The Parsonage system in the Church has been both praised and negated by pastors and their families as well as by lay people. especially those who have served on their church "Parsonage Committee."
But the advantages outweighed the negative by providing ready housing for itinerant pastors. (The picture to the left is David, Beth, Deborah and Carol in front of Trinity Rome parsonage where we lived for 5 years and 6 months. The picture below was taken in the Living Room of Ellijay Parsonage (Terrell, Charles holding 2 month old David, Ruth, Carol, Deborah, Beth. )The picture on the upper right is Joan holding a rabbit in the back yard of the Mackville- Antioch Parsonage. (Rabbit raised for food but never eaten) ) Below on the right is a picture of Terrell, Deborah (on Rocking Horse) and Carol in the Living Room in Griffin's Midway-Sunnyside Parsonage.
Methodist circuit riders rode West with the settlers and helped to build and settle this country.
There has been at least one Methodist Church in every county in the United States. Methodist pastors, have always been and some still are “itinerants,” traveling from place to place establishing and serving churches.
Soon church lay people started building houses so the pastor and wife and children could live in their community during his stay with them, often just one year and usually not longer than four years in the case of Methodist preachers.
The first parsonage my husband, children and I lived in was in Dunkinsville Ohio while he was a college student pastor, serving three churches in the area.
Charles preached at Cedar Creek Methodist Church at 9 a.m. every Sunday. At 11 O’clock, Charles was behind the Dunkinsville Methodist Church pupit every Sunday morning. His wife and children were usually in the pews, after which we were invited to a Sunday dinner with one of the families in the Dunkinsville church. What a generous example of Southern Ohio hospitality!
These gracious people treated their novice pastor and his family with love and respect and we returned the compliment.
Each Sunday evening, we drove 7 or 8 miles from the parsonage in Dunkinsville to the 7:00 Service at Jackson Ohio where the Jackson congregation graciously welcomed us and Charles preached his third sermon of the day.
Charles developed into a good preacher (I was always blessed and never tired of hearing him) during this three times each Sunday preaching during his student years.
The Dunkinsville parsonage in 1952 had “five rooms and a path.” We had cold water in the kitchen sink when we finally learned to prime the pump. Neither Charles not I had ever lived in luxury but neither of us had lived anywhere before without inside plumbing. But the path to the "out house" was paved.
It was a welcomed adventure. We continued enthusiastic at every opportunity to tell the Good News of Christ. We always remembered with a smile, E. Stanley Jones’ words about all material blessings of life as “too good for a ransomed sinner.”
After a year as a student at Asbury College, Charles was appointed to another pastorate to served two churches; Mackville and Antioch Kentucky. For two years, we lived in Mackville's nice Cape Cod style parsonage in beautiful blue grass Kentucky and worked with some of the finest and hardest working Christian people in the world. Charles preached at 10 at Mackville and drove a few miles to Antioch for the 11 o'clock service. He preached and conducted a service every Sunday night alternating between the two churches.
Charles earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree from Asbury in Wilmore Kentucky in June of 1954, where each ministeral student was required to take New Testament Greek. His Asbury education proved more than adequate when we moved back to Georgia where Charles enrolled at Candler School of Theology Seminary at Emory Universary in Atalnta.
The North Georgia Conference of the worldwide Methodist Church assigned Charles to pastor Midway, Sunnyside- Vaughn, churches in 1954 while commuting back and fourth to Candler three days a week.
The Griffin parsonage was an old house. In fact, while we lived in this parsonage, Griffin High School presented a play about the 1920’s. They put out the word requesting a loan of 1920 furniture for the set. Much of our parsonange furniture was moved to the Griffin High stage!
But it was a wonderful old house with a small building in the back yard called a "Preachers Study." We lived there four years while Charles started and finished Seminary , earning a Master of Divinity degree from Emory and worked with and loved those dear people like family. I still keep in touch with Midway Church people and have been invited back to preach at two of their annual Homecoming Services. Charles was invited back to preach at both Midway church and at Sunnyside many times for Revival and Homecoming preaching.
Since Charles death in 1986, I have been invited to preach at nearly every church where my husband had been the pasor, including Sunnyside United Methodist Church Homecoming as well as the two Homecoming Services at Midway.
It was at the Sunnyside Homecoming service where I had been the invited preacher that an elderly man told me the funniest joke he had ever heard! I was greeting people after the service when he come up with his wife, punched her in in ribs, smiled broadly and said, "This is the first time I have ever heard a woman preach...from the pulpit! " we all enjoyed the laugh!
After Charles was ordained Elder in 1958, (At Glenn Memorial on Emory campus by Bishop Arthur Moore, This was shortlky before Pulpit Robes were worn by Methodist pastors. The men were in dress suits with shirt and tie with each wife standing behind her husband. Dr.Ruth Rogers, also ordained in 1958 as the first in the Methodist Church)
We lived in the spacious and beautifully furnished Methodist parsonage in Ellijay, the beautiful Georgia Mountains. In our 4th year at Watkins memorial in Ellijay, the conference had to make a "middle of the year move" and Charles was appointed to Trinity in Rome in January of 1962.
Although the move from Ellijay to Trinity, Rome included a large raise in pay, we were reluctant to leave the growing Ellijay church family. We served Trinity and lived in their lovely new Trinity parsonage until June of 1968 and was and appointed to Fairburn First. Fairburn also had a beautiful new parsonage and congregation,
Other Atlanta area churches we served and parsonages we resided in were two years at Skyland in North Atlanta. Then four years each at Epworth in the Candler Park area and Park Street in West End Altanta. From Park Street, we moved to Trinity, Austell.
Charles had his first heart attack while serving at Trinity in Austell and a second one two years later at Forest Park , retiring on disability in 1983. (picture to the left is taken ouside the Ellijay Methodist parsonage, showing Ruth, Carol, Joan and Janice dressed for a Wedding Shower for Janice given by the Ellijay WSCS. Notice the white gloves we are wearing. If it had been Sunday, we would probably be wearing hats.)
At our 1968 Methodist General Conference,(meeting every 4 years) we became the United Methodist Church after uniting with the Evangelical United Brethren. In 1968 our family was residing in what became the Fairburn United Methodist parsonage.
After Charles' death in 1986, I was called on to pastor Rico United Methodist Church, a wonderful small church Charles had been serving for over a year after his second heart attack when he had retired on disability. It is a long story told elsewhere, but I served as pastor of Rico UMC while I started and finished work on a Master of Divinity degree from Emory. The Lord, who had called me to preach earlier, had opened this door wide and pushed me through.I drove back and forth the 30 or so miles three days a week for three years to earn the Master of Divinity degree and enjoyed the classes and the learning opportunity. But my love and top priority was preaching and serving Christ and the people in the Rico community. I was able to live in my own home those nearly four years at Rico. One of the most difficult thing I have had to do as a full time pastor was moving into a parsonage alone. But the beautiful and comfortable old parsonage in Grantville Georgia was truly home to me for the three good years while I was pastor there. It was across the street from Grantville First UMC, a stately red brick church.
I lived in the parsonage three years and we all wanted more years added but I reached mandatory retirement age all too soon! As in many churches, I also served as Church Secretary handling all the church correspondence. Every Thursday I typed a three fold Sunday bulletin, on my own computer in the parsonage and took it across the street to the church office and printed and folded it.
Miss Kathleen Ray, a retired Missionary was a valuable part of Grantville church, teaching one of the childrens Sunday School classes. Kathleen was my close neighbor and became a dear friend and often a walking partner for early moring exercise.
Every weekday morning I walked about a half mile to the Post Office to get the church and personal mail and visited with Grantville townspeople including Baptist deacons who welcomed me to town.
Later in the day activity included visiting and praying with those who were homebound or in nurse care as well as time spent in Bible study and sermon preparation.
Many Monday evenings , I walked down the hill to the Town Hall when I was asked by the Mayor to attend to "open the the meeting with prayer." Before I moved the Mayor of Grantville declared a Ruth Shaw Day with special citations and news articles. (Photo on the right is Ruth in doorway of Grantville Parsonage.)
The Parsonage System: In the late 1970's, the Retirement Parsonages that had been available to retired Methodist pastors for many years were sold and before the turn of the century, our country’s prosperity began to trickle down to preachers. Pastor's began to invest in property for retirement as more and more churches decided to get out of the "parsonage business" and budget a "housing allowance" for the pastoral family to rent or purchase their own housing.
A Bit of Methodist History: Christians were instrumental in building, not only churches but the first schools, colleges,( including Harvard )and the first hospitals! Neither the powerful Greek nor Roman Empire ever build a hospital!
The Methodist Church traces its roots back to 1738 where it developed in England as a result of the revival of Christianity under the preaching and teachings of John Wesley and the preaching and hymn writing of Charles Wesley.
While studying at Oxford, John Wesley, his brother Charles, and several other students formed a group devoted to study, prayer , evangelism and helping the underprivileged. They were first called "the Holy Club," then given the "Methodist" label by their fellow students because of the method they used to go about their Bible study, prayer, fasting and work among the poor.
John Wesley had no desire to "start another demonination " but, along with his brother Charles, undertook evangelistic preaching with an emphasis on conversion and holiness. It is said most early sermons were three simple points. 1. Everyone can be "saved." (No one is "predestined to be lost.) 2. Everyone can know they are "saved." (Assurance) 3. Everyone can live like a Christian (not perfection in ability but perfection in love toward God and others.)
Although both Wesley brothers were ordained ministers of the Church of England, they were barred from speaking in many of its pulpits because of their evangelistic methods outside the church and among the underpriviledged. They began to preach in homes, farm houses, barns, open fields...wherever they found people needing the message of salvation. Huge crowds gathered to hear and receive the good news of Jesus Christ they proclaimed.
Wesley did not set out to create a new church, but instead began small faith-restoration groups within the Anglican Church called the "United Societies." However, the Methodist revival spread and eventually became its own separate church when the first conference was held in 1744.
George Whitefield (1714-1770) was a minister in the Church of England and also one of the leaders of the Methodist movement. George Whitfield is famous for his part in the Great Awakening movement in America. As a follower of John Calvin, Whitefield and Wesley had different understandings of some of the doctrines of the church. The doctrine of predestination, for example.
In 1776 America was in war for it’s independence from England. With England and America at war with one another, John Wesley finally realized he must ordained Frances Asbury and Thomas Coke to continue work in America apart from the church of England.
The historic Christmas Conference was a founding conference of the newly independent Methodists within the United States held just after the American Revolution at Lovely Lane Chapel in Baltimore, Maryland in 1784.
Prior to the revolution American Methodism consisted of itinerant preachers commissioned by John Wesley of the Methodist societies in England. Wesley had been sending preacher/missionaries since the 1760s. With the outbreak of war, most of these preachers returned to England, with the notable exception of Francis Asbury, who began to be looked upon as the leader of the groups.
However, Asbury's activities were greatly restricted because, as an Englishman, he was suspected of not being sympathetic to the patriot cause. During the war, he ceased his circuit riding and stayed at the residence of his friend, Judge Thomas White of Delaware. After the war, Francis Asbury was tireless in carrying the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the nation.