Summer Itinerancy

Family poses for photo in front of home - ready to load into their Chrysler Newport and hit the road.

This is my family in the 1970s in front of the parsonage where we lived. Ready to hit the road in our Chrysler Newport.

My restless soul longs to roam.

Not surprising.

It’s in my DNA.

My grandfather was a circuit riding Methodist minister in the 1930s. He traveled a seventy-six mile loop through Nicholas County West Virginia – often on foot or by horse – to serve nine churches during the depths of the Great Depression. In the following decades, his ministry took him and his family (including my dad) to numerous towns in two states.

My dad walked in his footsteps and was also ordained a Methodist minister.

Methodist (now United Methodist) ministers are itinerant. That means they move from place to place, appointed by a bishop a year at a time, to serve the churches and communities to whom they are sent. My family moved when Dad moved, of course. We were an itinerant family – moving from church to church and town to town.

By the time I graduated high school, I had moved six times.

We laugh at the fact that my parents, my sisters and I were each born in a different West Virginia county seat – Weston (Lewis), Parkersburg (Wood), Clarksburg (Harrison), Charleston (Kanawha) and Morgantown (Monongalia.)

We remember the people in each church and community – people who adopted us and took us in. We remember each parsonage that became our temporary home. We laugh and cry at the memories of those times and places.

Each appointment brought change and new perspective.

FAST FORWARD.

My husband, son and I have been members of the same congregation for fourteen years.

For me, that’s a longevity record and, frankly, my spirit is itching to hit the road.

The itinerant gene in my DNA calls my name and summons me.

With this calling and quest my soul cries out for new perspective.

So, beginning with this past “Conference Sunday” (the final worship service of the annual gathering of West Virginia United Methodists), I intend to worship with a different congregation every Sunday for the rest of the summer.

I have been planning this “summer itinerancy” for a while now, but if I needed a sign that I should do it, I got it Sunday.

The confirmation came through baptism.

Our worship included three infant baptisms. Two of the three were minister’s children – the third, a cousin of one of the others.

During a United Methodist baptism, the congregation vows to help nurture and support the person (often an infant) as they grow in their faith.

As the bishop prepared to baptize the babies, she pointed out that the ministers’ church membership is with the Annual Conference – not any particular local congregation. In effect the Annual Conference is their congregation and as part of these baptisms conference members were vowing to help nurture and support these children as they grow in their faith – and as they likely itinerate from place to place with their parents.

My eyes welled with tears.

Yes!

I could relate to the life stretching before these infants. Kindred spirits! In the presence of hundreds of worshipers and surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, they were baptized into a spirit-filled connection that transcended any particular place or town or congregation.

In our family’s itinerancy over those years, all of the local congregations – but also the Annual Conference connections – were an important part of my nurture and care as I grew in my faith.

Black and white photo of a middle school Sunday School class - 1974. 12 Students and a teacher pose for a group photo.

1974 Sunday School class at St. John’s UMC in New Martinsville, WV. A series of congregations like this one have nurtured and supported me from the beginning – and continue to do so.

These baptisms reminded me of that wonderful truth and confirmed my call to a summer itinerancy. They reminded me that we are part of a connection larger than our local congregation.

I am eager to hit the road and stop by other outposts of the connection.

I’m not sure what I will find, but I have faith it will be worth the journey and will nurture my soul.

Pathway through a tunnel - with bright light at the end.

 

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