This Memorial Day, let’s get in touch with our national and spiritual roots. In preparation for this, I watched again the television miniseries “Roots,” based on the book by the same name by Alex Haley. I immediately thought of my genealogy and gave thanks for ancestors who loved and served our country while leaving deep spiritual roots.
In 1992, I was invited to speak at the 200th anniversary of my grandmother Webb’s church in Ellenboro, N.C., where I often visited as a child. The committee planning the event asked all program participants to wear period clothes. The late Flo Summitt, who was then production manager of the Oak Street Playhouse at First-Centenary United Methodist Church, found the perfect clothes for my husband and me. We spent Saturday night at the home of my cousin and her husband. On Sunday morning, the church sent a horse-drawn carriage to “get us to the church on time.”
When we arrived at the church yard, more than 300 members were there to greet us. It was exciting to see cousins I hadn’t seen in years and to learn about the life and times of my great- great- great-grandfather, Jeremiah Blanton, who organized that Oak Grove church in 1782, before George Washington was president of our young country. The first Methodist bishop, Francis Asbury, came to visit the new congregation and wrote in his diary: “I am very pessimistic about this part of the Lord’s vineyard. This county specializes in wickedness, stills and mills.”
Bishop Asbury had not fully understood the power of God to change people, and he hadn’t taken the measure of a young, 20-year-old layman named Jeremiah Blanton. Oak Grove Church has been housed in three different buildings and was then meeting in a brick structure with unusually beautiful stained glass windows.
If Jeremiah Blanton had been with us in 1992, he would have been amazed at the number of people present more than 200 years later to celebrate his act of faith. Perhaps he would have found more amazing the fact one of his descendants — a woman — was the speaker.
Take time this Memorial Day to tap into your national heritage and your spiritual values. Decide to pass on these values to those who come after you.
Nell Mohney is a Christian author, motivational speaker and seminar leader. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.