Evangelical United Brethren Church (EUB), which became part of the UMC at the merger in 1968 in Dallas, TX, of the EUB and Methodist churches to form the United Methodist Church. The Methodist Society that eventually built Lovely Lane Chapel, where the Christmas Conference of 1784 was held, met at this church for a time.
Interestedly, our guide told us that when Camden Yard was built in the 1990s for the Orioles baseball team, which is about two blocks away, the church feared the impact it would have. But ironically, the church members started selling peanuts, water, and parking to game-goers, and they are making enough money to keep the building going! “The Lord doth providest.”
Finally, we made an OPTIONAL trek out to Mt. Olivet Cemetery, which is where “Bishops Lot” is located. This is the burial site for Bishops Francis Asbury, John Emory, Enoch George, and Beverly Waugh (who, to avoid confusion is male and is in my ordination chain). Also interred here are the remains of the greatest Methodist missionary of the 20th century, E. Stanley Jones, who died on mission in India, and his wife. Jim Turley consecrated Communion elements and we shared Holy Communion together for those brave enough to make the long, uphill trek. It was a moving experience.
Tomorrow we leave Baltimore and head south to our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C.
We left Philadelphia this morning and began making our way south, with Baltimore being our day’s final destination. However, on the way, we stopped at Barratt’s Chapel, located to the north of Frederica in Kent County, Delaware. It was built in 1780 on land donated by Philip Barratt, a prominent local landowner and political figure. Barratt, who had recently become a Methodist, wanted to build a center for the growing Methodist movement in Delaware. Consequently, to make a statement that “the Methodists are here,” he built a chapel large enough to sit all the Methodists in Delaware despite the local community being rather small. It was in Delaware that Francis Asbury hid during the Revolutionary War, at the home of a Methodist judge. The judge was later arrested and jailed for six weeks for harboring the suspected “Tory” Asbury. And it was at a quarterly conference of Delaware Methodists at Barratt’s Chapel that Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke first met in November, 1784. The day they met, they began to plan for “the Christmas Conference.”
While our hosts were telling us the story of Barratt’s Chapel, we were surprised by the arrival of Mr. Simon Blessing, an
itinerant Methodist preacher who rode in on his horse all the way from Philadelphia! Simon led us in a Methodist meeting, teaching us to sing typical Methodist songs in the “sung and response” format. Mr. Blessing was surprised by our use of hymnals and the tunes to which we sang our songs! He also shared his personal testimony of faith. The son of a Philadelphia bookbinder who did a lot of business with Benjamin Franklin in his publishing business, Mr. Blessing’s dad lost the business — and Simon lost his chance to attend college in England — when there was a serious disagreement with Benjamin Franklin over the issue of independence for the colonies.
Something most of us did not know is that the organ is, as he called it, “the Devil’s instrument.” He warned us to stay away from ALL instrumental music and sing only with the instrument God, the Creator, gave us — our voices. He did acknowledge that not all are equally gifted to use this instrument, but he encouraged us to abide by Mr. Wesley’s admonition to “sing lustily.” He seemed proud of our efforts!
After our Methodist meeting, several of us had a chance to visit with Mr. Blessing (who always stayed in character despite our
efforts to speak with Peyton). He told us how St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Philadelphia, which was an offshoot of St. Peter’s, itself an offshoot of Christ Church, is the only Anglican church in the city that will still serve Holy Communion to Methodists. It is hard for those in the Methodist Societies to receive the sacraments. After our discussions, Mr. Blessing mounted his horse and rode off, and we mounted ours (the bus) and drove to lunch.
We were fortunate that while Mr. Blessing was with us, he posed with our group for a “portrait” as he called it.
After lunch, we drove on to the Sheraton Hotel, Inner Harbor, in Baltimore. Tomorrow, we visit Old Otterbein and Lovely Lane Churches as we recall the Christmas Conference of 1784, which created the Methodist Episcopal Church.
Historic St. Georges church in Old City, Philadelphia, was our first stop of the day. The uncompleted church was acquired by Methodists in 1768. The building was almost torn down in the 1920s during the construction of the Ben Franklin Bridge (which you can see in the picture). However, the willingness of Bishop Neely to sue the Delaware River Port Authority – and winning! – resulted in moving the bridge and saving the historic church, which has seen Methodist preachers Francis Asbury, Joseph Pilmore, Richard Whatcoat and many other notables in its pulpit, including Dr. Alfred Day, who we met at the Methodist archives just the other day.
After hearing the story of the church and having a time to tour its museum, Jim Turley and I had an opportunity that makes a Methodist pastor’s heart leap! We had the privilege of serving Holy Communion to our pilgrims using a chalice sent over to the church by John Wesley himself! You can see it on the table in the picture to the right. The order of service we used was from my 1808 Book of Discipline. One of our pilgrims said she (in her mind) heard a door open and Bishop Asbury stepped through the door!
After lunch in the church’s fellowship hall, we then boarded our bus for the very short ride to Independence Hall. We were privileged to view the courtroom that once served as our Supreme Court, and the room where the Continental Congress first debated whether to separate from England, which it did on July 4th, 1776 with the Declaration of Independence. And the room was used again 11 years later, after the Revolutionary War was miraculously won, to debate the first US Constitution. We saw the very chair that President George Washington sat in for three months during the Federal Constitutional Convention, with its sun crest on the top. James Madison reported Benjamin Franklin saying, “I have often looked at that (sun) behind the president without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now I… know that it is a rising…sun.”
After touring Independence Hall, we were on our own for the afternoon. My group decided to see the Liberty Bell, which had called many sons of liberty to their political debates in the 1770s. Many of us were surprised to learn that the crack so obvious on the front of the bell is actually a repair attempt made in 1846 to repair a crack that opened up shortly after the Revolution. The repair held only for a short time, and then another crack opened up, which has permanently silenced the bell.
As we were waiting for our assigned time to visit Independence Hall, we came into the presence of a very special visitor to Philadelphia. Apparently, the Holy Father so enjoyed his visit two weeks ago, he decided to visit again. We invited him to our “Farewell to Philadelphia” dinner tonight at the famous City Tavern (built in 1773), but he unfortunately had other plans.
Tomorrow, we drive south to Baltimore with a stop off at Barratt’s Chapel, the place where Dr. Thomas Coke first met Francis Asbury and together they planned “the Christmas Conference” in 1784 that resulted in the creation of the Methodist Episcopal Church. We will have a very special experience while we are there. Stay tuned.
We began the day in Lancaster, PA. We first visited Boehm’s Chapel, built in 1791 and named for Martin Boehm. He was a Mennonite preacher, and later bishop, who not only hosted Methodist circuit riders in his home, including Francis Asbury, but who became one of the two founders of the United Brethren in Christ Church, along with Phillip William Otterbein, a precursor denomination of the United Methodist Church. The chapel has been completely restored to look as it would have in the 2nd half of the 18th century when Methodist circuit rides came through.
We had a step-on tour guide, Delores Meyer, who did a wonderful job bringing the Boehm story to life, including the fact that he and his wife, Eve, lost four of their children in one 10-day period. Two sticks in the adjacent graveyard mark their burial place. Much later, one of their sons, Henry, became an assistant of Francis Asbury. Another of the grown sons of Martin Boehm, Alexander, donated the land in 1791 on which Boehm’s Chapel is built for furthering the work of Methodism in the area.
From there we drove to the Mennonite Information Center where we saw a wonderful movie about the life of the Amish, how they are distinguished from Mennonites, and even how Amish groups differ among themselves. Surprisingly, we learned that the number of Amish in Lancaster County has DOUBLED in the last two decades! There are now about 30,000 Amish in Lancaster County, one of three primary settlements in the USA, the other two being in Ohio and Indiana, though there are smaller settlements in 30 states plus Canada.
Then we had another step-on guide take us through the back roads of Amish country. It’s harvest time and we saw several horse drawn reapers — usually a husband/wife team — bringing in the corn. One delightful story — we drove by an Amish schoolhouse. The children were playing baseball outside with their teacher. A little boy began waving excitedly to us. Obviously, his teacher told him to turn back around and play the game. You can see in this picture (taken by Mopsy Andrews) that he kept waving to us over his shoulders!
We learned much about the Amish from our guide. She told us that the Amish, while they all share a persecuted, Swiss, Anabaptist background, are not a homogenous group. They vary in their toleration of technology, for example. This home, pictured at the left, is a new home that a successful Amish businessman and his family just moved into. Looks like it could be in suburban Houston, except that there are no electrical wires going to the home. Amish WILL use electricity, so long as they generate it themselves and don’t pull it off the grid. Consequently, Amish businessmen are allowed by their bishops to use cell phones — but only for business. They also have landlines, but in special houses used only for business, and not in their homes.
Following this wonderful tour of Amish country, we ate a delightful family meal at the Plain and Fancy restaurant just outside of Intercourse, PA (which is near Bird-in-Hand if you need directions). Then we headed east for the 63 mile drive to Philadelphia, and the Wyndham Hotel in the historic section of Philly. Tomorrow, we tour Old St. Georges UM Church and then an afternoon tour of Independence Hall. Dinner tomorrow is at the historic City Tavern.
Today we bid adieu to New York City, crossed through the Holland Tunnel (and were VERY glad we weren’t going the other way based on all the traffic!), and drove to Madison, NJ. There we drove on to the beautiful campus of Drew University, home of the General Commission on Archives and History (GCAH). Dr. Alfred Day, pictured here with Elaine, met us and explained the work of the GCAH — he called it “the keeper of Methodist DNA.” Fred was very helpful to us as we were planning the trip. It was a pleasure to meet him in person.
The GCAH staff showed us around the building and described how they go about their work. I found particularly fascinating a display of class meeting tickets. In the early days of Methodism, it wasn’t the worship service that primarily formed the identity of early Methodists, but the class meeting. These groups of 8-10 people met weekly to hold one another accountable in love to living out their Christian faith. To be part of a Methodist Society, you had to have a ticket given out quarterly on the basis of your faithful attendance at class meetings. “No tickie, no washie,” as they say. The former General Secretary of the GCAH observed, “It used to be hard to get in to the Methodist Church, but easy to get kicked out (for non-attendance). Today it is easy to get in and hard to get kicked out (for non-attendance).”
Another highlight of the day was seeing the thumb of the Rev. George Whitefield. Whitefield was a classmate of John Wesley’s at Oxford University. He followed Wesley as chaplain to the Georgia colony, where he attempted to raise money to build an orphanage. While on a preaching tour in Bristol, England in service of this cause, he taught Wesley the art of field preaching which later became a staple in the Methodist revival in England. Whitefield went on to become the Billy Graham of the 1730s First Great Awakening in America. A few years after he died in 1770, Patriots Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold (he was still on our side then) hatched a plan to steal some cannons from Fort Ticonderoga in upstate NY to reinforce Boston, and to invade Canada, hoping they would join the American cause. On their journey north, they stopped in Newburyport, MA, to visit the tomb of George Whitefield. While there, they removed some buttons and pieces of his collar to take with them for divine favor. Later, in 1830, the American cousin of a Whitefield enthusiast in England actually shipped his cousin Whitefield’s whole left arm, which was returned about 20 years later. Today, we actually got to view the thumb of the great Methodist evangelist.
Following our tour, we had a charming lunch in the historic Mead Hall, once the home of the owner on whose estate Drew University was created. We then paused for a group photo in front of the statue of Bishop Francis Asbury before boarding our bus for the 3-hour trip to Lancaster County, where we are tonight. Tomorrow, we visit the Mennonite Historical Museum and then have a tour of Amish Lancaster County. I’ll share tomorrow the Mennonite roots of United Methodism.