I won't have it as bad as the Methodist circuit riders of old, but it is fun to reconnect with the concept of being a "traveling preacher" versus being a "located preacher." Those were some of the terms used in the early days of Methodism which would differentiate between a preacher constantly on the move versus someone who settled in a community with family and church.
I've spent my clergy career based in congregations with strong community mission and ministry. Now I'll become a resourcer, strategist, and equipper for congregations. That means I'll be a traveling guy. I've found myself checking back in with Methodist history... and talking to a lot of traveling salesman to learn tips from them about life on the road.
There are some great stories about circuit riders.
I've been thinking a lot about transportation as I make my change. The horse worked well for the circuit rider of old. Today, I'm wondering about the best car that gets great mpg and is comfortable to ride in all day, day after day, month after month. I wonder how Francis Asbury sized up a horse fit to hold up to Methodist miles and lifestyle. I've been talking to traveling salesmen and Methodist circuit riders that get in a lot of miles every week and Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima, Mazda 6, VW Golf TDI, and Toyota Camry are recurring entries for the great mileage/high comfort in my price range. Any others or any ideas?
I'm also thinking a lot about where those traveling preachers would spend a night as they moved from one preaching station to another. The journal entries from the old days often speak of folk from a church/circuit, or those friendly to the cause, who might offer a barn and hay, or perhaps some minimal bed space and a meal, for the traveling preacher. What might a simple solution look like today for a circuit rider in any conference? Here in the US that tends to mean hotel stays. I can see where that is sometimes advantageous or perhaps the only option. But I wonder if a mission guy like me might get a better sense of the church and community if I spent a day, or better yet days, in the locale. It's interesting to pursue this thought and consider some options. What better way to know if a church is prepared to host as an emergency shelter than to spend the night, cook in the kitchen, and use their shower?! I recall one church in Romania that had a few rooms over the fellowship hall to accommodate traveling preachers or missionaries. I've suggested to my wife that perhaps we/I need a used Class B or C camper that could stay at a distant part of the conference, but could also be moved in case of disaster response where a small team might need to be self sufficient and rotate in different people. What have you seen that works well? What are your thoughts as you think of regional mission and ministry?
Welcome to a journey to various frontiers where I hope to plunge deeper into the life of church in community. Your ideas and dialogue will be an important part of this as together we explore what it means to be a strong Methodist Christian witness today in communities from North Georgia to locations all over the world. As shared above, do note that traveling preachers ALWAYS need lots of help and a large team to be effective!