Monday, April 20, 2009

Prowling Through History

The Later Day Saints at Otter spent Saturday prowling around some of the points touching history of the Church of Christ. Someone has said, "If you don't know your history, you are like a leaf that doesn't know it is part of a tree." I have enjoyed learning more about the background of the church I grew up in for the last few years.

We went to Adairville, Ky, Russellville, Ky, and a Shaker Village just out side of Russellville.
We first saw the Red River Meeting House where The Second Great Awakening began. (The first Great Awakening occurred in New England under preachers like Jonathan Edwards). As people moved west, religion took second place to survival. The Second Aw. had as its goal to AWAKEN religion on the Western frontier. And it began in Logan County , Ky led by a Presbyterian preacher named James McGready. It was very charismatic, drew thousands of people and was also the beginning of the Cumberland Presbyterian movement; the Christian Church and Disciples of Christ also trace back to that event.

As far as the Church of Christ's involvement, it seems that Barton W. Stone (one of the founders of the Stone-Campbell movement which really began the stream of the Church of Christ) knew James McGready and came down to Logan County to see what all the fuss was about. He took what he saw and heard back to Cane Ridge, Ky where other camp meetings broke out and thus the first Churches of Christ on the Western Frontier were born. The Cane Ridge meeting was more a "communion festival"--where huge tables were set up and people sat around them for a day of communion and fellowship. At any rate, the Holy Spirit showed up and more and more people gathered--some estimate as many as 20,000 came to Cane Ridge. Preaching tents were set up all over the camp grounds at Red River and Cane Ridge and preachers of all kinds came to orate. Some estimate that as many as 2,500 of the communicants at Cane Ridge were Presbyterians. Among those coming were Shakers from the New England states who had heard about the events and came seeking converts.

The Red River Meeting Place is a simple log cabin -- quite unlike Cane Ridge which has been improved by the Disciples tremendously. Surrounding Red River is an extremely old cemetery burying soldiers from the Civil War, the Spanish American War, and even the Battle of Waterloo. Most there are Scotch-Irish charter members of the church founded after the event at Red River. So there Presbyterians, Shakers, Church of Christ, Disciples, etc. all sprang out of the huge event in a remote county of Kentucky. By the way, Lyndon B. Johnson's mother was a native of Logan County and rocks from his grandmother's farm graced the fireplace in one of the reincarnations of the original log cabin. So interesting!!!

Russellville is an old town full of beautiful old homes and history, as well. It was there that group of southern sympathizers decided to go against the state government and secede. Kentucky never pulled out of the union. Just the little band formed at Russellville which set its seat of government eventually at Bowling Green withdrew. It is also the place where the Jesse James Gang pulled off their first bank robbery.

Then out to the Shaker Village Museum at South Union. It was smaller and more compact than another Village in Pleasant Hill which I visited several years ago. Full of artifacts and good pictures, the museum was quite good--the book store and gift shop was larger than Pleasant Hill as well. They do not offer meals or overnight lodging as does Pleasant Hill, but there is a bed and breakfast, Shaker Tavern, nearby. Our guide was excellent. This particular Shaker community died in 1922. Pleasant Hill was closed in 1910.

On the grounds of the Shaker Village is a 9 million dollar Catholic chapel. Quite a startling contrast to the simple Shaker dwellings. The farmer who bought the land when the Village died sold off part of it to Benedictines to be used as a monastery. In early 2000, the spot became the church home of the Fathers of Mercy ministry of the Catholic Church. Their Chapel of Divine Mercy was dedicated in 2008. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen--all red, white and gold inside with the typical arrangement and statues. The Fathers of Mercy are priests trained to be traveling evangelists all over the world. One we met was leaving for Australia today. There are only 42 of them in a setting designed to house at least 100.

It was beautiful day full of interesting places and good fellowship. Gerry Masterson was our tour guide--one of the best!

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