February 28, 2018
Being a man of God
My family has had a lot of clergymen. The farthest back I can trace is Samuel Stone, who came to America on John Winthrop's ship in 1633, and was the first minister of Hartford, Connecticut. And the family had many men of the cloth, including Hope Atherton, the first minister of Hatfield, Massachusetts. The list goes on and on, and while I'll never know exactly what they taught, based on what I've learned about the overall attitude of Puritans in early America, it was an attempt to share the Word of God, the forgiveness of Jesus, and the principles of Christianity that they felt had been lost over the centuries.
I picture these men as bookish, probably wearing spectacles, and soft-spoken men. The Puritan ministers were servants of their congregation, not of some complex church hierarchy. I don't hear them teaching "fire and brimstone" - when I imagine their voices, I hear a softness, the way that I imagine the voice of Jesus, speaking to children, advising them to turn the other cheek, to love their neighbors.
The reason that these people were called "Puritans" is that they were struggling to purify what they considered the mess that people had made out of the Christian Church. They protested (yes, that's where the word "Protestant" comes from) the way that the church had grown rich and how it abused the people that it was supposed to serve. The church had become a way to threaten people, to keep them in line, another arm of power for Kings. The Puritans disagreed with this use of Christianity.
I don't have any photos of my clergymen ancestors, and even if I did, they would be paintings done in a formal way. But in reality I picture them looking very much like Fred Rogers of the children's TV show "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood", who was a Presbyterian minister. And that's how I hear their voices, comforting, not threatening.
If I've learned anything from my ancestors, it's that being a man of God means being a man of peace. There has only been one perfect person on earth, and He told us what to do, to speak softly.
Image at the top of this post: Statue of Samuel Stone in Hertford, England.
Posted by Brad Hall